By: Megan Sponseller
In September 2018, four weeks were under our belts, and we were off to a great start with our parents trained, students into their respective classroom routines, and teachers hitting their strides. This new school year was extra special, because of our new building, increased student population, and renewed zeal. Even so, our administrative team held an emergency meeting to plan for the worst. Hurricane Florence, a Category 4/5 storm, was spinning in the Atlantic and threatening to devastate the North Carolina coast. The question was not whether Providence Preparatory Academy (PPA) in Wilmington would close her doors but when and for how long.
Unlike other weather-related disasters, this was not a sudden, short-term event. Florence demanded we give families time to prepare and possibly evacuate. The difficult and necessary choices ahead were sure to create ripples affecting the trajectory of the entire school year. We instructed our teachers to adjust their workload for the week and contact their co-teachers immediately.
Everyone moved into action with a sense of urgency, while watching the weather reports. Some families decided to batten down the hatches, while others made plans to relocate, knowing they might not return for weeks. Hour by hour, the possibility of a direct hit became more eminent, leaving us uncertain of what was to come. All precautions were made—milk, bread, and curriculum—check! Facebook posts shared pictures of our mommas loading their children and bins of schoolwork into vehicles and transporting their precious cargo out of town.
As Wilmington residents posted pictures depicting the state of our community, pockets of PPA students gathered hundreds of miles away, creating memories and making the best of a difficult situation. Our families worked through lessons in Saxon Math and Shurley English while safe and secure in their personal sanctuaries—from Florida to Ohio. We distributed weekly assignment sheets electronically, temporarily passing the torch to our extended staff of dedicated UMS parents!
Those who evacuated had to watch the devastation unfold on The Weather Station and other media outlets. Roads were closed or nonexistent, making it difficult to calculate routes home. Meanwhile, our students continued their studies without skipping a beat.
Days of rain created weeks of flooding, intermittent electric power, and limited supplies. Community efforts eventually shifted from preservation to restoration. A spirit of survival unified strangers and bonded them through their shared, constructive actions. Providence students joined forces with churches and various organizations to help with relief efforts.
The UMS educational model gave us incredible freedom throughout the whole experience. We had the flexibility to meet the needs of each family, empowerment to school our students effectively and consistently, and time to reach out to our community and share the love of Christ. Due to the close staff-parent relationships that naturally exist in this model, we were not surprised to see our teachers reach out to each of the families under their care to assess their individual situations. Small adaptations were suggested as needed, allowing the integrity of our academic program to remain intact. All the moving parts of the program functioned and prospered, despite our being scattered all over the eastern United States.
God’s Word shows us how Satan can use stress to sow discord, but we experienced God at work producing the opposite through our prayers and trust in Him. Our school family banded together to help one another, as well as members of the community at large. Providence families showed selfless care in more ways than can even be named.
Our community’s landscape still shows visual signs of Florence’s impact, but Providence Prep continues to hold fast. We know with certainty God has a plan for us—plans that will give us “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) and plans that will “work together for good” (Romans 8:28).
More than ever, we commit ourselves to teach His words diligently to our children and talk of them when we sit in our homes, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up (Deuteronomy 6:7)—especially in the midst of life’s storms.