Rockbridge Academy Blog
Praying a 500-year Vision
“When we pray, we are producing links in the chain of ordained facts.”
Recently, Rockbridge Academy hosted an Auxilium conference, where about 40 parents and pastors dedicated to starting new classical Christian schools around the country spent two days at our school taking in our culture and watching the daily grace that goes on in the classrooms. Starting a school takes vision. When I was a young teacher here many years ago, the founding board members around me talked about having a 500-year vision for Rockbridge Academy. The thinking went like this: If we really are about making a difference in the culture and in the kingdom of God through the education of children, then let’s make it a lasting vision… one that has eternal consequence.
Vision is a powerful thing. Consider the vision of Dutch statesman, Abraham Kuyper, a pastor in the Netherlands at the end of the 19th Century. He led the establishment of a new denomination that freed themselves from the state church; he founded the Free University of Amsterdam; he started and edited a newspaper. Then he served as the Netherlands Prime Minister from 1901-1905, vigorously leading his political party for over forty years until his death in 1920. Kuyper’s grand passion was to see the Christian faith impact all of the spheres of Dutch culture, even though he was cognizant of his limits working in a democratic and pluralistic framework. Despite the challenges, Kuyper said, “One desire has been the ruling passion of my life… It is this: That in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school, and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.”
Regardless of how you may feel about Kuyper’s brand of culture making, the fact remains that his work left a profound mark on Dutch society. A generation of godly, faithful, no-nonsense Christians salted Dutch society.
However, dark days would shake that legacy. In fact, author George Grant points out that in 1940 when the Germans invaded the Netherlands, Adolph Hitler purposefully targeted the academic and social institutions that had been established by Kuyper because Hitler saw Christendom as the arch-enemy of Nazi-ism. Kuyper’s legacy did, in fact, produce heroes of the faith who formed the backbone of Dutch resistance during the war, heroes that hid Jews from the Nazis, heroes such as the family of Corrie Ten Boom and others.
Interestingly, Rockbridge Academy holds a connection to that era and Kuyper’s legacy. Years ago, one of Rockbridge Academy’s first grade teachers left to move back to New England and care for her ailing parents—Dutch immigrants who had grown up in WWII Netherlands. About eight years ago, as that teacher’s mom finally passed away, her mom’s sister, a family member we have never met before (then in her 80s) sent a monetary gift to our school, along with a letter thanking Rockbridge Academy for our work and echoing that profound vision from a former time. I’ll share an excerpt of the note. The syntax is a little broken, and you can tell English was not her first language:
…We in our church are in the third generation of Christian [schooling] where Jesus is Lord. I’m very grateful to the Lord [for] the influence of my Dutch teachers… how they were praying teachers who’s influence is now reaching into your school through [my niece]. God is so good! We were so taught to have a good conscience toward God and man.
The school [where I grew up] was the place where, during WWII, the Germans placed the rocket launchers so we were a target for bombing. We lost 68 people in 20 minutes of chain bombing. Our teachers were there to bury the dead… [They] were there at the burial with the parents. The relationship between the teachers and the parents were so close knit that if I misbehaved at school, my mother new it before I got home. My teachers visited the families of the pupils every year to see their home life. They were like extra fathers to us, and they shaped our lives after Christ first.
This poignant letter went on to tell details about friends lost during the bombing, and the impact of the war upon the school. However, it ends with this hopeful refrain of vision:
…I may never see you on the face of this planet but I truly love you all. May the Lord bless you all the way and every day. God be with you till we meet again… May God grant that we are standing for all what God calls right with all our might. May Jesus be Lord in everything we are and do. Amen.
Have you ever stopped to think from where we stand in the stream of history that the community at Rockbridge Academy that has existed over the last 28 years may well be part of some previous generation’s 500-year vision for God’s kingdom? Could it be that the children walking Rockbridge Academy hallways today are a fulfillment of prayers uttered by faithful saints centuries ago? And despite the setbacks of war and the enemies that sometimes surround God’s people, when things look darkest, aren’t we—those who happen to be alive right now—called to take up the refrain and continue trusting that God will be faithful to that vision planted in the hearts of steadfast people? Might we pray a similar prayer for the generations to come? Let’s be known as a school that prays and pursues a 500-year vision.
Among the folks attending the recent ACCS Auxilium conference at Rockbridge was a young pastor and an administrator starting a classical Christian school in Clarksburg, West Virginia. When I found out they were from Clarksburg, I relayed that my wife spent many days of childhood visiting her grandmother who lived there. I later recalled how, as a young married couple, we would visit her aging grandma in the summer, passing the time taking walks through her little Clarksburg neighborhood. I remember praying as we walked that the gospel would come to that city in fresh ways. Who knew that 30 years later, a new classical Christian school would be one tangible fulfillment of that meager prayer? Come, Lord Jesus!