Twin Oaks Christian School’s Celebration 46 Gala was a delightful time of celebration, fellowship and sacrificial giving among God’s people. Held on Thursday, Nov. 8, at Ballpark Village in downtown St. Louis, the event kicked off and concluded with the St. Louis jazz ensemble, Trio Monaco.
“There is an unmistakable air of excitement the moment you walk in to Ballpark Village,” said Middle School Language Arts Teacher and Development Coordinator Ms. Heather Sartin. “I love the atmosphere there. It is festive and elegant and the staff are incredibly attentive to all of our needs from technical to aesthetic.”
Sartin said she recalled praying last year, as she set up for the Celebration 45 Gala, that the 2018 keynote speaker would be the new Head of School. “God is faithful in His timing to bring to us exactly what we need,” said Sartin. “Hearing Dave speak reminded me of that very promise.”
That said, this year’s Gala was special in that the new Head of School Dr. Dave Schall gave his personal testimony on how God led him to Twin Oaks Christian School. Having worked at Westminster Christian Academy for 12 years before being called to Twin Oaks, Dr. Schall said he understood the value of Christian education from a teacher/administrator perspective. What he did not fully grasp, however, was the value of Christian education from a parenting perspective.
“I have two kids at this school, a fifth grader and a third grader, and I can tell you that they are being challenged academically more than they ever have before, and we were at a pretty good school,” said Dr. Schall, whose children attended a public school before transferring to Twin Oaks this summer. “Beyond that, though — more than that — when the Holy Spirit lives in the heart of your teachers, it completely changes the game.”
When asked what he hoped the community took away from his testimony, Schall said, “Many people have thanked me for sharing my testimony that night. Outside of that, the only response I can give is that ‘It’s God’s story, so it is easy to tell.'”
Twin Oaks parent and CEO of Keystone Technologies, Mr. Andy Belval, also gave his testimony on why he and his wife, Marci, chose Twin Oaks for their three sons.
“We chose Twin Oaks for its superior academics, and our belief that it would provide our children with an experience that would enable them to discover their place in God’s world and to learn to love Jesus Christ and others with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength,” said Belval.
Andy called to attention the uniqueness of the TOCS community, from the deep friendships his family has forged through the years, to how school families come together to serve each other in times of both celebration and grief. Marci, Andy’s wife, is the administrative assistant to Dr. Schall.
Before opening the evening for donations, Dr. Schall made a point often lost when considering the cost of tuition. He noted the disparity between what families pay for tuition and what it actually costs to educate a student at Twin Oaks. “It costs anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 more per student,” explained Schall. “We’d like to close that gap.”
Schall went on to announce this year’s fundraising goal of $75,000 and that donations would go to the Annual Fund, which covers a variety of needs including technology upgrades, classroom supplies and the tuition price gap.
“Once again our fundraising goal of $75,000 was exceeded at the Celebration 46 Gala, with a preliminary total of $97,000 coming in through gifts and pledges,” said TOCS Director of Advancement and Admissions Rachel Stain in a follow-up email to the Gala 46 table hosts, adding, “Please join us in thanking God for his continued provision to Twin Oaks Christian School!”
And praise God we will.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” ~Philippians 4: 19-20
View Facebook Live footage HERE.
To view sponsors of the Celebration 46 Gala, click HERE.
Part 2: Fifth Grade Teacher Mrs. Hillary Donnelley recounts journey back to Twin Oaks Christian School after a year in New York City
By Amanda Compton
Hillary Donnelley was mopping floors at the New York City gym where she worked when her phone rang. Excitement rushed through her, as she was awaiting a call from her husband, Lucas, regarding an interview for a job that would bring them home to St. Louis.
Donnelley had grown weary of the NYC culture. Lucas was rarely home due to a demanding work schedule, Bible-believing churches that expounded upon all of scripture were in slim supply and she worked two part-time jobs – neither of which utilized her teaching gifts.
“Lucas said the interview did not go as expected and that he was not excited about this particular job at all. I was crushed,” said Donnelley, whose desire to be back at Twin Oaks Christian School had dramatically deepened. “It was at this moment that I thought to myself, ‘I cannot do this anymore’ and without thinking twice I texted Rachel Stain to see if there were any job openings at Twin Oaks.”
