Dear Parents and Students,
One of the hardest things for me personally during this COVID-19 situation has been the feeling of being disconnection from others. I am thrilled to be around my wife and children regularly, and I would like to think they are feeling the same. However, we all long for relationship and community with others. In fact, we are even encouraged to be together in the Bible. Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Can I encourage you? While we are not able to be together at this time, we can still be encouraging one another in love and in service. We have been sharing with the students that now is the time to look for ways to serve in a new way! I’d like to challenge you to do this with your student! Look for ways to love and serve. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Just this past week my wife and daughters served in our community in a unique and special way. I was able to have a small part in helping them and wow, were we blessed. Now, I have to give credit where credit is due: my wife is the one who saw the need and filled the need. The point is this: if we are looking for ways to serve, it is amazing what becomes available. Here is a picture of them with 250 bags that they spent the day packing and preparing to serve others in our community! Let us spur one another on to in love and in service.
Here are a few updates for you!
We are completing the 11th week of the Academic semester and our 5th week of remote learning. This leaves only four more weeks in the Spring semester. Next week our Freshmen students will be studying Ephesians with Professor Strout while our Sophomore students will continue studying Biblical Manhood (Tom Phillips) and Biblical Womanhood (Karen Smith). Overall, we are very pleased with the academic progress of our students. The vast majority have been doing well, meeting their deadlines, and turning in their assignments. We have also noticed a substantial improvement in the depth of their online interaction (online posts and replies to questions that we have created).
We were pleased to have 60 students participate in our Resident Professor Q & A this week (with the expectation that additional students will watch the sessions at a later date). We anticipate another good showing on Friday’s Q & A with Professor Strout. He will be answering students’ questions in the area of Eschatology (the study of “last things”).
The weekly study intensives for both First and Second Year have been extremely well received, with approximately 10 students from each respective year participating this past Monday (a total of 20 participants between the two study intensives). This approaches the level of participation that we were seeing with study intensives prior to the change to remote learning. Additionally, to our knowledge, one hundred percent of the participating students have performed exceptionally well on the exams that the study intensives were intended to prepare them for. We are hoping that more and more students continue to join these sessions, even as we work with some of them individually. By way of reminder, the study intensives are held every Monday at 10:00 AM for First Year and at 11:15 AM for Second Year. IF YOU HAVE ANY PERSONAL CONNECTIONS WITH STUDENTS, PLEASE ENCOURAGE THEM TO PARTICIPATE EACH MONDAY!! Please note that we will NOT be hosting a session for Second Year this coming Monday (April 27) as there will be no guest lecturer exam for them.
The student discipleship and training has been going very well. We have seen incredible engagement from the students in discipleship on every level. Word of Life staff has continued in their relationships in D-groups and 1 on 1 discipleship. Doing it over screens has been an adjustment but we move forward in faith that God can still work. We are working hard to make sure students have the support needed inside the community of students and staff to succeed in their Christian walk along with their schooling. The Student Life team is diligently calling, emailing, and reaching out to all the of the students to make sure we can encourage all the students as often as we can. We are also praying for you and the adjustment it has been for all of you to have students back at home, along with other pressures that this pandemic brings. Let us know if we can serve you better.
We recently completed our first spring ministry check-in. Our students are doing some awesome things while at home! Here are a few testimonies:
- Sarah Smith: Severe tornadoes destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses in my city on Easter. Thankfully there was no damage to my home except the power being out for a week. So many lost their homes, lives and essentials. My church has sent out groups almost every day to help with yard work, moving and asking what people need and then providing it for them. I’ve been able to hug and pray with so many people it’s incredible. God is working here, and many are trusting Him some for the first time.
- Jordan Snapp: I have been able to see Him in my work. I led my coworker to Christ which opened the doors for me to share the Gospel with her family! They are willing to listen, but they haven’t made a decision yet!
- Carlos Almonte: I have been able to disciple 4 teenagers in my church and teach them effective ways to share the gospel to their friends. I have been able to see them get mesmerized by truth in the Bible and help them with their own doubts and trials.
- Jenna Hollinger: At the Bible study that I started with my little sister, some of the kids (middle school) were asking lots of questions and very engaged. It was clear that they were looking to know more about God and what the Bible actually says.
- Grace Long: I was able to share my testimony and the Gospel on my Instagram, and around 200 people watched it. 🙂 I have had a couple girls reach out to me after I gave my testimony and have been asking a lot of questions about the Bible and life as a Christian, and I have been able to encourage/work with them about it, and kind of see where they’re at in their faith.
We know there are still many questions surrounding the modified plan for our camping ministry this summer. Many details are still in the process of being figured out but here are a few answers to our most frequently asked questions:
Q: What if I was assigned to the Lodge or the Island?
A: In general, the Lodge staff will join the Pines staff as part of our combined Family Camps team. The Island staff will join the Ranch/Wild staff as part of the combined Youth Camps team. For any students who had requested switches from youth camp to youth camp or family camp to family camp, I have great news, those have all been approved! ? Camp directors are working now on reconfiguring specific positions and will be communicating in a couple of weeks what those will look like. Questions and requests can be sent to me at email@example.com and I will work with the Camp Directors to get back to you.
Q: What if I have underlying health issues or other health concerns about coming back to camp?
A: First, know that we are also very concerned about this and monitoring the situation very closely. While we are hoping and praying that the situation will continue to improve over the next two months before camp starts, we have no intention of operating outside of CDC and government regulations and guidelines. We are developing updated and significantly enhanced health screening and cleaning protocols to prepare for reopening. However, we are also very aware that this may not be a possibility. At this point it is still possible for the situation to improve soon enough to open so we are making plans to that end, however, if we are told by our health officials and government leaders that it is unsafe, we will make decisions to postpone/cancel accordingly. We should have clearer guidance on this in a few weeks as New York continues to evaluate its PAUSE Act and plans for re-opening.
Again, if you have additional questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as we can. There are still many unknowns, but we will do our best to make decisions and communicate any changes to you as soon as possible.
Business Office Update
May is quickly approaching and is traditionally our last payment period of the spring semester and academic year. We understand that the Coronavirus has impacted many people’s finances. Rest assured that if you are struggling to make your monthly payment, we want to work with you to establish a plan to have it paid by graduation. We would also like to encourage those of you who are interested in continuing into the Sophomore year to complete your FAFSA and finalize your Financial Aid package for the upcoming year. In fact, now that students and parents are together at home, there is a tremendous opportunity to work through the financial aid process together! Take advantage of this time at home to complete the necessary steps to ensure you have a full picture of what next year’s finances will look like.
Personal Belongings Update
We are hearing from the Governor of New York that he is considering a regional approach to reopening. While Governor Cuomo has not placed a date or timeline on this, I believe we get closer to allowing staff on site each day, which will allow us to implement our personal belongings pick-up strategy. As soon as we are able to do this, we will be communicating with you. I can assure you, we are ready for the day that we can provide the open doors for you to pick up your belongings. Until then, we remain committed to our security measures to protect your items.
As always, it is a joy to serve you and your student! If we can do anything for you during this time, please feel free to reach out. Let’s look to ways to serve one another these days!