Once upon a time in Spakkenburg, the Netherlands, we walked through a church I wanted to visit because it had been a meeting place in 1943 for a young couple engaged to be married, but engaged also in resistance work during the Nazi occupation. It was too dangerous for either of them to go home, so they'd arrange to meet at a church, where they could mingle anonymously.
I was working on writing her life story, and I wanted to visit that church as well as other haunts in central Holland because I wanted to visualize the world she had described to me, even though fifty years had passed since Nazi jackboots pounded down Dutch streets.
Our guide at that church was not particularly comfortable with the English language and I had no Dutch to speak of, but he recognized the outline of the story I was writing so he raised a finger and beckoned. My family and I followed up a stairway to the church balcony, where he pulled aside a large rug to reveal a door in the floor he then opened. "Razzia," he said, or something similar.
He was referring to something akin to a roundup, the sudden appearance of Nazis looking to capture Dutch men to send to Germany to support the war machine. The Germans must have learned that if they wanted to round up lots of men at once, they could do so during church because the Dutch, in that part of the country in particular, were especially devout.
The storage room beneath the rug in the balcony of that church was a hiding place, during church or not, a place the onderdykkers, those who had to "dive under" German conscription, could sidestep capture. I'll never forget that odd hiding place.
That's a story I'm not interested in telling, but what is to me almost stupifying is that my tribe of Dutch Calvinists could actually go to war with each other with SS thugs all around and 100,000 Dutch Jews being deported to Germany and death. People in the church at Spakkenburg were at war with the Germans and themselves simultaneously. Where did they find the time? Where did they find the anger? Unbelieveable.
It's a real story and a true story, and, quite frankly, it's humbling.
And I say all of that because last night at a banquet blessed with tender pork loin and medley of garden vegetables, I told stories and talked about Christian education to moms and dads and grandpas and grandmas of children enrolled in Mitchell (SD) Christian School. Nobody in that audience knows anything about what happened in Spakkenburg, the Netherlands, in 1944, and that's just fine.
But they are, like it or not, very much in the tradition of Abraham Kuyper, whose followers created a whole fleet of Christian schools--"Schools for Christian instruction"--in North America, schools maintained by those who believe, for better or for worse, that education in the truth about life and death and eternity has to acknowledge the hand of a God who created all things.
I am a graduate of a Christian school, as is my wife. Our children are too, and, not long ago, the two of us attended Grandparents Day in the school our grandkids attend. I taught for almost forty years in a college in that same tradition. We are committed Christian-school people.
I also graduated from a public school and taught in two others--rural and suburban. I loved it. Students from those schools still write me. In absolutely no way is my belief in Christian education created by distrust of what happens day-to-day, moment-to-moment in this country's public education system.
But last night I was reminded once again of what Christian education is by a society of believers from dozens of different churches, all of them willing to pay big bucks for an education that acknowledges God's hand and will in the world in which we live.
As long as humans are the helm, as they will be to the end, Christian education will have its share of problems, just like that church at Spakkenburg, the Netherlands, war within, I'm sure, and war without. No one ever promised a Christian school rose garden.
But when it does what it promises--teaches kids the humility of Christian servanthood beneath the rule of God and the amazing grace of his son Jesus--a Christian school is a blessing, not only to the kids in the desks but, through them, to the world God loves.
This morning I'm thankful for Mitchell Christian School--a community of parents and teachers and kids who believe, quite simply, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.