I have a hobby of traveling around the state of Michigan with the purpose of stumbling across interesting, out-of-the-way places, and I always appreciate an “unexpected” discovery: an otherwise nondescript building that has a unique history or a little-known historical event amidst an otherwise unremarkable landscape. I think it drives my wife crazy.
About two years ago, I was zipping across the lower peninsula on US-10 heading for Ludington and an anticipated day of hiking at the beautiful Ludington State Park when, as I was approaching Reed City, a tremendous thunderstorm broke out rendering visibility past the front of the hood of my car nearly impossible. This, of course, led to a few miles of stressful, white-knuckle driving, and as I anxiously weighed my options there suddenly appeared a sign on the right side of the road on which I could barely make out through the sheets of rain: “Trinity Lutheran Church and School.”
Now, I knew there was a Lutheran church and school in Reed City as I had a friend whose father used to be pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, and I was aware that the church had moved to this new location a number of years back, but I thought that the school was still at the “old” site—right in the middle of town next to the high school. Had they built a new school here on the highway east of town unbeknownst to me? This provided an excellent opportunity for me to get out of the rain, stretch my legs, grab a short pit stop, and check out the situation.
I wound up having a very enjoyable half hour visit at the “new” Trinity Lutheran Church and School. A very friendly and helpful secretary was happy to show me around and she filled me in with all the pertinent information. The church had indeed been built here in 2006 and the school had moved to this location just last year. This statement gave me pause. I hadn’t noticed anything that looked like a school building when I came in; I looked around and asked, “Uh, where’s the school?”
She laughed and told me that the new school building hadn’t actually been built yet; it was in the planning stages and in fact had been staked out at this site, but in the meantime they had been holding school here in this building—all OVER this building! In fact, classes were being held in, among other places, Sunday school rooms, the library, in the narthex (!), and even in the pastor’s office!! I just shook my head and marveled at the resourcefulness and, frankly, the patience that Trinity had in its determination to teach children of the congregation and community about the love of Christ.
Lutheran schools in the state of Michigan have a great and amazing history and tradition of ministry and mission. There have been Lutheran schools operating in our state since well before the Civil War, and they have been held in a wide variety of facilities—from rough log cabins to superb, gleaming, modern school buildings. But as I learned on my visit to Trinity Lutheran School in Reed City, it is not just a building that constitutes a Lutheran school. What makes a Lutheran school is the unique message which is delivered to the children who are gathered in them—the proclamation of the love of God which is focused in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and which has saved mankind from their sin.
That’s the bottom line; that’s what makes a Lutheran school special. You know what you’re getting when you send your child to one, no matter what kind of facility in which it is accomplished. You are going to be shown that Jesus died for you! And here’s an added bonus: The teachers who teach at a Lutheran school have that very truth at the heart of everything they do, and I’m here to tell you that that makes a difference in how they teach.
My father was a Lutheran school teacher before becoming an administrator in a large public school district in Michigan, and he said that, yes, there were excellent teachers in both public and Lutheran schools, but the Lutheran schools teachers had a difference—an advantage that the public school teachers did not: Lutheran school teachers perceive all of their students as sheep belonging to Jesus’ flock and it is their job as Lutheran school teachers to be sure that these children are kept safe for their heavenly Father. Also, as Lutheran school teachers they could freely offer their students Christ’s forgiveness and openly share God’s love with them and instill that love in their students.
A Lutheran school is not just a building. It is, at its heart, the intentional spreading of the love of God to its students, families, and communities. The teachers and all administrators in Lutheran schools and preschools in the Michigan District are dedicated to that very truth. Jesus is the heart of everything we do.
Photo (c) mbrowe/iStock