It’s hard to believe that June of 2021 marked our 11th anniversary at Cookson Hills. Through these years, it has been a journey. A journey of learning trust, patience, and grace. But most of all, a journey of God’s grace, power, and love working through us. Like most of us serving our Heavenly Father, at times, it has been challenging and stressful, especially when we try to do it on our own. But as we have learned to draw closer to God, we have found such joy in serving the kids at Cookson Hills. So what is our story?
Our journey to Cookson Hills began with faithful saints and family pouring God’s love, grace, and truth into us. We were both raised to trust and serve God. We learned to draw close to God, and in doing so, each sought ways to serve Him. David first learned about Cookson Hills through his hometown church, Lawrence Heights Christian Church, which supported Cookson Hills. The Colletts, who faithfully served at Cookson Hill in the 1970s, were grandparents of one of his best friends. David visited Cookson Hills in 1985 with a choral group from Manhattan Christian College who gave a concert. It was at this event that God first planted the idea of serving here. But it was a long journey before God grew this idea to fruition.
Before coming to Cookson Hills, Lauri served for 18 years at Buffalo Ridge Retreat Center, a pastor’s retreat ministry in the state of Kansas. David was a half continent away in Georgia, Michigan, and eventually, California, learning to use his gift of teaching with a Ph.D. in plant pathology. This was a time when David was following worldly aspirations, but God’s master plan took him much farther. The Spirit began working on David, directing him towards a career to serve younger students for Jesus, even allowing the heartbreak of losing his job and moving back to his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas. This was a blessing in disguise.
The blessings began with God bringing David to Lauri at the pastor retreat center where she was working. After several years of waiting for God’s timing in marriage, we both were convinced the Lord’s plan was the single life for us. Our story of how God brought us together is wonderful, but that’s a different story. God directed David to go back to school to get his teaching certificate in high school science. During this time, David mentioned a dream to Lauri to serve at Cookson Hills, maybe after retirement. Little did we know that it would be a lot sooner than that!
In the spring of 2010, budget cuts in education caused David to lose his job at Emporia Middle School in Emporia, KS. What seemed to be a tragedy was instead God’s providence. After no bites on teacher jobs in Kansas, we started looking further away. During our search, we ran across an old listing for a science teacher opening at Cookson Hills. We called, and even though it had been filled a year earlier, they were already looking for a replacement. We set up a visit and interview. At that point, Cookson didn’t have anything for Lauri but asked for her resume anyway. After seeing Lauri’s experience, they decided to combine the school secretary/librarian positions and merge those two areas into the main school hub.
Needless to say, they liked us, and we liked them. Before returning to Kansas, we were offered and accepted our positions, David as the high school science teacher and Lauri as the secretary/librarian at Cookson Hills Christian School. It was a match made in Heaven, literally. On the 4 hour trip back to Kansas, we were both excited and overwhelmed. Lauri especially, because after working at Buffalo Ridge for so many years, it was bittersweet to be leaving. But we both knew this was God’s clear direction. In June 2010, we moved to Cookson Hills from Kansas, and our beautiful journey in service to our kids and God began.
The last eleven years have been a whirlwind, but how blessed we are to serve at this place! The Cookson community is a tremendous blessing. Today David teaches all the H.S. science classes as well as the senior Bible class. Lauri is the school secretary/librarian and school Mom to our kids. We have experienced a lot of changes in the years we have been here. But one thing doesn’t change – how much we love these kids. They are what drive us. They are why we get up in the morning.
We weren’t able to have children of our own. But the Lord has given us numerous kids that we can love and share our lives with. Both those who are with us and those who have come and gone. Some have their own families now. Some have struggled after leaving Cookson. Our hearts rejoice in their accomplishments and growth and break with their pain and struggles. Our prayer is that when their time at Cookson Hills is over, they will know that we love them, and they have seen the hands and heart of Jesus as they move to the next chapter of their lives. That they still know how much we love them. Serving at Cookson Hills is undoubtedly not easy. But what a joy it is to serve together as a couple, and we are so thankful to be a part of planting seeds of God’s love.