Florence One Schools historically have had a less than stellar reputation for quality education, facilities and leadership. Don’t get me wrong, I love this town – it’s my home. Ashley and I are both products of Florence Schools. I went to Greenwood Elementary, Southside Middle and South Florence High School ’94. But, Florence has a long history of division and leadership struggles. Still…it’s a good community and is filled with great teachers who love teaching students. My mom taught at Greenwood Elementary most of her teaching career and my mother-in-law taught in Florence as well. Our family has come full circle because now our own children are students in Florence. Our three sons are students at Carver Elementary, Sneed Middle School and West Florence High School.
This pandemic, quarantine and e-learning has reminded me just how far Florence has come in educating students and embracing technology. I pulled out an old article from our scrapbook that was probably written around 1983 in the the Florence Morning News. It’s a story about the purchase of the very first computer at Greenwood Elementary. My dad was ahead of his time. He was passionate about computers and technology. We were one of the only families I knew with multiple computers and even internet in our house in the 80’s. He knew that computers were going to be vital to learning. My dad was chairman of the PTA at Greenwood and he helped lead the school to raise the funds to buy the first computer for student use. This photo is of me and the principal. I know…that boy in the photo looks like my son Luke went back in time in a DeLorean to take this picture…lol. He really is my mini-me. But… imagine. Imagine what life would have been like if this pandemic occurred when I was Luke’s age. No one in the 80’s would have been receiving an education during these days of quarantine in Florence. If this had happened even just a few years ago it would also be a different story. Our students became 1:1 with technology just this school year.
I’m grateful for the leadership of our Superintendent, Dr. Richard O’Malley for helping our students be one-to-one with technology. Because of some great decisions and careful planning, every student and teacher walked into this quarantine with the tools they needed to help them thrive through this last quarter of the school year.
We have a long way to go as a community, but I for one am grateful. Where there was once one computer in my Florence One elementary school, now every student has one in their hands. That is a reason to celebrate. Well done Florence One!
Today marks the tenth day of what seems like a weird new normal here in South Carolina and across the country. For many people on the other side or our globe it has been a much longer journey. The COVID-19 pandemic has literally turned the world upside down. Before now very rarely were words used like, pandemic, quarantine or social distance. There is much anxiety, fear and confusion swirling around our town, on the news and on social media. So, how do we as the church respond? If your church is like ours, you’re probably starting to settle into the fact that this may last longer than we had hoped. So, what do we do now? If we can’t gather as “the church.” How do we BE the Church?
Scripture teaches us that the church gathers and scatters. We are called to gather often for cooperate worship, small group discipleship and authentic community, but then we scatter throughout the week to do the work of ministry and mission in the world. In recent days there has been alot more scattered than gathered. And to be honest, it’s ok. Though I love the opportunities we have to gather as a family of faith, we are not without hope simply because we can’t “go to church.”
I’m convinced that during these days of being scattered we will learn more about God’s purpose for us as his children. We can’t be comfortable simply being in the four walls of a church building. We’ve been given a unique opportunity during these weeks to BE the church and spend extra time in our homes and neighborhoods? How can we use these days to take ownership of our faith? How can we leverage this gift of time to glorify God, grow closer to our families and point others to Jesus?
Here are a few suggestions:
One day very soon this whole COVID-19 ordeal will be behind us and things will return to “normal.” The question is, what will that normal look like? My prayer is that we will have used this time to recenter our lives on the things that are most important. Rather than seeing all this social distance and isolation as bad thing – what if it’s a fresh opportunity. An opportunity to begin again in our faith, our family, and community. Being scattered isn’t a bad thing. It’s part of our calling as disciples. The church “gathered” is a great blessing – and we should gather often, but it’s not our only purpose as the people of God. Church was never meant to simply be a place to go. It was meant to be a people to be. Lord, teach us to scattered well. …and, when we get to worship together in one place again – may we never take for granted the gift of the gathered church.
This semester I’ve had the privilege serving alongside Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) on the campus of Francis Marion University. FMU BCM holds a special place in my heart because it’s the place I attended occasionally as a teenager with my sister when she was in college. It was my first experience seeing college students on fire for Jesus. I still remember the great leadership of Dena Lucy who was the pioneer campus minister at FMU. It was that experience as a young teenager in the late 80’s that left a lasting impact on my heart. It helped lead me to get involved in BCM during my college days at Anderson.
This semester I’ve enjoyed getting onto the campus at FMU. During this semester I’ve learned a few things:
Tonight is my last official night serving with the BCM as a staff member and it’s bitter sweet. As I look back on these last few months of late nights at FMU, I look back on it with a grateful heart. I’m grateful one student accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord. I’m grateful for the dozens of students who came to BCM for the first time. I am thankful for the awesome student leadership team as well as our fantastic co-director, Mary Cross. I’m grateful for local churches who showed up each week to feed students. I’m also thankful for the countless people who showed up to move students into dorms, make cotton candy, bring carnival games, cook hotdogs and everything in between that helped us connect with students who need the love of Jesus. I’m grateful for Chad Stillwell and the leadership team at our State Convention. I’m thankful that Ebenezer now has more students than ever going to FMU BCM. In addition, I now have great relationships with campus ministers all over our state. This will help personally connect our current and future Ebenezer college students with local campus ministers at a variety of colleges.
So, today I say – Thank You! Thank you FMU BCM for letting me be your 43 Year Old Semester Missionary. Thank you for welcoming me and letting me serve with your team at the local and state level. It helped me far more than you’ll ever know. Thank you Ebenezer for allowing me to serve outside my normal ministry duties. And a very special thank you to Ashley for always keeping things together at home and for being such an encouraging wife and ministry partner… even on the nights I came home at 11:00pm.
Welcome back Kendal! Keep making much of Jesus at Francis Marion University.