For nearly eight years, the Messick family prayed for the Raleigh area to feel more like “home.”
“My husband and I both grew up in small towns, but John had more job opportunities as an engineer in the Triangle than he did elsewhere, so immediately we were in pursuit of a community where we felt like we could grow as a family,” says Sarah Messick, GRACE parent and 2020-2021 transitional kindergarten assistant teacher. “Our church was great but I could tell my kids were still longing for ‘forever friends’ and we were still searching for that sense of community we grew up with.”
As the Messicks began considering school options for their daughter Ava, who was about to enter kindergarten, they learned of GRACE Christian School from a friend.
“I know it sounds crazy but when I walked in during Open House, it was such an incredible environment that I felt like we were already part of this community,” Sarah remembers. “I vividly remember Mrs. Walker sharing her personal stories of how her family was shown the love of God here. I had no clue how we were going to afford it, but I went home and told John I found our place. Aside from that decision, I’ve never been as sure of anything -- except my salvation and marriage!”
The Messicks enrolled Ava that fall, and Sarah joined the GRACE staff as a second-grade assistant teacher. Her prayers for a community had been answered.
“The staff, our students and their families have become my biggest encouragers – it’s the culture of the school,” she says. “I love that people can be open and honest about their struggles and they’re immediately met with grace and support. It’s incredible.”
When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, the Messicks appreciation for the school grew even deeper.
“From the very beginning, Eric Bradley and our leadership team guided us with such excellence – we had a virtual school up and running in a week,” she remembers. “But more than anything, I loved our school’s biggest desire was to find ways to continue building the spirit and community that defines GRACE – even if it had to be virtually. The love we have here is hard to describe to those who haven’t walked in it.”
The Messicks loved joining in during weekly Chapel live on Facebook with the Whelpley family, and Sarah made a point to frequently Facetime her students and send notes of love and encouragement to their families.
As spring moved to summer, while many families across Wake County – both parents and educators alike – struggled with anxiety around how school would look in the fall, Sarah was again reminded of how GRACE would go above and beyond to ensure students and staff would feel safe reopening campus.
“The school has done an incredible job ensuring the safety of our community by implementing so many protocols that benefit our school – and our amazing teachers even find a way to make it fun,” Sarah says. “I love that when Ava comes home from school she never mentions the masks or plexiglass, instead she’s telling me about playing with friends and asking Alexa to play a worship song that Mrs. Huntley played in the class that day. To her, it’s the same GRACE it’s always been.”
Beyond physical health and safety, Sarah is quick to point out how the GRACE community – in particular school counselor Dr. Karri Hawley – has recognized the mental health aspect that came with COVID. The school’s new Lower Campus program “Tool Time” gives students a safe space to have conversations about their emotions and learn about how God created emotions and that they should feel safe and supported to express their feelings – even the scary ones.
Despite all the challenges COVID-19 presented, Sarah chooses to instead look in awe at how God led them to GRACE Christian School knowing that this is the community her family would need during this season of life.
“When I look back on this time, I’ll remember how GRACE has done an incredible job reminding us all that our God is so big that any issue- even something as scary as COVID – seems small compared to His glory.”
The faithful and generous giving of GRACE families during the 2020-2021 Annual Fund made it possible for GRACE Christian School to safely reopen its doors in August 2020. Your generosity allowed us to upgrade technologies that would help our students learn virtually, upfit classrooms, swap water fountains for touchless faucets, build an outdoor classroom and so much more. God knew COVID-19 was coming long before we did - and the fact that last year’s Annual Fund raised record amounts of giving at GRACE proves His faithfulness and provision for his people. Consider giving to this year’s Annual Fund by clicking here.