Ruth Tillman

In 1970 I was 5. That is when my FLA story begins. That was the year my big sister graduated from Forest Lake Academy. My sister, Marie, or “Benny” as she was known at FLA. I remember a few visits to see her, although somewhat sketchy. I remember places such as the outdoor chapel behind the school, camp meetings in the summer. Happy times! This would have been Marie Benson’s 45th reunion.

Fast forward 20 years and another FLA graduation only this time for my niece, also my sister Marie’s niece. My niece’s graduation, a fast and happy weekend! Times had changed, all night class party, last ditch fun for seniors. Just before graduation I met my husband. We now have a senior graduating from FLA.

Come with me another 25 years and our daughter, Kaitlyn Marie Tillman will graduate May 2015. Yes, Marie, my sister is who she gets her name from. Unfortunately Marie will not be at her graduation but she would have been so very proud of Kaitlyn to be graduating 45 years after her from her Alma Mater.

The continuation of our family story started two years ago in January. Visiting friends in Florida I decided to look at the Distance Learning program. I had discovered that the VP was one of my academy class sponsors when I attended Andrews Academy! I wanted to reconnect with Mr. Frank Jones. So Kaitlyn and I decided to visit FLA. Thanks to Alison Prusia we had a wonderful tour!

While walking across campus one of Kaitlyn’s new friends ran up to her and gave Kaitlyn a hug. She was very sweet and told me how much she enjoyed getting to know Kaitlyn at The Hunt. After our brief encounter and the young lady had left, Kaitlyn expressed how amazed she was that a personal prayer she said to Jesus had been answered in that encounter! I was a bit surprised but happy for the answered prayer. I arranged for Kaitlyn to spend a day visiting FLA since now she wanted to attend and live in the dorm not just take classes online. As I looked at the finances and thought about the possibilities, my own prayer went up to Jesus. You see I didn’t know what to do. I knew we could not afford it, so as I prayed I simply told God that there was just no way we could make this happen unless He provided the funds that would make it affordable. I had no one I would ask for that kind of money. Yet again a direct answer to prayer. A sponsor stepped forward telling us that Kaitlyn’s tuition would be covered if she wanted to go to FLA. I was shocked and grateful.

Kaitlyn was accepted and we moved forward. There was one last piece to this scenario. Kaitlyn had to have a job. Growing up in a small SDA school, being homeschooled for the previous year she hadn’t really had a job before. During the summer before school was to start, the girls dean called me telling me that Kaitlyn had been highly recommended as an RA. I was again surprised since Kaitlyn had never been away to school or lived in a dorm! Wow! Kaitlyn got the job, the final piece to making this work financially!

Simply said, God showed us that Forest Lake Academy was where He wanted her to be! So although as parents we were apprehensive about the transition and the distance, we were not going to say no to all we had been shown.

I won’t tell you it has all been easy with no tears. I won’t tell you that the distance hasn’t been hard. I will tell you it has been a growing experience. A faith experience and through all of it Kaitlyn and our family have had tremendous support from the faculty and staff at FLA. I will tell you we have made many new friendships as well as reconnections that we hope will last a lifetime. I will tell you that Kaitlyn has been loved, cared for, laughed with, prayed with and cried with and that she has made life long friends at FLA. I will tell you “our story” is a faith experience story with Jesus and that FLA is a good fit for our family.

Forty-five years ago “our story” began. It is a good story I think. A story that God wove together for our family and I am thankful for.

Ruth Tillman