Welcome Back. Welcome Home.

Welcome back! The truth is, it is amazing to me how fast summer just passed by! In my 35 years as an educator, I cannot remember another summertime that flew by so quickly. It was almost like a dream that came one moment and vanished the next.

Speaking of dreams, I had a very interesting one this summer, a dream that I shared with our leadership and support team right after it happened. It is a dream that I feel compelled to share with you.

Now, before I go any further, please know that I’m not someone who typically talks about God routinely speaking to someone in dreams, or who claims to personally have an epiphany from the Lord on a regular basis. Perhaps that is what caused this to have such an impact on me. I do believe that God can communicate with us in many ways (especially through His inerrant Word, the Bible) and does so as He wills, and that He can certainly choose to do that through a dream if He wants to.

So I’d like to paraphrase some of what I shared with our office team this summer:

Like you, I have been praying for increased enrollment, and seeking the Lord for faithfulness to patiently wait on Him and continue preparing the fields for the increase that must come from His hand. And I believe He will send that increase.

As we work and look toward reaching out to those families who do not know who we are, or who may not even know that we exist (yet), I have been seeking His direction. How do we promote His school and His work here at ALCS, in addition to what we’re already doing?

This weekend, I woke up one morning coming out of a dream. I believe it was from the Lord. He gave me two words. Just two words. I believe they are for us, for ALCS. And they melted me, because He did not just give them as words, but as words filled with deep emotion. Even now, I cannot say them without feeling them. I cannot fully explain it.

I have tried to put the two words He gave me into some form of description, some way of explaining to you how He made me feel when I softly slipped out of the dream and opened my eyes with the two words on my lips. And this feeling has not lessened any; in fact, it continues to grow in my heart, so much so that I feel I have to somehow try to share it with you. I believe He wants me to share it with you.

So, here you go. This isn’t the dream, per se; I don’t remember anything visually about the dream, other than a warm golden light. What I vividly remember is the two words (you’ll know the two words when you see them). But this is the best way I can try to share how I felt as I woke up, and how I still feel. It’s the two words and the feeling that are important:

*****

It’s almost the holiday. You’ve been traveling with the kids all day. The traffic’s been a challenge and the weather’s been iffy at best. Your patience has been hanging on by a thread. But your long journey is nearly over, as you turn on to the old familiar street; that oak tree on the left; those golden maples on the corner splashing color in the last glorious moments of the sunset. You can’t help but notice your own growing anticipation. You pull into the driveway. Everyone climbs out of the car and heads up the walkway. You catch the scent of something wonderful baking. Your memories suddenly return with nostalgic, reassuring emotion. And then, as you come to the threshold, the door opens and you hear two of the sweetest words ever spoken:

“Welcome home.”

Alta Loma Christian School. Welcome home.

*****


That’s us! That’s who we are. That’s what it’s like at ALCS. We’re not just a school you attend; we’re a family you belong to. A family that can say to everyone who finds their way here, “Welcome home!”

The late poet and Wake Forest University distinguished professor, Maya Angelou, said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As I shared with our leadership team at the time:

Somehow, we must convey this sense—this feeling of Welcome home—to those around us, both here at ALCS and those not yet here. We’ll see what God will do with this. I’m asking Him to continue to reveal Himself to us as we all walk on together into the new school year ahead.

But there’s more.

As the summer progressed, I could not get the feeling of that dream—that sense of Welcome home—out of my head or out of my heart.
One day in the office in July, after arranging a promotional announcement on KSGN radio, I felt the presence of the Lord in a very strong way. Compelled, I took the description of the dream and put it into words for a second radio spot on KSGN, titled, “Welcome home,” which ran alternately to our original spot.

I honestly do not know what God did or whether there was any verifiable correlation or not, but what I do know is this: that during the time the “Welcome Home” spot was scheduled to be aired, we received 22 new enrollments in a period of just over a week. (And the calls continue.)

So these are the sentiments I now share with you, our school family. Welcome home has become the theme for our new school year. In a world seemingly growing more senseless by the day, there must be a safe place for our kids and our families, a God-honoring haven, a place where we can support one another and equip our children to be ready to be in the world but not of the world, not only as academic achievers but as change-agents and light-bearers for Christ. In short, a place like, well…home.

That’s what we’re committed to provide here at ALCS, and that’s also the commitment of our sponsoring church, Solid Ground. We truly desire to be an extension of an inclusive, God-honoring home in this place.

As we walk through this new school year together, may the Lord enable all of us to express to one another and to our kids this heartfelt reassurance, straight from the heart of our heavenly Father. Because one day, He will say the same thing to all who have put their faith in Him:
Welcome home.

Have a blessed first-weekend of the new school year, and we’ll see you around campus.
 

Dr. Vance Nichols
Head of School
Alta Loma Christian School

Dr. Nichols (BS, MS, EdD) also serves as an adjunct professor of education at California Baptist University. He recently completed a three-year term as commissioner and chair of the ACSI Southern California Regional Accreditation Commission, and was an educational researcher, organizational leadership theorist, and 2015 Innovation Scholar at the University of Southern California. His most recent published research—“Schools At Risk: An Analysis of Factors Endangering the Evangelical Christian School Movement in America”—can be accessed online at: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll40/id/294584/rec/82