Way back in the day when Mer and I were dreaming about the idea of starting a school, the thing that seemed the most daunting was giving it a name. We easily spent 5 hours of a road trip hashing out all sorts of clever ways we could use words to name this dream we had. The name Urban Christian Academy seemed too simple but it did it’s job in describing exactly what we wanted to be about. We are urban, we are Christian, we are an academy. But then a more difficult task presented itself. We could picture high school kids wearing UCA jerseys at a big state title game but we couldn’t picture the mascot. We had to choose a mascot…we needed a powerful all encompassing symbol to adorn our scholar/athletes. So we began going through the typical mascot options. The tigers, the lions, the bears…they all seemed too aggressive. But when you consider the less intimidating animals it’s equally problematic. I mean who would be scared of facing the UCA Doves on the court? (nobody). So we moved away from animals and ran into mostly bizarre ideas. Suddenly it dawned on us— The Voyagers. It perfectly summed up so many things about what we wanted to be about and it was neither wimpy nor overly aggressive. A voyager is a person on a mission. A person who is equipped to endure the treacherous parts of the sea as well as someone who appreciates the beauty that a journey holds. Mer loves the way Saint-Exupery articulates motivation by saying, “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” The proverbial sea for us is Jesus and education and our city…So we are proud to say we are the Urban Christian Academy Voyagers. (Shameless plug: If you want to rep the team shoot us an email and we’d love to get you a Voyagers shirt! It looks just like the one in the picture and is $15).
If you’ve followed the journey of UCA very long you’ll know full well that “Voyagers” is a fitting name for this organization. This voyage has been nothing short of exhilarating. From surprise $100,000 checks to faithfully answered prayers, God has taken us on quite the journey. And the journey continues to propel us full force into the future. As we journey on, God has brought us two new full time staff members to work alongside us. “Staff members” seems like the wrong word, God has brought us two kindred friends, two amazing leaders, two people we have so much to learn from, two people we have a profound respect for. We can’t wait for you to get to meet them and see them use their God given gifts to fuel transformation in our community. And as exciting as it is to tell you all the ways we are excited about the future with these new UCA family members, the story of God’s provision in bringing these people to our school is too special not to tell.
First meet Rachel. She is joining the team to teach 1st grade next year. In January Mer and I were getting nervous about how you go about finding stud teachers to apply for the open 1st grade position. We recognized that we weren’t just looking for a teacher but a friend and a fundraiser and a vision caster and a lunch lady and this strange hybrid of teacher/superhero. We know that the job of a teacher is big and we were looking for someone to carry that heavy load and then joyfully pick up more to carry. It seemed impossible. You’d think after a year like this, that I would be less surprised when the impossible happens, but to my surprise I got a random email from a random girl with the subject line “Random Ramblings” and nothing about any of it was actually very random at all. The random email was from Rachel Berg. One day we’ll get her to tell you her side of the story, but here’s the snapshot. Rachel heard about us through a friend of a friend and had been following the UCA story on Facebook. God had put it on her heart to connect with us but she was putting it off. But God in His goodness wouldn’t let her insecurity get in the way of His plan and He prompted her heart long enough and loud enough that she finally responded and sent the email. The email was full of encouragement for Mer and I and mentioned that she had taught 1st grade in the urban core for 5 years and that she would be willing to talk about joining the UCA team at some point. Mer and I were intrigued. So like it should always happen when something exciting happens, we celebrated by inviting Rachel to eat pizza with us. I gave Rachel the wrong address, forgot to respond to her message about her bringing a salad and the pizza place was late making our pizzas. It seemed like a disaster. But in it all Rachel walked in full of joy, unfazed by the chaos. And she even came with a salad and homemade dressing in her hand. She jumped into the chaos without missing a beat. She left and we knew she would be the perfect fit. A few weeks later we officially offered her a position and she agreed to take a step of faith and join us on this crazy journey. Rachel is amazingly clever, she is the most zealously joyful person I have ever known, she is wise and steady, she is patient and remarkably kind, she is a servant in the truest form, she loves people deeply and fully and she seeks Jesus in a beautifully authentic way. You guys, Rachel is so cool…like way cooler than we are…if you haven’t visited UCA yet you should come just to see her coolness on display.
And if landing a cool cat like Rachel Berg wasn’t enough, God brought in Keith. Keith and I worked together 5 ish years ago and in our time working together I was always amazed at his leadership ability. He has a laid back, chill personality that is surrounded by a fiery passion to advocate for others. He is a steady presence and an eager listener. He asks the right questions and works to find the best answers. He is innovative and just plain cool. Last June as Mer and I were trying to connect with wise people to help us figure out how to actually start a school we reached out to Keith. He met us for lunch and and helped us discern some good next steps and questions to seek out answers to. At the end of the conversation Mer asked him what his dream job would be. His response made us kick each other under the table. He said, “I think ideally someone would come to me and say they had the perfect job for me.” We knew in our hearts that we were those people and we had the perfect job for him. On Keith’s last day working at our previous job together he left a note for me. In it he said, “I hope we get to work together again someday.” It seemed like last June we knew that someday was coming soon and Keith has patiently waited as we got our end of things figured out. Keith is coming on to help propel us into the future in sustainable ways. He will be helping us tell the story of UCA and will faithfully invite others into what God is doing. He is so good at story telling and friend making. I get nervous when the doorbell rings because it means stepping away from a task to exert social energy, but Keith gets excited about the doorbell and the potential relationship waiting outside the door. We couldn’t have found a better fit to round out our team.
I’ve cried a lot this week. I think this year has happened so fast I never stopped to really think about how bizarre it is that a year ago we had nothing and now we have a school and the dreamiest jobs ever. You are the story in the deepest of ways. The team that has encouraged and inspired and supported the birth of Urban Christian Academy. There is no way to capture all the joy this year has brought, but we hope this video in some way captures moments that continue to fuel our passion to provide a high-quality, Christ-centered education for some of the most beautiful scholars on the planet. Onward to year two!