Like most parents who know the Lord. We have been (and continue to) pray earnestly for our kids. We began praying before they were born. Asking the Lord to protect them. To keep them healthy and safe. We pray for them to come to know Jesus early and to grow in their knowledge of Him for the rest of their lives. We pray that God will guide their future and that they will remain in His will. We pray for their future spouses. We pray for God to surround them with godly friends - from when they were little and we haven't stopped that prayer. People who will encourage them in their Christian walk. As they grow up we ask the Lord to surround them with adults who will speak the truth into their lives. Who will teach them, mentor them, challenge them, hold them accountable.
Like so many teens (and adults!) the boys weren't sure what they wanted to "do" when they graduated. Chase pondered many avenues. His plan until God made another path obvious to him was to attend a local community college to get some general classes out of the way - maybe pursue a business degree. Last spring a couple of months before Chase graduated. Trevor and I were browsing a local homeschool fair (we do still have years and years of homeschooling ahead of us!). We noticed that Eric Ludy was hosting a workshop. We had read a few of his and Leslie's books with the boys over the past few years. In fact we were in the middle of one at that particular time. We thought it might be fun to hear Eric speak in person, regardless of what he was speaking about. You know...just have a face and voice to put with the books. We had no clue what the title of the workshop "Ellerslie" was all about. We stood outside the door a few minutes before the last workshop was over. While waiting a man came to stand next to the door. As soon as he smiled and began chatting with us - we knew...this is Eric Ludy! He was so real, so genuine, so down-to-earth. We went in and he was set to do a presentation on Ellerslie. Anyone who has heard Eric speak knows that he gets a little passionate when he speaks. Yeah...he basically preached an awesome sermon while explaining what Ellerslie is all about and what their heart is for the people that attend.
We talked to him a little bit more after the workshop. And then we left continuing on with our date - his talk stirring our conversation over lunch. Trevor admitted that he had been spiritually dry over the past several months. Hearing Eric speak stirred a spark in his heart! We thought that attending Ellerslie Training would be an amazing experience for our boys. But, really had NO clue if it would even interest them. We had been praying for some time about finding a new church home. Waiting on the Lord. When we went home that day I did what I usually do, hopped online to research Ellerslie. The website was beautiful and impressive. And we noticed a link to a church! It sounded interesting. I emailed the link for more details and asked if we would be welcome to bring our kids into the service with us. The answer was a big YES! Ellerslie values children in an incredible way - and not just in words, but in actions. They were meeting on Sunday evenings until the chapel on campus was done being used by a local church who was building a new facility in town. In the meantime I sent Chase the website - just so he could browse it. Chase mentioned that he thought it looked interesting. We started attending their evening services and quickly began to get a feel through the sermons that Ellerslie is ALL about Jesus. All about the truth of His word and the power of His Spirit changing the lives of believers. It's about devoting our lives to be set apart from the world spiritually. Pouring out ourselves out so that we can be filled up with Him and boldly share Him with others. Allowing Jesus to break our hearts for the things that break His. Being His hands and feet to the lost, the poor, the widows, the orphans. It is not about being a "seeker friendly" church. It is not full of warm-fuzzy, make-you-feel-good teaching. And as for the people we have gotten to know - it is NOT full of hypocrites. These people are serious, intense living-their-lives poured out for Jesus kind of people.
As a side-note - we have attended a handful of churches and visited several others over the years. God is indeed doing a work through so many bodies of believers - in so many different ways. I think like individual people - God meets churches where they are at if they are indeed open to His Spirit - He uses them. One of the churches we attended is now huge and influential in our home town. They are serving the community like nobody's business - loving people for Jesus. It is awesome! Another church we attended confirmed what we had been feeling for several years - that God puts kids into families for a reason - so that the family can train, disciple and raise them up. This church strongly encouraged dads to be involved in the training of their own kids - not turning them over to the youth pastor. God knew that Trevor needed this encouragement to disciple his family and kids. This church was full of homeschool families and we were so blessed with the fellowship and friends we developed there. (And we still are!!) But, we just felt that God was moving us on - and at the time we didn't even know what He was moving us on to - until we "stumbled" upon Ellerslie. I so love how He works.
Through the weeks Chase's interest in the training school grew and grew. Their first session was last summer. He simply didn't have the money. We all prayed a lot about it, he searched for jobs ALL summer long with no luck. He continued working a little bit at the office with Trevor. He mowed lawns. He saved all of his graduation money. And through gifts and God's provision - he had the money to attend the fall session - not only to attend, but stay on campus! Chase was thrilled and we were in awe of God's goodness - both His providence, His guidance, His provision and His grace. We prayed and prayed that God would do an amazing work in Chase's life while he was there for that 10 weeks. And that He did! He graduated from the initial training in December (one of the most powerful graduation ceremonies we have EVER attended!). After much prayer - Chase decided to move forward with a year of Advanced Leadership Training. He is excited to continue pursuing Jesus, studying the scriptures and getting a chance to come alongside some of the people who are passionate about spreading the gospel through writing and video. We are all trusting the Lord to provide his tuition each month and so far - He has! He is staying at home to save money - we're blessed that the campus is about 15-20 minutes away. And I'm especially blessed that I get to hear bits and pieces of what his days are all about. :)
Oftentimes in the Christian life - it is absolutely soul-stirring and faith-building to look back at our prayers and see how God has answered them. (A grand reason to journal!) We always tell people that our kids learn in homeschooling - despite our failures and weaknesses as parents. It's the same with parenting in general. I honestly can't imagine being more concerned and hopeful for our kids to be blessed and used by the Lord. But, to know that He has their best in mind and has HUGE plans for them - oh He is good. He has blessed Chase with solid biblical teaching, godly counsel and accountability, and the friends...we couldn't have picked a more fabulous group of people. Many of them went home after the fall semester. But, a handful stayed on for the year-long training. To say that Chase is blessed while attending Ellerslie is an understatement! We just can't wait to see what else God does in his life this year.
I snapped these pics with my phone when some of the "real" photographers were getting some shots of the fall students. So, not the best quality - but such great memories of the people God has brought into Chase's life. A side note about the guy with headphones. One of the students at Ellerslie is deaf and also has a severe case of tinnitus. The student body has committed to praying for her healing and in order to understand and pray more effectively they alternate each day wearing the noise canceling headphones - also with ear buds under those playing a recording made - as close as they could get to the horrible sounds she has to endure. They wear them all day. This guy didn't feel like it was OK to remove them for the photo. I love his heart - for more reasons than just that! He was also Chase's roommate. And in Chase's words - he is one of the most godly young men, with such an intense prayer life - as he has ever known. God is good. If you want to catch a taste of what God is teaching Chase - he started a blog a few weeks ago. (I encouraged him to do this and he informed me with a smile, that blogs are for nerds!) I'm hoping he'll do a few posts about his perspective on Ellerslie. Check it out: Pursuing Truth