In August 2002, Molly and I had just moved to Tyler with two small children and a baby on the way. We had done our research and the conclusion was obvious, we wanted our children to attend Grace Community Elementary School. There was a waiting list for enrollment! The only way to secure enrollment was to camp out in front of the high school to ensure your application was turned in early. The night before, we were celebrating Molly’s birthday at El Charro when I asked, “What time should I go to the school and get in line?” With a loving, yet firm smile and a twinkle in her eye, she reminded me that “first in line would be perfect.”
Arriving at the upper campus around 10:00 p.m., there was no one in sight. I settled into my Cougar blue lawn chair at the front door of the high school where the overhead light was bright and had attracted an army of merciless mosquitoes. This was going to be fun! For some unknown reason, cars driving by on University Boulevard randomly honked at me. I began to feel silly and wondered if this was all even worth it. The longer I sat there sweaty, hot, and generally miserable, I selfishly packed up my chair and headed home, hoping to catch a few hours of sleep before returning to get back in line. As I quietly crawled in bed around 12:30 a.m., my beautiful wife asked, “What are you doing here, we don’t want to miss having our children at GCS do we?”I was thinking, well “we” aren’t spending the night in a rickety lawn chair, “I” am!
When I got back to the school, I had lost about six spots. As the night went on, more and more parents began to join in line filling the night sky with laughter, idle chit chat, and the smell of coffee.
At 3:00 a.m., one of our teenage neighbors, who was a student at GCS, brought me a much-needed chocolate shake from Whataburger. After three more long hours, another friend brought donuts. The cost of admission was getting sweeter. At 7:30 a.m., there were 107 people in line. The doors opened promptly at 8:00 a.m. and I turned in our application, returned home, and got ready for work. Seventeen years later, Kate, our third and youngest, joins the GCS Class of 2020.
GCS has exponentially exceeded any expectations we had and continues to bless our family in far more ways than we could ask or imagine. I can now see that these blessings will continue through eternity. Whatever the cost, Molly and I would pay it again and again to allow Blake, Lauren, and Kate the privilege to attend school at Grace.
So, “Why Grace?” Like most young parents, we desired and prayed for God’s best for our children. We had both experienced our share of brokenness through life and knew our need for a Savior. As followers of Jesus Christ, we were saved by grace through faith. Psalm 86:1 declares, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.” We wanted our children to be taught the truth of Jesus and His Word at home, at church, and at school. We prayed that our children would be taught and led by teachers, staff, and administrators who shared our faith and would be living examples of God’s endless grace and daily mercies. The Lord has faithfully answered these prayers over the last seventeen years.
In our interview the principal communicated three points that I have never forgotten: 1) GCS was not responsible for raising our children, we were, 2) the teachers and staff come alongside parents to teach
biblical principles to prepare our children for life, and 3) if our child needed a spanking, I had to be willing to come to the school to do that.
Spiritual development at GCS is an intentional process. This process involves prayer, scripture memorization, and countless hours learning the truths of God’s Word. All of these woven together through the years have helped our children form a solid Christian worldview. Our children’s junior kindergarten and kindergarten teachers prayed with and for our children, they began to learn how to pray and why we pray. Academically, GCS is rigorous and competitive. The long hours of studying forced our children to “learn how to learn” and this has prepared them for success in college and more importantly, in life. GCS has a wonderful balance between academics, sports, and fine arts. This balance is exceedingly difficult to execute with limited funds, but it would be impossible to pull off without faculty, staff, and coaches that put the Lord first in their lives; willing to use their gifts and talents to teach and guide our children to find theirs.
The last seventeen years, we have experienced and shared genuine friendship, community, heartache, joy, adversity, accomplishment, loss, and much celebration during our time at Grace. It’s been pure joy! We, like many others at GCS, have sacrificed financially to pay tuition and the other expenses. Whatever the cost, Molly and I would pay it again and again. It TRULY is worth it!
I would like to take this opportunity to formally thank Dr. Jay Ferguson, our dear friend and Head of School at GCS, for leading our amazing faculty and staff, for loving our children, for serving them, us, and most importantly for seeking the Lord first through it all. To our faculty, staff, and coaches, Molly and I thank you. Your endless hours of sacrifice have and continue to make a difference for His Kingdom. As you pour into our children, you are an instrument of love and eternal change. You do it because you love it and love them. We thank you.
“There is no greater joy than to know that our children walk in truth.”
3 John 1:4
Thank you GCS for being a huge part of our children walking today in truth! To God be the Glory, Great things He has done and will continue to do through Grace Community School.
Kelly Holbrook, Grace Community School Dad