There is a time for every season under heaven, says the author of Ecclesiastes and Pete Seeger. At Lakeland Christian, we have the profound privilege of knowing and loving kids in all the seasons of their lives, from the first kindergarten school experiences all the way to graduation. Milestones are important to us, and deserve to be celebrated. The annual eighth grade trip to Tallahassee is just such a milestone, celebrating the end of middle school and looking toward the responsibilities of high school and future adulthood. For three days, students investigate the most interesting aspects of the state capitol—the Legislature, the Florida Supreme Court, a scavenger hunt at the Museum of Florida History, a “night prowl” at the Tallahassee Museum. They do team-building with facilitators at Florida State and take a campus tour—their first glimpse of college life.
We have fun times, learning times, relaxing times, and this year, some hours when we learned that time is something not to be taken for granted. It was on our trip home after a fantastic three days that we got the call that they boys’ charter bus had a mechanical problem. By the time the girls’ bus exited I-10 and headed back toward the stranded bus, flames were visible. The girls prayed for the boys as we raced down the interstate to reach them. Though we certainly didn’t plan or anticipate the events, this experience was another milestone for our eighth graders. The academic lessons are important, but perhaps it is the other kind of lessons that matter most.
A Time to Gather Together
When we arrived back at the bus, Mr. Overholt and Mr. Twinem had the boys safely on the other side of the guardrail. Good thing many of their cell phones were salvaged—some of them have future careers as broadcast journalists. They watched the firefighters do their work and marveled at the excitement of it all. Stuff was lost, but people weren’t. We shuttled sooty luggage back to the girls’ bus and made space for the boys. Our prayers this time were those of deep gratitude.
A Time to Heal
We were happy to see the McDonald’s at the next exit, where kids melted into the arms of their waiting parents. We re-arranged kids in vehicles, ate ice cream, and looked at one another with new eyes, imagining what it could have been. Corporations often go on team-building retreats that try to simulate the experience we had together. Is it possible that in allowing us to go through the deep waters, God had our greater good in mind? He always does.
A Time to Laugh
Mrs. Livesay is a great singer. Especially when leading a bus full of middle schoolers in several rounds of “Father Abraham” and other vacation Bible school songs. We laughed, we rejoiced, we celebrated the great gift that the eighth graders are to us and to each other.
The Tallahassee trip wasn’t what we planned, but it was God’s best for us. Some things were lost, but what we gained is more valuable by far. We cried, we laughed, and we celebrated the end of one part of life and the bright beginning of another.
Mrs. Jennifer Canady serves as the Director of the RISE Institute at LCS and as a middle school science teacher. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.