Transformed by Grace at Black Forest Academy
Black Forest Academy // Germany
From a young age Elise began to love and serve the Lord, but as she got older she found herself struggling with the reality of God’s grace. What does it really look like? How does God’s grace apply to me?
A petite teenager with a ready smile, Elise is caring, self-disciplined, and ministry-minded. Although she was excelling in academics as well as in music and athletics, by the end of her tenth grade year she found herself worn out. Serving, succeeding, and maintaining spiritual disciplines had become a way to prove to God, herself, and others that she took her faith seriously. Yet, these things took a toll on Elise as she began to realize she was stuck in a fear trap, afraid of not doing or being enough.
Living as a missionary kid in Slovakia from the time she was one month old, Elise grew up serving the Roma people in her community and attending Slovak schools. But after much thought and prayer it seemed God was leading her to attend Black Forest Academy in Germany, beginning her sophomore year. (BFA and a partner bi-lingual school serves mostly missionary kids, grades K-12, as well as some business and local kids.) There, not only could Elise become better prepared for college in the States and receive teaching from a Christian worldview, but she could also partake of the school’s supportive environment for spiritual growth.
Moving to Germany on her own (without her parents and younger brother) and becoming a dorm student would be a big adjustment. But God had a plan to minister to her on a deeper level as He revealed the truth of His grace. He chose to do this, in part, through several people at BFA.
Through multiple sermons and conversations with dorm staff, the Lord began to help Elise understand how He truly viewed her: righteous no matter what she did, because of the sacrifice of His Son. When the chaplain at BFA shared Romans 8:1 with Elise, and the truth of that Scripture took root in her heart, a real transformation began to happen. This fresh revelation freed her from the fear of ever being a disappointment to God. From there, her relationship with the Lord could more freely flourish.
By her junior year, as God exposed the layers of her fear, Elise recognized that she still needed to be freed from the insecurities she felt regarding her peers. Back in Slovakia she was known as “the Christian girl.” Being identified in this way made her feel unique and worthy among her peers there. At Black Forest Academy she was one of many Christians, and that drove her to strive for perfection and not be open when she failed. Then one day while talking with a friend, she realized that she could stop trying so hard and simply be herself, even vulnerable. She needed not only to learn to receive grace from God, but from others as well.
Today, as a senior, Elise is a different person than before she came to BFA. She is learning to embrace the reality of God’s grace in every area of her life and, in turn, to grow in her relationships with Christ and others.
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