The 7-12 grade students came back from their 2017 Advance trip with a renewed connection to each other and to the Lord.
Instead of calling it a “retreat,” Mrs. Johnson said she felt like God gave her the word “Advance” instead.
“We wanted to communicate that we are advancing forward spiritually,” Mrs. Johnson said. “It doesn’t matter where the student is in his or her relationship with God—if they’re at point A or X or don’t even know God, no matter where they are, each one advanced.”
“We called it ‘Advance’ because we are moving forward in every aspect – spiritually, educationally and relationally,” said Mr. Kilgore.
Senior Cici Zhang described the Advance as a big change from having a retreat. She said, “Instead of going back, we’re going forward.”
Students spent three days and two nights August 14 – 16 in Toccoa, Georgia at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center.
The purpose of the Advance was not just building relationships with others, but to hopefully spark a hunger in the students to want to grow closer to God.
The students’ schedule included a daily chapel and evening worship. They had three hours in the afternoon for free time in the water – canoeing, swimming and having a fun time together.
FCS added 83 new students this school year and Mr. Kilgore said that there was a gap in the relationships before the Advance because there were so many new faces. But during the trip, however, he said he saw kids come together—they grew closer to God and closer to one another even though many of them are from very different parts of the world.
Senior Isabella Johnson said she had a very diverse cabin with six girls representing three countries and she really enjoyed experiencing the different cultures and language in such a close setting.
“There was a lot of unity going on with the student body,” Mrs. Johnson said.
“We played games and met a lot of new people,” sophomore Zondrick Garrett said.
7th grader Kristin Bennett said that she felt especially touched during the worship.
“As I was singing songs at Advance about how much God loves us and cares for us, I was just in tears. I realized that everyone has a unique story and God can handle anything you put on Him because He loves you!” Kristin said.
Cici is in the praise band at FCS, but said she really enjoyed worshipping alongside the rest of the student body at the Advance while the Free Chapel Band led worship.
“I felt like we were all moving closer to God as a unit. Usually, you grow individually, but at this event, we grew closer to God at the same time,” Cici said.
Kristin agreed that the worship time was very bonding for the student body.
Isabella said she was walking back to her cabin when a different cabin of girls pulled her aside to ask her some questions about faith. She was able to answer them and encourages others to be prepared to help answer other people’s questions. Isabella said she was glad she was able to help these girls grow in their faith and understanding.
During one of the Q & A times, a student asked Mrs. Johnson how they can stay on fire for God even after the Advance is over. Mrs. Johnson said she was so thankful for the opportunity to answer this question on how to keep and maintain the passion because the students walked away from the event knowing how. She said they talked about how faith is a daily relationship and process and how you must connect with God everyday – whether that’s through worship, prayer, Bible study or attending church – you have to be filled with him.
She said they talked a lot about choices and what students choose to give their time to because whatever you feed the most will be the strongest. She said the students and teachers had great conversations about how to get filled up with Christ.
The entire event was made possible by the humble generosity of our staff and faculty going above and beyond as they always do to create a school that is so much more than a school. Our students have such a unique and remarkable opportunity to connect with the Lord during school as well as connect with people from so many different cultures and backgrounds.
We can’t wait to see what the Lord does at FCS as a result of this incredible Advance.