A Christian education is bigger than distance

I feel compelled to write a few words about what it has been like, as a parent sending, my son and daughter to a WELS high school 3,000 miles from home. Our home is in Anchorage, Alaska, and my family belongs to Faith in Anchorage. The high school, Great Plains Lutheran High School, is in Watertown, S.D.

I have done some pretty difficult things in my life, but this ranks at the top. I myself attended a WELS Christian High School over 30 years ago. So when my own children reached high school age, I knew it was the right thing to do, but we lived 3,000 miles from the school! I was very active in my children’s school life up to that point—coaching basketball, track, serving as chairman of the education committee, never missing an activity. How in the world am I ever going to do this?

I spent a lot of time talking with my Lord. I knew deep in my heart that it was the best thing I could do for my children’s spiritual welfare. But the doubts and fears crept in. What if they get sick or get hurt playing sports, and need to go to the doctor? Who will take care of them? How are they going to find their way through major airports? What if their flight gets delayed and they get stuck at an airport? How are we going to afford not only the tuition and housing, but also the very expensive airline tickets?

Eventually I was able to lay these worries at my Saviors’ feet, but it wasn’t easy. I thought to myself that if I can just get them there that first day the Lord will take over from there. My daughter was the oldest, so the first to go off to school. That first night after dropping her off at the dorm was very difficult to say the least. I lay in the hotel bed that night again wondering if I had made the right decision. The next day was even tougher as we drove four hours to the airport, and then flew six more hours away from my child.

Things at home were different now. Of course I missed my child, but I noticed my co-workers treating me a little differently now. Anyone who would send their children that far away to a “church” school must be some sort of a religious nutcase. That didn’t really bother me, but when my fellow believers would say things like “I could never send my kids away to school, I don’t know how you do it,” it cut to the heart. I knew they probably meant it as a compliment, but I felt as if they were questioning my love for my children. I have heard that comment several times, and it cuts deeper each time.

My daughter is a senior this year, and it seems like yesterday that we were dropping her off for her first day. I wish I could say that none of my fears about sending my children away came true. We have had doctor’s appointments, dorm closing due to flu outbreaks, two knee injuries resulting in acl surgeries, airline delays resulting in an overnight stay in a hotel, and probably a few others that I have forgotten. It has not been easy, but the Lord has always provided a solution. Part of the solution is the terrific staff at the school. They will do whatever it takes for our children, and we are forever grateful. Every time we faced something that just seemed like more than we could handle, the Lord showed us the way. It reminded us that we are just temporary parents, and who our children really belong to.

So if I knew then what I know now, would I do it again? Without a doubt! I have read some of my children’s homework assignments and marvel at the depth of their faith and understanding. They are both maturing into adults with a firm foundation in God’s Word. Does it really matter how successful they are in sports, or how well prepared they are to conquer the world? What does matter is that I know where they will be 100 years from now.

By Jeff Wockenfuss