Early morning clouds gave way to dappled sunlight streaming through this city’s namesake tall trees about 11 a.m. Feb. 22. Some took the good weather as a sign of God’s blessing.
PINEVILLE – Early morning clouds gave way to dappled sunlight streaming through this city’s namesake tall trees about 11 a.m. Feb. 22. Some took the good weather as a sign of God’s blessing.
Others saw God’s hand in a series of events over the last several months that resulted in the reason about 150 people gathered on ground strewn with pine straw and last fall’s leaves. The mayors of Pine-ville and Ball were on hand, as were several city councilmen, a candidate for sheriff, and members of three trustee boards: Christian Oasis, Donahue Family Church and Cenla Christian Academy.
The entire student body of what is known as “CCA – home of the Lions” also was on hand as various dignitaries turned dirt with shovels painted gold for the occasion: groundbreaking for what could be a $50 million or more campus for the school.
“This is the future of our kids,” said Keith Perkins, a member of Donahue Family watching the activity. “This is the future of our country.”
The short version of the story is that Christian Oasis ministry – founded by Jonathan Forester M.D., a member at Kingsville Baptist in Pine-ville – recently sold 14.4 acres of its land on Donahue Ferry Road to the church across the street: Donahue Family Church, where Keith Dickens is pastor. The church plans to use the land for a school it started last fall, Cenla Christian Academy, where Glen Whatley is principal.
The longer version of the story has three parts: ministry, church and school.
Dr. Forester is a nationally-recognized authority in treating fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and chronic lyme disease. He’s also an active member of Kingsville Baptist and frequent participant in international medical missions trips. He bought more than 15 acres on Donahue Ferry Road in the 1970s with plans to subdivide it, but felt led of the Lord to dedicate it for ministry.
He developed a non-denominational ministry that would provide a place of rest and healing for hurting Christians – people dealing with addictions, depression, spiritual dis-ease or burn-out – that over the last 25 years has seen “a number of miracles, mostly spiritual healing,” Dr. Forester said.
The MD realized a couple of years ago that his initial ministry vision for his property probably would never come to fruition. Problem: He had dedicated the land to God’s use. What should be done with it? Dr. Forester approached Donahue Family Church, located right across the narrow two-lane road, but at the time, the church wasn’t interested.
Donahue Family Church
When Keith Dickens in March 1999 became pastor of the church, 350 people participated in Sunday services. At the present time, perhaps 1,500 do, in four services.
“We’ve had a thousand visitors since last September, most of them for the 11 a.m. service,” said worship pastor (and CCA principal) Glen Whatley. Many don’t return because the 11 a.m. service is virtually at capacity – far over the 80 percent “comfort level” church wisdom says not to exceed. A building under construction is designed to ease the congestion. When a permanent worship center is built, the current construction is to become education space.
Exultant worship, dynamic preaching and focused assimilation all have helped the church to grow, members say.
Cenla Christian Academy
When Worship Pastor Whatley read Acres of Diamonds in December 2005 – about a man who sold his farm to hunt for diamonds; the land he sold later was found to have the largest diamonds in the nation on it – he asked himself what gifts he was sitting on, and decided it was education. Whatley had earned a doctorate in education administration. His father founded the First Baptist Christian School in Lafayette; his sister is the current principal.
Donahue Family Pastor Keith Dickens’ vision for the church – Imagine a Place – included weekday education, so he told Whatley to go for it. Cenla Christian Academy opened a kindergarten through eighth grade school last fall with 80 students and nine teachers.
With seed money given by the church, the school from its first weeks has been self-supporting.
The school announced in February the hiring of an athletic director, and plans to add grades nine and 10 in Fall 2007. But three weeks into enrollment, with 65 new students, it was determined to add grades 11 and 12 as well next fall, with junior varsity and varsity football and JV and varsity boys and girls basketball teams already lined up for league play with schools in Louisiana and Mississippi, said Athletic Director Matt Middleton.
Dr. Forester approached Pastor Dickens again last September with an offer to sell the church the property at below market value. Dickens and Donahue Family’s 14-person elder board discussed it and prayed about it. While the school has enough space for up to 300 youngsters, the long-range plan called for a football stadium, performing arts center and other peripheral buildings that would crowd the church’s current available land.
The church leaders made the decision to buy the property; hands were shaken; agreements were signed; and, last Thursday, the groundbreaking took place.
Forester plans to use the money from the land sale for short-term international missions trips through the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, in which he trains national physicians in the pain-relieving techniques he has mastered, and in which others connected with Christian Oasis use their expertise to train national leaders.
If sufficient money is raised, some of the construction on the new property could be completed and students in the building by 2008, the pastor said.
CCA is state-certified; all teachers are state-certified; and the school is approved for the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students.