Good afternoon FUMA family. I think that it's easy for people of faith to become discouraged these days. When I feel those feelings start to sneak in, I find it helpful to look back. Not to pine for glory days gone past, but to reflect on the continued faithfulness of God across the tapestry of life. In fact, I believe that this is one of the strengths of our faith. Scripture itself often retells the great stories of God's faithfulness and commands us to share them anew to each generation. I think this retelling of the work of God builds up our faith so that we can anticipate the great works of God yet to come. As we prepare to celebrate Founders Day next week, it's a great time to think again about the story of FUMA.
Every good story has a beginning and ours starts with a party over a hundred years ago. In September of 1898, Dr. Hatcher was entertaining seven Baptist ministers when he received an invitation to attend a Sunday School convention at Bethel Baptist Church. While traveling with his guests, Dr. Hatcher passed a grove on the Walker G. Snead farm and commented that the grove would be an ideal location for a school. Although these men did not realize it at the time, God had planted the seed that would grow into Fork Union Military Academy, impacting thousands of young men across the years.
As this God-given dream solidified into reality, Dr. Hatcher clarified the purpose of Fork Union Military Academy in the first catalogue; "The best attention will be given the physical, social and religious training of the student." This eventually evolved into the now familiar Body, Mind, Spirit commitment.
Several years after FUMA's founding, he observed, "The religious spirit among the great body of students is decided, fervent, not a few of the students bearing an active part in the religious movement of the school and community." We see that God used our Academy to transform lives for the greater good of our world from the beginning. This was perhaps best reflected in so many students attending a local church that they ran out of room in the sanctuary. The practical solution was to split the corps in two; half attending each week. Students and faculty were dissatisfied with this, but faith inspires great and innovative solutions.
The FUMA family again dreamed big, resulting in Wicker Chapel and Titmus Tower. My favorite story related to the building of our chapel is that faith inspired one man, Felix de Panicis, to lay all of the 250,000 bricks himself. It's truly an inspiring act of faith, but perhaps more significant is that he laid out the chapel sanctuary in the shape of a cross. Every gathering in the chapel, whether explicitly religious or not, takes place in a space designed to remind us of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus and our God's power over death itself.
If you find yourself becoming discouraged by the world around us, take a minute to look back and reflect on the stories of the past. Remember that faith in God caused a community to gather together to form a school. It inspired a man to lay 250,000 bricks in such a way to always remind us of the Christ-centered purpose of our Academy. Most importantly, faith's call has drawn generations of men and women together who are committed to building a faith-filled future. These stories and hundreds more like them stand as the foundation of FUMA. When we remember God's constant faithfulness throughout our history, how could we not get excited about what He's going to do next.