This year as a school we have explored the theme, "This is My Story." What follows is a message I recently shared at a local church based on this theme.
When I think of the story of Sonrise I think of four different words.
I think of vision – Commitment - sacrifice and the word faith.
Our school was founded by the late Pastor David Gingrich who after attending a Christian conference returned with a vision for Christian Education in Prince Edward County. He was able to share his vision and invite others on the journey toward starting a Christian School. In September of 1986 the school opened at First Baptist Church here in Picton with 6 students in the first class. The vision for the potential of a Christ-filled education grew and within a couple of years the school had over 60 students and had outgrown being housed in the church. The initial vision of starting a school then grew to a vision of the school having its own building. Shortly after the current building on 58 Johnson Street was open.
This vision for Christian Education continues today. A vision to have a school where children are taught from a biblical worldview. A vision to have a school where teachers are committed Christians, who teach and lead with Godly wisdom and nurturing.
But the vision goes deeper and the vision is greater yet. It is a vision where Christian teachers are not only modeling Christ’s story but are inviting their students to be part of the story. It is a vision where we are helping students to understand who they are in Christ, and that they are image bearers and that God has come to do a restorative and beautiful work in their lives. It is a vision where students are not just taught about the stars but are encouraged to look at the stars through the awesomeness of God and the magnificence of his Creation and to look at the world around us and to see that all and everything is under his rule. It is a vision where students are encouraged to not just learn facts, but to grapple with facts and then to think about what is our Christian response, what is our response that is God honouring and leads to the building of His Kingdom work
Author James K. A. Smith in his book, You Are What You Love, sums up the vision of Christian education with the following quote.
“A Christian education can never be merely a mastery of a field of knowledge or technical skills; learning is embedded in a wider vision of who I am called to be and what God is calling the world to be.”
The effort it took to build a school leads me to my next two words as part of our school story - commitment and sacrifice. I believe these two words go hand in hand. The school was built by the commitment and sacrifice of many people. People who donated their time, people who donated supplies and people who donated their money. The words commitment and sacrifice however go beyond just the initial efforts in building our current facility.
For over 30 years teachers have made a commitment and sacrifice to teach in a Christian school. Lower salaries, less prep time and no pension are all part of sacrifices made. Every family that makes a decision to enroll their child/ren in our school are also making a commitment and sacrifice. There is a sacrifice of time and a sacrifice of finances.
So why? Why for over 30 years have so many people been willing to make a sacrifice for this school? The answer leads us to the fourth word of our story.
It is because of our faith. Teachers choose to teach at Sonrise because they not only have a passion for teaching, a passion for children, they have a passion for their faith and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Parents send their children to Sonrise because they desire to see their children in a God honouring school environment. They desire to have the faith and values taught at home to be also taught at school.
Yes, our school is about academics, but it is nothing without our faith.
I like to walk around the school and take pictures. Often not of students but of their work. The other day I stopped and took a look at the pictures I have taken over the past month. And through those pictures I see elements of our faith, and the fingerprints of God. I see growth in the spiritual maturity of our students. Through these pictures I see our school story and I see the difference of a Christ filled education.
This year as part of our spiritual focus, “This is My Story” our students on a weekly basis in our chapel time have heard other people’s stories. They have heard the story of missionaries like Charles Mully who was obedient to the calling of God on his life and gave up his wealth and riches to support the orphans and children in need in his region in Africa. Eric Liddell – who honoured God by saying he would not race the 100 metres on a Sunday at the 1924 Olympics in Paris and went on to run and win the 200 metres – entirely on the strength of God, and Gladys Aylward who persevered and did not give up through many obstacles in her life in her pursuit to evangelize the Chinese people. Our students have heard the stories of their teachers and they have heard the stories of pastors and other Christian leaders in our community. With each story the students are encouraged to make connections . How is God at work in the lives of his people? What are the connections we can make in each of these stories? Where have they seen God at work?
A couple of weeks ago, we had someone from our community share her story in chapel. Her childhood was challenging and not always easy. Her story and her testimony was a beautiful God moment in our school as one of our students finally did not feel alone in his life situation. For the first time he realized he was not alone, and that others have experienced his same losses, his challenges, his loneliness. The chapel speaker that week stayed and met with that student and is keeping in contact with him.
That is our school’s story – this is why we do what we do that is why so many people make sacrifices to see vision of Christian education fulfilled every day.
Let’s go back to that theme … This is my story
When most people hear the phrase, “This is my Story” they automatically starting singing the hymn written by Fanny Crosby “Blessed Assurance.”
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
Perfect submission, all is at rest
This is my story, this is my song
I am not sure how much you know about Fanny Crosby. She is known to have written more than 8,000 hymns, some of which are among the most popular throughout all Christian denominations including two of my personal favourites All the Way my Saviour Leads Me, and To God be the Glory.
Writing that number of hymns is amazing on its own – the fact that she was blind makes this feat that much greater. And when you know her story that much greater still.
When Fanny was just 6 weeks old she became ill. Her family doctor was away and another traveling doctor came and prescribed a treatment, the family wanted to wait but this doctor insisted that treatment was necessary right away. Well that treatment resulted in Fanny becoming blind for the rest of her life. Some articles that I have read even state that the man wasn’t even a doctor but was just impersonating a doctor.
I think that most of us would have been angry, even potentially bitter if this would have happened to us. But Fanny had a totally different outlook. She once said, “ If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me."
It is even recorded that once, one well- meaning preacher said to her, "I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you,"
Fanny Crosby responded at once, as she had heard such comments before. "Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?" "Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior."
In spite of her blindness she praised her Saviour all the day long, and was able to write the words, “For I know whatever befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”
Would you have such hope and optimism in spite of having such a disability?
You may not have a physical disability but are there other challenges in your life that you are using as excuses that are holding you back from fully experiencing the fullness of God’s presence in your life? Are there personal weaknesses, or just pain and hurts from this world that are keeping you from fully accepting Christ as your Saviour, and receiving his love?
What is your story? How do the pages of your story read?
And maybe for most of you, or perhaps all of you, you can say that you have accepted Christ, that you are living the Christian faith and that God truly is the author and perfector of your faith.
Then the question I want to ask you today is who have you shared your story with recently? Who have you shared how God became real in your life? Who have you shared your personal struggles and how you experienced God’s presence in your hurt and pain? Who have you shared your testimony of what God has done and is doing in your life?
Your story – may be a story that can bring hope to someone who is questioning, struggling, or feeling discouraged.
Your story – may be the story that brings someone else to Christ.
I know for myself, I remember clearly the night when I was 14 years old in the basement of an old musty United Church when I first I said yes to God. I accepted Christ that night after watching the 1970 movie The Cross and the Switchblade – the story of David Wilkerson and his street ministry to drug addicts and gang members. I remember thinking that I wanted to know the God, that that man put so much faith and trust in that he was willing to take such risks.
Romans 8:28 says, “”That we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Your story . . . have you invited Christ to be a part of it? Have you allowed him to work for the good? Have you allowed your story to be used to reveal God’s glory to others?