The COVID-19 pandemic is, without a doubt, the biggest disruption of life in the United States since the Second World War, and since there are few Americans alive today who are old enough to remember the Second World War, it's become the crisis of a lifetime. Health care services are in a crisis mode and the effects of the uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19 have affected everything from the economy to church services.
The Effect of the Pandemic on MCA
Like other schools in Illinois, MCA shifted from in-person instruction to E-learning in mid-March 2020. We made the shift as smoothly as we could, learned some lessons along the way and finished the school year strong. Our teachers worked especially hard to make sure that their classes achieved their expected outcomes in every subject area at every grade level. We were grateful to be able to return to in-person instruction this fall, even with the limits and restrictions that were put in place.
Christian schools everywhere have seen enrollment drops and have had to make budget cuts and adjustments to cope with the effects of the pandemic, and MCA is no different. Many of our parents work in retail or own businesses like restaurants and immediately felt the effects of the stay-at-home orders while layoffs and job loss came more slowly for others. On the plus side, the CPS decision to go with E-learning through the first two quarters did bring us some new students. Our experience has been very similar to what most other private, Christian schools are going through in terms of a drop in enrollment and subsequently, tuition dollars which support the budget. The pandemic is the difference between where we planned to be and where we are now.
However, as Mark Twain once said, the reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated.
Most Christian schools operate on a very tight budget with little wiggle room for unexpected expenses and a very small reserve. There's a delicate balance between the resources, most of which come from parents who pay tuition for their children to attend, and the expenses, which are kept low by a variety of ways, including staff members who make sacrifices to work for salaries well below that of their public school counterparts in order to keep expenses low. But the bottom line is that we are a ministry in which we acknowledge that God supplies all our needs.
Before They Call, I will Answer
This school has been favored by the Lord through sixty-six years of ministry and it has faced all kinds of crises that have threatened to close the doors. As Peter says, our enemy is always prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour and a Christian school with a mission and purpose committed to preparing students to go out into the world testifying to salvation by grace through faith in Christ and serving in the church does not suit his purpose. But God's power comes through Peter's words. He cares for you. Humble yourselves. Cast your cares on Him. Be sober minded and watchful. Stand firm in your faith.
We have no plans to close the school. Like most other private schools, we have contingency plans and the ability to adjust our expenses to accommodate short-term emergencies and situations that we didn't anticipate. The viral pandemic wasn't something we could plan for. So we are reaching out to alumni, former students and friends of the ministry for help. This is something we have rarely done in the past, but it is part of what most other Christian schools do to make ends meet all the time. And it is proving to be a means by which God is answering prayer and providing for the school's needs.
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24
The Legacy and the Future
There aren't many Christian schools around today who can trace their history back to 1954. MCA has had the blessing of sixty-six years of ministry on the northwest side of America's third largest city, but the impact and influence of this small school has spread around the world. Christian schools support and undergird the work of the church by teaching students to connect everything they learn to Biblical truth. Through the classroom, students are directed to fulfill the purpose for which they have been created and called by God. Students who once walked the halls and occupied the classrooms of MCA are not only serving in Christian vocational ministries around the world, but they are also salt and light in the communities where they live and work.
We need to ask ourselves the question, "If our school were gone, would it be missed?"
The need for schools which support and undergird the work of the church has never been greater. Most churches would consider themselves fortunate to have those children who come to their services and programs under their care and teaching for a couple of hours a week. The public school system has most children in their classrooms seven hours a day, five hours a week. The curriculum is derived from a set of "religiously neutral" objectives which do not make any acknowledgement of the existence of God and which increasingly has removed the influence of any kind of Christian faith from the classroom, even to the point of ignoring the role of Christians and the influence of the church in history.
This ministry is in God's hands. It has served faithfully and remained true to its original mission and purpose. If you look back at the school's legacy, there are many, many places where its ministry would be missed if it were gone or had never existed in the first place. God puts visions like this in the hearts of his children in order to accomplish his will. Looking ahead, it is not hard to imagine all of the places where students whose spiritual foundation and growth was strengthened and matured because of their daily exposure to a Christian atmosphere and solid Biblical instruction would be missed if our school wasn't here.
We're grateful for the opportunity to be part of the effort to make sure Midwestern Christian Academy continues serving students and their families in Jesus' name for many more years.