The Great Lakes Experience
By: Sandy McBay
During the November long weekend, staff and faculty gathered in the cafeteria on Friday morning for devotion and a staff meeting. Don Rose invited staff to reflect after our time together about the following:
Remember why we came to work at Great Lakes and how has that reason changed
Seek out another staff member and talk about that with each other
Carve out 30 minutes of our busy schedules to be silent
We also spent time in prayer for our students, each other and to acknowledge celebrations for which we could be thankful.
While I sought out a tissue, I came across one of the cafeteria napkin holders and discovered this lovely little message, obviously left by a student before leaving for a long weekend. “God loves you”. Three simple little words hastily scratched on a napkin with the intent of someone discovering their message of hope. Written by a student, someone wishing to encourage in this small, but to me - meaningful way. I held up the napkin holder to a couple of staff and stated, “this is a Laker Connections article in the making.” Amy Sandiford shared a treasure she had kept for 4 or 5 years. Amidst a student’s chemistry calculation scratches, written in a heart shape were the words; “Jesus loves me, even if I suck at Chemistry”. (Please excuse the teen vernacular) One student offers encouragement to all on a simple napkin while another, upon self-reflection during the struggles of learning Chemistry reminds themselves they are loved by their Lord.
Right when we need to be reminded of why we work at Great Lakes; during times of financial restraint, student issues, very real personal emotional struggles, heavy academic and extra-curricular demands – out of the sometimes darkness always comes light. We work here so our students can meet Jesus and come to have or develop a meaningful relationship with Him. We work at Great Lakes because we know what that meaningful relationship means to us. Why would we not want to share that? Teens are finding their way in life – sometimes through some pretty challenging ‘stuff.’ We work here because we understand the value of service and loving others, and we hope our students will learn similar valuable lessons so they will go out in to all the world and share our Saviour’s love.
This past year working at Great Lakes without my husband Rick has indeed been a challenge at best, impossible for fleeting moments at worst. I have been deeply moved and blessed by the love that has been offered to me in countless ways. Students check in with me daily to say hi, give a hug or tell me about their day. Staff have found unique ways to check in with me or have been there at the drop of a hat when I have needed a safe place to grieve.
Undoubtedly, I would probably find some of the blessings cited above in a public school because I know God has blessed our world with LOTS of wonderful, caring people. But I am not sure I would find a napkin scratched with the words “God loves you” on it in other high schools. Nor am I confident that very many public school teachers would discover on a student’s homework assignment the statement that Jesus loves them. People of faith here at GL continue to support me long beyond those in my other circles who maybe don’t understand that same kind of faith. It is comforting to know that Rick is missed here at Great Lakes because otherwise, the meaning of his life would have been insignificant.
I work at Great Lakes because I believe in what we are doing. It is challenging to be reminded in our staff meetings of our need to be financially prudent. We have a gem here. We continue to find ways to let others know about and hopefully increase our student body.