When Hickory Christian Academy was founded in 1995, it was founded as an Independent Christian School. But, that word, “independent” really depends doesn’t it? The truth of the matter is that HCA has never really been completely independent. While it is a fact that we have never been formally governed by a church, state, or other institution, we have always been in partnership with a local church in some form. Let’s take a look back…
From Fall, 1995 through Spring, 2001 the school operated under the roof of Highland Baptist Church. These formative years were exciting and groundbreaking, as a brand new cute little school began in a handful of Sunday School classrooms, and eventually modular units outside. During those first years, Highland blessed us with free rent and room to grow. I became a parent at HCA in the Fall of 1999, and came to work at the school full time in April of 2001. We saw so many miracles and blessings from God as the enrollment grew from 19 students to 185 in five years!
With the rapid growth of the school, we were forced to look at other options in the Fall of 2001. We were blessed to rent extra space at First Baptist Church, which housed our 4th – 8th grades that year, while the Pre – 3rd stayed at Highland. While the space was a blessing, the logistics of two campuses under one administrator were overwhelming, and we quickly realized that it was tougher than expected to pay rent when we were still tight on cash and used to free space. The following year saw the only decrease in student population in the school’s history, and need to regroup back at Highland.
From Fall, 2002 through Spring 2004, the entire school was at Highland, continuing to add grades, and trying to find our way in the world of fledgling private schools. Enrollment began to increase again, which led to a second try for extra space in the fall of 2004. This time, New Hope Baptist Church graciously gave us four rooms to house our Preschool, TK, and Kindergarten classes, again at no cost. This allowed us to stretch out a little at Highland, where we had agreed to begin to pay a nominal rent for the large amount of space we occupied. It was about this time when construction on our current school facility began, after a generous space-sharing agreement with the Hickory Community Chapel became reality.
As construction projects often are, the facility was started and stopped several times over the next year while we prepared for our exit from Highland Baptist Church after 11 years. Fittingly, we held our very first high school graduation ceremony in Highland’s sanctuary as our final farewell. What a huge day of completion that was! Needless to say, Highland was essential to the formation of this school, and invested much space and money to help get us started. We couldn’t have done it without their help.
When the construction of the new building was not completed by the beginning of school in 2006, we went back to First Baptist Church and New Hope to borrow space one last time. They both allowed us to use their facilities until Thanksgiving Break, when were were finally able to make the big move to our current campus. While we did not spend as much time at FBC and NHBC as other places, they were hugely instrumental in bridging the gap between Highland’s and Harvest’s campuses. It was great to see the Body of Christ corporately minister to us through so many different organizations.
The seven years in which we have partnered with Harvest Bible Chapel (formerly Hickory Community Chapel) have been amazing. I have been so blessed by the generosity and grace shown us by this body of believers, and I am eternally grateful for the lessons they have taught me on humility, kindness, and grace over the years. During this partnership, our enrollment has grown from 278 students to 451, a 62% increase. We have graduated seven classes in this building, and learned to manage our own building and budget…but not completely. You see, Harvest has contributed significantly to our utility and maintenance costs over the years as we have shared space and property.
As you know, Harvest held its final Sunday morning worship service on this campus on the first day of September. Beginning today, Hickory Christian Academy truly becomes an independent school for the first time. We no longer have to worry about double-scheduling, or who owns what, but we also are taking on all of our own expenses and responsibilities. There is no backup plan now. We are finally becoming what we have always claimed to be, an Independent Christian School. In some ways this is a little intimidating, but make no mistake, it is consistent with the original vision from 1995. The time has come.
As I mentioned in my last blog, we recently sent our oldest daughter off to college. For the past 18 years, as she got older and more responsible, we noticed that she could handle things on her own. On the day that she actually left for school, I knew she was ready, but every day since I continue to watch her progress, because she is really not independent until she does independence, not simply when we believe it. HCA is getting ready to do independence. We will no longer be mistaken as Harvest Christian School or Highland Baptist Academy. Are we ready? The proof is coming in the next few months, and it really does not depend on our own hard work and organization, as much as it depends on the grace of Christ working through us.
Just like my daughter is beginning to learn, independence in human terms is the opposite of independence in spiritual terms. To be totally free spiritually, you must be a servant to Christ. Paul tells us, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” – Col. 3:23-24. Freedom, in its purest form is found through serving Jesus. As we embark on this new era in the history of Hickory Christian Academy, we recommit our service to the Lord, and ask Him to grant us true spiritual freedom as a result.
When Joshua led the people of Israel to the edge of the promised land, God spoke to him these words: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” I don’t know about you, but I want success. Therefore, let’s not turn to the right or the left as we follow Christ into the promised land. Since His Word is truth, isn’t that ultimately what we should be learning in school anyway…the truth?
The Lord had promised us an Independent Christian School. Today, He has fulfilled that promise. I am so excited to see what blessings He provides next. God bless each of you as we begin this new adventure together.