October Mission of the Month: French Camp
by Tom Dickson
Church Report for Westminster Presbyterian—October 2020
January through June can be divided into two distinct school year phases: Normal and Abnormal. January- March 6 was a normal school year. Our students went home for Spring break March 6 and did not return, because abnormality set in with the onslaught of worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2019, 226 students lived with us in our boarding program. This represents students who lived with us for all or a portion of January-December. This time frame included the summer and regular school year programs. This was up from 216 during calendar year 2018. In addition, 150 or so day students from the surrounding area attended the 7th-12th French Camp Academy. 2020 was on track for even more students in our boarding program. Students geared up for athletic competition in basketball, girl’s fastpitch softball, track and field, baseball, and tennis. Our students compete in the public-school class 1A division. The boys’ basketball team finished 3rd in their district with an 11-9 record. The coach told me, “The best thing this season was our boys buying in as a team. They cheered for one another even when sitting on the bench.” He saw a lot of personal growth. However, the other sports did not finish their seasons due to the pandemic.
In 2018, we started “Family Focused Retreats” designed to address and inform on life issues from a Biblical perspective. We continued in 2020 with a parent/daughter “Identity Retreat” designed to show who God created us to be and the value we have in Him, not in other things. In February, a father/daughter retreat was held. A “Rekindle Retreat” was planned for recent alumni in March but was cancelled due to the virus.
In early March six students and six staff went to Acuna, Mexico, for the 10th straight year during spring break. This was very early in the virus outbreak before lock downs became widespread. The team visited schools, orphanages, and churches, presenting the gospel via skits, music, puppets, and testimonies. Over 2000 heard the gospel.
Students did not return after spring break. Our teachers and staff geared up to do on-line learning via Zoom and other means. Dorm parents used social media to stay in touch with our students. It was no surprise that, in his April 14 press conference, Gov. Tate Reeves decreed that MS public schools would not reopen for the semester.
The academic year was completed in early May. The entire senior class finished their studies with 33 seniors having a “drive through” graduation ceremony June 13. Their ACT average score of 21.16 was significantly higher than the Mississippi public school average of 18.1. Nationwide the average score in 2019 was 20.7
The governor gave us permission to open summer school on a limited basis. On June 7, fifty-three students arrived for a modified summer school. Three homes for girls and four for boys were open. The students stayed together by dorm for meals in homes, schooling, and recreation. The summer program went better than any of our veteran staff ever remembered. The bonding and relationships were outstanding. We ended the summer asking; what can we incorporate for the regular school year that will continue this?
Our President, Stewart Edwards, shared this in the summer newspaper edition: “Normal went out the window. In scripture time and time again, God uses hard times to build us. Amazon does not sell faith or character online. My life journey these past few months has been marinated in uncertainty and thus driven me to a place of reliance and trust that I otherwise would have never known.”
“God is at work in this pandemic. He is accomplishing His purposes. Our hope is you are trusting Him more and looking for what He is doing during this difficulty; James 1:2-6 is a great Scripture for now.”
We have purposely limited the residential student population to one young person per room for safety reasons. 83 students have started the year and 120 district students have enrolled. Our enrollment this time last year was 130 residential and 150 districts.
We remained Covid-Free among students until September 9 when a district student tested positive. Because the student had not been in school since September 2 and established protocol is being followed, we are hopeful of no spread.
The decreased number of students has allowed an average academic class size of 15 and excellent social distancing in and out of school.
This year we have had 3 boys attain “Eagle Scout” honors (one a residential) and one residential girl selected to Chic-fil-A’s leadership program upon graduation in May 2021.
Football, Cross country and 4 H have started. The Lord has blessed in a multitude of ways. We are strong financially, emotionally, and spiritually. We are having a good year!
I recommend you go to www.frenchcamp.org/teens for 3 very short student testimonies from our dorm kids. The two girls graduated in 2019 and the boy in June of 2020. They are each less that 3 minutes. It always helps to see their faces and hear their voices. “Ami” attends Blue Mountain College on a track scholarship and comes back each college break. She considers FCA home and has been unofficially adopted by her dorm -parents. She is the 5th family member from inner city Memphis we have helped.
Thank you for your financial and prayer support.
Tom Dickson, Director of Development