The 2020-2021 school year was a challenge for our schools.  Coming out of a quarter of the previous school year totally online, there were great concerns about student academic progress and the enrollment for the new school year.  However, our teachers did a great job handling the online teaching and the students did a great job learning remotely.  

Several stories are related to the enrollment growth in the Iowa-Missouri Conference which came from community families placing their children in a Seventh-day Adventist school rather than public school.

The Maranatha Adventist School in Moberly, Missouri, had five students with four having little to no connection with the church. The students didn’t know the Bible and the various characters it presented. The teacher at our school began each day with Bible stories to start the process of teaching the students about the wonderful characters of the Bible including the story of Christ and Salvation. The students were impacted by the stories and were thankful for Jesus. By the end of the year, they knew the main characters of the Bible and that we are saved through the sacrifice of Jesus. Their prayer requests became more focused and they were excited to share about answers to prayers.

College Park Christian Academy in Columbia, Missouri, had a growth spurt in the middle of the 2020-2021 school year with several communities families sending their children to the school. The families appreciated the caring teachers and the school’s spiritual focus. As these students participated in worship, Bible class, Bible studies and chapels, some felt the tug on their hearts to follow Jesus. Several students and their families were baptized because of their experience at College Park Christian Academy. Although these baptisms were not into the Seventh-day Adventist Church, their commitment to publicly proclaiming their wish to follow Jesus was most important.

Another story coming from College Park Christian Academy was experienced by the first and second grades teacher. Near the end of the school year, a second-grade student wanted to talk to the teacher. This student shared that before she attended College Park she was not a Christian. She then said that after being in College Park she would like to become a Christian. What a terrific testimony!

As the 2021-2022 school year was about to begin, the coronavirus was surging. The question on everyone’s mind was this would impact enrollments. As schools shared their enrollment numbers with the Iowa-Missouri Conference Office of Education, numbers were not down, but up. In fact, the opening enrollment was the highest in 20 years. God continues to take care of our schools in this pandemic. 

What accounted for this growth? There seem to be a couple of factors. Several schools continue to serve refugee families who may or may not be Seventh-day Adventists. Fifty-two students in five schools are assisted by the conference’s Refugee Immigrant Family Education Assistance Fund. This fund provides a $1,500 scholarship for each student to assist families who want a Seventh-day Adventist Christian education for their children.

Community families are continuing the trend from last school year and sending their children to a Seventh-day Adventist school. There are many reasons—dissatisfaction with their local public school, the small class sizes and the ability to keep students isolated from other classes, caring teachers, Christian teachings and principles and a safe environment. Not only are families sending their children to an Adventist school, but they also promote the school to their extended family, friends and circle of influence.

God has kept watch over our schools these past two years of the pandemic. Although there are still challenges, the blessings we have received outweigh them all.