In 2007 my wife, Lori (Birkey) ’97, and I felt God calling us to her hometown of Hopedale from Pennsylvania, where I had been teaching for about seven years and doing part-time administration at Hinkletown Mennonite School (Ephrata). Shortly after arriving in Hopedale, we heard rumblings of plans for an empty school building, as consolidation had happened in the local public schools. That fall, I went to a meeting of local people who were looking for someone with background in education who would have interest in leading the opening of a new school. I became part of starting Christian Life Academy, a pre-K through eighth grade school. We decided in late 2007 to start the school, formed a non-profit corporation in February 2008 and opened in August 2008 with 27 students and four staff members. Today we serve about 90 students and have nine staff members.
Prepared to start
I chose to start at Hesston because I knew it was small enough that I could get involved with a lot of opportunities. I took my first education courses with Luke Hartman ’89. I was a member of the baseball team and had leadership opportunities as team captain my sophomore year. I was an RA, helped restart the Hesston College Horizon newspaper, wrote for the yearbook, worked as a math tutor and participated with a committee that helped plan a revival service. I like to start and try new things and that has followed me throughout my entire career and life. Hesston was one of the building blocks that gave me opportunities to be a leader, to learn what it means to work with other people and to step out in faith.
Words to live by
I often reflect on Revelation 3:7-8 that talks about God opening and closing doors. What He wants open will be open and what He wants shut will be shut; we just have to follow in faith. A door was shut for education in Hopedale when the grade school was closed. We felt that when that door closed, it opened the door to God blessing the option for Christian education.
Looking back, I know now that I wouldn’t have had the skills to do a lot of the things I have done had it not been for Hesston, but God directs our path and a lot of great things come out of following His lead for your life. Taking the step to go to Hesston although it was far away from home (Pennsylvania), broadened my view of the entire world, focused my life and got me to the place I am now.
Josh and Lori have three children who all attend Christian Life Academy – Marissa (12), Landon (10) and Bryson (6).