God’s Grace in Damascus

The Apostle Paul was blinded by a bright light and an encounter with God on his way to Damascus, experiencing a conversion.  While we did not experience anything quite so dramatic in Damascus, Virginia, we did experience some remarkable moments.

This past Thursday through Saturday about 100 children and parents from Arborbrook arrived in Damascus, Virginia to bike the Creeper Trail, an old railway that has been converted into a path for cyclists.  It is a beautiful trail, with breathtaking vistas, cool shady paths through tall trees, and the almost constant sound of the creek rushing past alongside the trail.

Stuart, the proprietor of Damascus Cabins, who had graciously allowed us to use his sizeable green space along with the cabins we were renting, remarked that he could not believe we had found space for 100 people in his small town.  Stuart’s assistant Craig came both Thursday and Friday evening to light a campfire for us in the newly constructed fire pit on the grounds of the cabins.  Both men seemed genuinely glad to see us, glad for the joy that we took in the town that they loved, glad for the warmth and hospitality we extended to them and the town.  It was such fun to see children frolicking in the creek after riding the trail and to see our high schoolers playing volleyball together and enjoying one another’s company.  I loved seeing some dads enjoying a friendly game of corn hole, seeing people getting to know one another in so many great conversations, listening to the sound of the guitar and the voices of singers singing worship songs, seeing the giant circle we created when we prayed together for our dinner.

I had my doubts that a chili cook-off would work in this remote location, but our families had come very well prepared – we had so many crock pots of delicious chili, that we could not possibly eat it all.  We had so many positively delicious desserts that we could barely sample the abundance.  And that is where one of the really remarkable moments happened.  We tried to contact the fire department to invite them to come and eat chili with us, but there was no one there (this is a small town, after all), and so we asked Stuart and Craig if they knew of someone we could feed.  Craig told us there were at least 6 families he knew of that would be very grateful for food.  What an absolute joy to be able to put together container after container of chili and other food to deliver to families in Damascus.  Craig seemed particularly moved that we wanted to share what we had, and he had the pleasure of being the one to get to deliver all that food.  The rest was saved to feed to hikers the next day, who often come through the Appalachian Trail with little resources and hungry bellies.

Another neat moment was when we decided that the tent-dwellers from Arborbrook, two of whom were single moms, really needed to be relocated from the RV Park (which was not really set up for tents) to the beautiful grounds surrounding the Damascus Cabins.  It would have been a huge chore to have to take the tents down and put them up again, so about eight of our Arborbrook men went to the RV Park and literally carried a giant tent through town, some of the residents of Damascus coming out of their houses to see the spectacle.  One of the single moms expressed her gratitude and another mom told her, “You better get used to it- you’re at Arborbrook now.”

I cannot tell you how it lifted my spirit to see families caring for each other so well and reaching out even to strangers in Damascus with the love of Jesus in such tangible ways.  The reality of grace was so evident amongst us- from the families who had slightly less than ideal housing situations but were still thankful to be in such a beautiful place with such company, to the mothers and fathers who looked out for someone else’s children on the trail or who bandaged bloody knees when there was a fall (we had a few of those), from the selfless service of those who spent hours baking cakes and making chili, to the hard work of those who set up tables and unloaded equipment.

Our desire with this trip was to help build community at Arborbrook, and that happened in spades this past weekend.  I am so grateful to the team of Stacy Poats, Liz Peaseley, and Stacia Noble who worked so hard to make this trip a reality, but as Stacy pointed out several times, all the glory truly does go to God.  He gave us perfect weather, safety, and opportunities to be together and serve one another.  He even gave us a ministry to the town that we were not expecting.  Even the rocks in Damascus seemed to be crying out- glory to God!




From an Alumnus

Mariah Hughes, class of 2011, recently posted this on our Arborbrook Facebook page:

“I love Arborbrook! Below are a couple things I have been thinking about while here at Columbia International University . . .

Is Arborbrook preparing your child for college? The majority of work in college so far has been reading, processing the information, and being able to “narrate” it back either on a quiz, on an exam, in a paper, or in a classroom discussion. . . . hmmm. . . sounds just like Arborbrook!

Is Arborbrook’s teaching method really effective? I have a Psychology test this Friday that covers a great deal of material. Instead of studying by staring at my notes and textbook, I tried something I often did in Arborbrook science classes . . . I drew a picture. The text book came alive. Drawing a picture of how neurons communicate and the different functions of neurotransmitters allowed me to engage the material . . . and I actually enjoyed studying! I now understand what previously seemed like a bunch of meaningless terminology and have committed more than a dozen pages of complex text to memory. Thank you, Arborbrook, for teaching me how to learn instead of just teaching me facts!”

Mariah was a true joy to teach.  When presented with the abundant feast, she came to the table and ate widely.  Not all students are as motivated as she was and is, but that is the beauty of the abundant feast.  Students only eat what they are hungry for, what they are ready to consume.  Over time, when presented with high-quality, living books and ideas, students develop a “taste” for those things much as people who eat healthy foods develop a taste for them.

I am so glad that Mariah is seeing the fruits of these methods in her studies at CIU.  I have heard similar testimonies from many of our graduates.  It was an utter privilege to teach Mariah (shown below on her wedding day this past summer), and I continue to pray for each of our graduates, as I pray for our current students, that they will seek after His kingdom and His righteousness, that they will shine His light in a dark world.