Donnelley had been following Twin Oaks Christian School on social media and checking the TOCS website periodically for job openings. Rachel Stain, director of advancement and admissions at Twin Oaks, responded to Hillary’s text encouraging her to contact the new Head of School Dr. Dave Schall about the open part-time fifth grade teaching position.
“I wasn’t going to email him at first because I really needed full-time work,” recalled Donnelley. “But there was just something I couldn’t ignore so I went ahead and emailed Dave to see what he said. He did confirm that they were looking for a part-timer and asked me to take a couple of days to think about it before giving him an answer.”
Immediately following that phone call, Donnelley said she typed an email of response to Dr. Schall turning down the part-time position, but quickly decided against sending it, opting instead to wait a couple of days in case she changed her mind.
“An hour later I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and came across one of my sister’s posts, which was Matthew 7:7 with a cute picture,” said Donnelley, adding, “I took a screen shot of the verse and picture. Right after that I received a text from my brother with the exact same picture and verse with the comment, ‘Looks like your style?'”
Donnelley asked her brother if he had captured this image from their sister’s Instagram story. “He didn’t even see it!” she said. “Both Lucas and I knew that this was God and that this meant something. So I started praying asking the Lord to reveal what this meant. After two days of praying, I kept focusing on the word ‘ask.’
Hillary resolved that she should simply ask Dr. Schall if he would consider making the fifth grade teaching position a full-time job and, if so, that she would take it.
“I emailed Dr. Schall and asked what it would look like to make this a full-time job,” said Donnelley. “He said the part-time plan had been put in place before he came on-board and a lot of things would have to fall into place to make this job full-time. He told me not to lose hope and to take another couple of days to figure things out.”
A couple of days later on a Friday afternoon, Donnelley received an unexpected phone call from Dr. Schall. She said the first words she heard were, “Are you in?” Taken aback, Donnelley questioned what Dave meant by this. “He said that he was making moves to make the fifth grade position full-time, but that he needed to know first that I would for sure take the job,” Hillary explained. “He said he would be working hard for the rest of the day and would hopefully have an answer by Monday.”
An hour later, Dr. Schall called Hillary back to inform her that the deal was done and, as a result, Donnelley would be returning to St. Louis in two weeks as the new fifth grade teacher at Twin Oaks Christian School – a realization that ignited a mixture of emotions.
“This was one of the saddest days because I was leaving my husband in a hard place to feel alone,” acknowledged Donnelley. “But we were trusting the Lord … it can be hard to have faith in a situation like this. I mean, this all happened in a matter of days and we didn’t even know the next time we’d see each other. Lucas didn’t even have any job leads. It is scary not to have any sort of plan.”
Comparing the situation to traveling for work, Donnelley said that while she was thrilled to be back at Twin Oaks, her husband, home and belongings were still in Manhattan. “This whole thing made zero sense, but I had so much peace,” she noted. “I knew that this is where God wanted me and that Lucas would eventually join me in St. Louis.”
In fact, during one of his visits to see Hillary, Lucas reached out to a longtime mentor for advice on finding a job in his field in St. Louis. Donnelley said this mentor had recently launched a small investment company in the area. After a lengthy discussion, the mentor asked Lucas to run his new start-up. Lucas signed the new employment contract on August 27 and plans to relocate to St. Louis in late December or early January.
“Lucas’ dream has always been to get in on a start-up!” said Donnelley. “This is an opportunity he would’ve never pursued if I wouldn’t have taken the job with Twin Oaks. This is almost exactly where we want to be. God worked out all of this for our good in merely four weeks . . . and it all seemed impossible.”
When asked how God used this experience to grow her spiritually, Donnelley answered, “God used this time to show us that there are more important things in life than our careers and that our decisions should not be based solely on that. I don’t think it was the wrong decision, as we’ve learned a lot, but I do think we elevated the value of our careers a little too much.”
Donnelley went on to say that, during this time, she believes God was answering prayers and calling the people He wanted to Twin Oaks Christian School. “Twin Oaks is an amazing place and I loved my first year here, but I knew I could always visit,” added Donnelley. “That is how I know God orchestrated all of this. He made it happen in a way I could’ve never done myself. I came back for this school, not necessarily St. Louis. It was this place.”