When did it all begin? Some things are blurry in my mind and others are crystal-clear. The vision to start a Christian school in Oak Park was planted in my heart the day I arrived in the village in 1989. At first no one (except my wife) took me seriously when I said that someday, somehow, it was going to happen. Looking back, I realize that my bold statements were matched by many doubts. It was “belief plus unbelief and acting on the belief part.” Years passed, the church grew, and the dream stayed with me. Now and then I would speak about it or write about it, but we were all busy and there was so much to do and my family was growing up all around me, so how could we ever find the time or the energy or the money or anything else we needed to start a school? It seemed impossible, and in retrospect it was impossible. But as J. Hudson Taylor said, “There are three stages in any work done for God: Impossible, difficult, done.”
It must have been early in 1994 that Bruce Lavenau, Cliff Raad, and Lois Catrambone came to my office to talk and pray about the “impossible dream” of starting a Christian school. As far as I know, there are no notes of that first meeting and I can’t remember what was said or what we decided but God planted a seed that day, and when God plants a seed you can be sure it will spring to life eventually.
I remember standing at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and as devout people have done for centuries, I wrote my prayer on a piece of paper and stuck it in between two of the huge foundation stones that date back to the time of King Herod. On the paper I had written, “For the establishment of a Christian school in Oak Park in the fall of 1995.”
Proverbs 9:10 was chosen as the theme verse of the new school: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” In early 1995 we formally opened enrollment and the first applications arrived. In early August we faced a crisis when we realized we were about to open a new school with only five students. Believing that God desired a Christian school in Oak Park, we pushed ahead by faith. By God’s grace the doors opened later that month with 19 students. The total rose to 41 the next year, and it rose again the next year and the next. This year Oak Park Christian Academy has 100 students enrolled from kindergarten through the eighth grade.
This Friday night the school celebrates its fifth birthday. It is a miracle from the hand of God. Happy Birthday, OPCA.