If you come through Entrance One anytime between Sundays, it is pretty easy to think that nothing is going on. The pastors are hidden in their offices and a friendly, albeit quiet face greets you in the church office. But head about 70 meters to the west through Entrance Four, and you’ll quickly perceive the controlled chatter and hubbub of hundreds of school age children! You’ve now entered Gray Road Christian School.
Gray Road Christian School’s stated mission is to “build strong minds and committed hearts.” Metaphorically, the teachers and staff of our school work 176 days a year as ditch diggers. Strange as it may seem, imagine a field that is hard and dry. No water penetrates. No fruit grows. So it is with children’s hearts. Our teachers, in conjunction with parents and the local church, dig ditches. They teach, they correct, they train the children in righteousness. They put the truths of God before children in academics, in song, in memorization, in the created world, in physical exercise. Day after day these ditches are dug, through faithful, persevering work and in prayer, in order that, in God’s own sovereign timing and by His grace, He would send his Holy Spirit as a rushing river, to permeate that dry ground.
As a ministry of Gray Road Baptist Church, this ditch digging is indeed an extension of our church’s mission. First, just as with our church, our school: “exists to glorify God by exalting Jesus in passionate worship.” You cannot enter the school building without hearing singing – somewhere. Our school kids love… to… sing. From individual classes, to chapels, to Christmas and spring programs, the teachers joyfully lead the children in praise to Jesus. An awesome thing about this is that even unconverted children are singing the Gospel to themselves! These worship songs packed with truth about our God will live long in these children’s minds. Ditches are dug.
Second, our school: “exists to glorify God by equipping Christians for life and service.” These children are being trained in a stringent academic environment; they receive individual, customized attention, all filtered through a Biblical worldview. By using a Christian curriculum, students learn that “religion” or “Bible” is not one individual academic subject, but rather the foundation and lens through which we learn all school subjects. It’s all God’s history. It’s all God’s science. It’s all God’s world.
As a complement to the academic regimen, the school staff digs ditches to irrigate a lifetime of service in Jesus’ name. This year, the third graders took a field trip day, not to have fun, but to serve at both FAME (medical evangelism) and Centers for Global Impact (CGI). The student council, made up of fourth through sixth graders, plan service projects each year through the guidance of faculty and staff. Last year each grade level took up a project from Samaritan’s Purse. Children have collected change for CGI and Pennies for Patients. They have collected school supplies for Africa, clothes for a family whose home burned, and money for another Christian school that had flooded. Former teacher Mirriel Candler explains that “we want to be the hands and feet of Jesus.” They are. Ditches are dug.
Again, as an extension of Gray Road Baptist Church, our school exists: “to glorify God by encouraging one another in meaningful fellowship.” If we would plead with God to raise up these children into the Body of Christ, into the love and fellowship of the saints, then there seems to be a superb breeding ground at GRCS. Faculty and staff reiterate time and time again how much Christ-centered love permeates that school.
“The staff is a close-knit family of believers,” says GRCS preschool assistant Jenny Beltz. “We love Jesus, we love each other, we love the students, and we love their families. The staff prays for each other, we support one another, and we feel a strong commitment to edifying one another as part of the Body of Christ.”
Jenny feels this is the reason so many staff have been at the school for five years or more. In fact, no staff left after this past school year, which is almost unheard of in private day schools.
“We have a principal and staff that show compassion not only for each other, but for our students and their families,” said fifth and sixth grade teacher Pam Aldridge. “The staff is close knit like a family as we lift each other up in times of need through prayer and benevolence. We also do the same for our students and their families.”
Mirriel Candler told us the environment and experience at GRCS is unique to what she has seen in the education world, and credited God’s use of school principal Ann Wall for setting the wheels in motion.
“I’ve taught at three different Christian schools but Gray Road was my favorite because of the leadership and loving atmosphere,” she said. “Ann Wall’s love for Jesus, her staff, and students set the tone. She was always encouraging her staff to godliness and spiritual growth while making each one feel loved. Because of her leadership in this way, we in turn made this our mission for our students.”
Finally, GRCS “glorifies God by engaging the world with the Gospel.” Quite amazingly by the grace of God, the school is a microcosm of the world-wide Church, with many tongues, tribes, and nations represented. God has brought the world to a tiny Christian school on the south side of Indianapolis, and what an awesome field for ditches to be dug. There are children from India, Burma, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Philippines, Africa, and America! Every day children from unbelieving families are hearing truth. Seeds are planted! Children from believing families are hearing truth. Seeds are planted! In an area of Indianapolis where we can be surrounded in a “suburban middle-class churchy bubble,” being a part of GRCS allows a student to surround themselves with friends unlike themselves, but precious in the sight of God nonetheless. It’s really quite beautiful.
Mirriel Candler remarks that she loved being able to give copies of The Bible to families who did not have one in their home. One year she had a little boy who knew nothing about the Bible but would reenact the Bible stories with friends at recess. Pam Aldridge hears tales of preschool children sharing stories about Jesus at home. Ann Wall loves to hear the little children from India singing Jesus Loves Me.
Jenny Beltz exudes, “We have a strong track record of loving students from other cultures. We show/tell them the love of Jesus. It is one of my favorite parts of our school.”
What an environment of love this school has! Picture this: A Christian school principal spending time with parents as they sit in a hospital with a sick child; people ministering directly to single moms; staff visiting their children’s parents in their homes or bringing them supper during illness; staff praying together frequently in the hallway; staff praying with their children in the hallway; staff praying with and for the principal.
“We realize we cannot be effective without God’s wisdom and direction,” Ann Wall said.
So now Oh Lord, take this hard work and effort of ditch digging. It is done in your name and in your strength, for your glory. As the staff and children worship you, as they study your great world and serve your people, as they love and edify one another, and as they faithfully teach the Gospel to each student and family, would you pour out your grace upon them? Would you flood those ditches with your life-giving Spirit?