As we were presenting our story to a local business group, it struck us how far the development of the ELC has come in just over a year. Some people would call it stepping out in faith. Some would even call it a leap of faith. We’d say that we’re just taking huge strides to keep up with where God is leading.
It all began in October of 2015. Our Redeemer was in the midst of a congregational building campaign to update their existing Education Wing, which had remained untouched since the time the Lutheran elementary school closed in 1974. Meanwhile, community leaders were hard at work trying to solve the growing childcare crisis in Reno County. At the monthly church council meeting, Pastor Chad encouraged the church leaders that despite setbacks, God would provide and we should move forward with the next phase of construction. Three days later, Lisa Gleason, Director of Community Impact and Engagement for the United Way of Reno County and also a congregation member, arranged for Pastor Chad to meet with Brad Pryor, a representative from the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce. God was already many steps ahead of us.
Though the construction project was far from complete, Brad saw the vision for a childcare center on our campus. Though we had done similar demographic studies and had considered using our updated rooms for after-school care or childcare, we thought those possibilities might be something at least five years down the road. But God had set the process in motion, and there was no slowing His momentum.
Fast forward several months to April of 2016, and our planning committee (dubbed the “Dream Team” because of the talented, diverse, highly-qualified congregational members God brought together) recommended to the congregation that we move forward with establishing a childcare center on our campus, based on the feasibility study they had conducted. And ORL members unanimously voted in favor of establishing the Early Learning Center as a mission of the congregation and outreach to care for the community.
While the Dream Team continued to plan and serve as an “interim” School Board, the community picked up the baton and ran full speed ahead to rally support for the project. Although significantly less expensive than building a new school, the remodel would still cost close to $1 million. ORL members had already significantly contributed to the building campaign, and they had voted to complete the project by taking out a loan. But the gap in between would be filled with the help of generous community businesses and individuals who saw a need and took action.
Recognizing the necessity for quality early childhood education to help our community thrive by promoting healthy habits for families and a strong social-emotional and academic foundation for children, the community leaders stepped forward. The Hutchinson Community Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Reno County, St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Preston, local businesses, and private donors are pushing us to June, when we can open our doors and hearts to families in need of quality care in a loving, nurturing, Christ-centered environment.
Though we’d hardly call this past year’s whirlwind of activity baby steps, this is just the beginning. Our story is far from over. We look forward to serving our community for years and years to come. Our story is one of community vision and foresight, but most importantly, community collaboration. The Early Learning Center would not exist without its supporters. Whether they believe in our commitment to establishing a quality program, they believe the waiting lists can’t be ignored, and/or they believe the impact early childhood has on our future, through this project our community has proven that they believe in the families of Hutchinson and Reno County.
Our congregation believes in an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God, who has guided our steps from Day 1. On Day 365, this coming April, we’ll pause to catch our breath and stand in awe at the building project almost completed. We’ll look back on the amazing distance God has brought us, and we’ll look forward to the journey ahead. Sure, it’s been a leap of faith through many hurdles and obstacles, but when we follow God, run in His footsteps, and see these opportunities through His eyes, we’re blessed with breath-taking glimpses of His grace and love.
In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Psalm 25:2, 5
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