As I sip my coffee in my bright, airy classroom, the air is filled with many dull thuds. My class is warming up, and I’m grateful for the headphones that keep the room from exploding with chaos. Group piano is a concept that is found most frequently at the college level, but we have found it to be an effective tool at BFA. It gives my students an opportunity to develop their own strengths with the consistency of accountability nearly every day. This setting also offers students the opportunity to learn from each other and even gives them a chance to play in ensemble, which is not something that many student pianists get to experience regularly. Bonds developed in a music class like this one are special because of the vulnerability and experimentation they require. I love hearing each one develop their own personal taste and style. One of my current students is interested in jazz and tries to emulate everything he hears. Another has had piano lessons before, but with little continuity. He is eating up everything I can give him. A third has played by ear for most of her life; she’s adding note-reading to her skill set this semester. I’m proud of them all.
Two weekends ago, I got to spend hours doing many things that I love. Thanksgiving day is a work day here, but I was privileged to celebrate with many wonderful friends on several occasions. Between celebrations, we held our annual Christmas banquet. In addition to attending, I also helped decorate, which is something I’ve enjoyed doing for the last several years. There’s something about the candlelight, and transforming an everyday space into something extraordinary that is deeply satisfying.
Life continues to be full, and the weeks leading up to Christmas break will be more so. For now, I’d like to share with you a story, from one of our BFA families. Thanks to one of our staff members, these stories are being compiled so that I can share them with you. It’s often hard to describe the reasons that families send their children here, and every one is different. Whatever your perspective might be, I invite you to put yourself in their shoes as you read. Then when you are finished, please pray for this family and their children.
Sitting at their dinner table, Trey and Randi wrestled with what to do. When God called them to leave their native Texas and serve Him in Serbia in 2009, it was an easy “Here am I, send me!” answer. But if God was leading them to send their eldest son to boarding school, because that was the best option academically, socially and spiritually, that was a much harder ask.
Who wants to send their child away to boarding school? Well, maybe many of us at various points, but usually the feeling doesn’t last! Who wants their child to potentially feel like they have been abandoned in a strange place, not knowing anyone? Who wants to hand over the day-to-day parenting of their children to someone else, someone whom they don’t know, and doesn’t necessarily share exactly their values? Who wants to have no relationship with their children’s friends, and no real ability to help their children with peer pressure? To be unable give them a hug when they need it? Who wants to do that to their own children, whom they love so much?
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Isaiah 54:13 (ESV).
For Trey and Randi, it was the hardest “not our will, but yours Lord” decision that they’d ever dealt with. However, when they took the step of faith, and left their eldest son, Connor, at Black Forest Academy for the first time in the fall of 2012, God was faithful, like He always is. They watched that 14 year old boy grow into a godly young man, shaped by the servant hearted staff of Black Forest Academy. He had opportunities far beyond what would have been available in Serbia, with leadership roles on dorm council and the student body, plus involvement in the Model United Nations conference in Basel. Connor graduated in 2016, and is now studying International Relations at Texas A&M University. Trey and Randi’s daughter Brooke is now also studying at BFA, in Grade 11, thriving, and making the most of sporting opportunities in volleyball, hopefully providing exposure and athletic scholarship opportunities down the track. Kyle, their youngest, is looking forward to beginning at BFA in the next school year.
Of the impact that BFA has had on their ministry at a language/cultural center in Serbia, Randi says, “When you support BFA faculty and staff members, you are literally impacting the world with the hope of the gospel. Parents are able to stay on the field and continue serving without sacrificing their children's needs. I cannot adequately express the blessing that BFA has been and will continue to be to our family. To all who support those who serve at BFA, we are forever thankful.”