|The building as it looks now|
|Studying continues at BMA|
Dear Friends of BMA,
Thank you very for your care for our school. In this recent season of adventure, your prayers, advice, encouragement, gifts and helpful questions have been critically. It's time for an update about our building project, but first, please let me note that two more girls came to Christ in February, and a third last weekend, each led to pray by a fellow student. We are thrilled to be part of such a project.
EXPANDING OUR FACILITY
The news about the building is not so thrilling. We will not be able to apply for an EU grant to expand our facility. Our strategy was to raise 15% of the cost of the building project, which we -- we, including you in America -- successfully did. We wanted to apply for one of the last EU grants for "new member" community projects in the Czech Republic. To do so, we had to jump through many bureaucratic hoops. There were building permits, of course, and feasibility studies. We accomplished all those tasks well and on time. There was also a requirement that we get an agreement from every adjacent property owner, meaning 33 signatures from the people with apartments in the structure that we are attached to. We got every one.
We failed to get the last thing. This was an agreement from our town council that the BMA expansion was a worthy community project. It was not a financial, architectural or safety step; it was a purely political one. We needed that sealed statement so as to show the EU that we had local support.
Our town council refused to grant this. They also refused to reject it. Instead, starting back in November, they found excuses not to put it on their agenda. When the deadline for the grant application came due, they still had not given us a yes or no. Our director, Petr Hermann, submitted our application anyway, and received a two-week extension to try and get this last piece of paperwork. He immediately contacted the mayor of Frydlant nad Ostravici, who made a number of bureaucratic excuses about why it would be impossible for the town council to meet and discuss our request. Thus the second deadline passed and we find ourselves unable to apply for the EU grant.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
I would like to venture a couple of possible explanations, and then share with you what our school's leadership is thinking in terms of God's direction.
We don't have a direct answer about why the politicians dropped us. They didn't tell us "no;" they just made excuses about why they couldn't fit us into their "very busy" agenda. We have theories, but they are only theories.
First of all, all high schools here are very competitive. Our success takes students away from the local state high school. Unlike the United States, no students are guaranteed spots in any high school; they apply and compete. Our applications keep increasing and the other high schools -- all of them in the area -- keep losing kids. I was at a recent high school fair with my son, Paul Hugh, to help him get a picture of his choices. The Frýdlant Gymnazium had a booth, hoping to attract customers. We, BMA, didn't have a booth because we don't need one.
That is not the only kind of competition. It turns out that the town government of Frýdlant -- the same body that needed to give us their seal of approval -- has their own grant proposal for the same EU process. They want money for a Polish-Slovak-Czech cross-cultural project. There's only a limited amount of cash. It is very possible that they didn't give us their "yes" because they were afraid that our influence would reduce their chances of getting what they want.
Finally, there's the possibility that some politicians object to our Christianity. However, since there was no debate and there were no straight answers, we don't know for sure.
Our new BMA Board is made up of 4 Czechs and 3 Americans. We have had three very productive meetings and it is a great answer to prayer that we now have this kind of support at the leadership level. We met immediately after the end of our EU grant journey. At first, there was widespread disappointment. Then, some interesting points of view came forward.
First, a few of the Board members with experience in the world of EU grants suggested that maybe God was protecting us. EU grant money is wonderful, but it comes with its own special cost. EU grants require you to do all your work with contractors and suppliers who have EU certification. Such people charge a higher price than necessary. EU grants also require vast amounts of bureaucracy, and every step forward is met with inspections and mounds of paperwork.
Second, we noted with thanksgiving that, because of all the work that we have done so far, we are in possession of all the paperwork necessary to begin building -- everything short of the money. We have plans and permits, signed and sealed. If we had the money, we could legally begin tomorrow. The only missing piece was political and specific to the EU grant. We have completed paperwork to allow us to build, and this is good for one year. Specifically, we need about 6 million crowns. Today, that's about $325,000. That's a different number than I quoted to friends on my recent fundraising trip, partly because we have already raised a good deal, and partly because we could work outside the EU bureaucracy.
Third, we recognized that if we are to build, we will have to develop new partnerships. We will have to seek funding from other sources. It is high time that we develop partnerships here in the Czech Republic. We have to look for Czech individuals, churches, businesses and foundations that care about this model of evangelism and about education.
Unfortunately, there has never been a Christian school like us before, so there is no precedent for what we're doing. On the other hand, developing partnerships with Czechs is clearly something that BMA has needed and will need for future health. Perhaps God closed the EU door to force us to work on this.
The next step for our director and our Board is to develop a specific strategy for developing Czech partners. The next step for our American partners is to pray with us as we try to engage them.
If you have given money to our building project, it is set aside in our RCE account for that purpose. If you made a pledge based on the promise of future funds, such as the hoped-for EU grant, we thank you and ask you to wait with us. As we develop a strategy for the way forward, we will let you know, and we might ask you to consider help at a future date.
Because we are passionate about what God is doing, we are constantly looking for ways to expand the mission. We have 120 students, and God is moving mightily among them. But currently, we're limited to 120. How could we reach even more? A bigger building is only one angle. Last month, we met with a team of Americans and Czechs from another city who want to start their own school and wanted to study our model. Our director has started us praying very seriously about expanding downward -- creating a BMA elementary school. It feels a little bit like the challenge Elisha gave to the widow in 2 Kings 4. We know God is moving. We want to set out lots of empty jars, jars of every shape and size, for Him to fill.
The work of the gospel is moving forward. In addition to the regular, daily teaching, there is a very special event to pray for. It is the annual retreat conceived and organized by students. April 20-22nd will be the fourth annual "Catch It" event organized by Christian kids to introduce their non-Christian friends to faith.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you feel inspired to give to BMA financially, please let me suggest two ways.
If BMA is to expand our building, we need about $320,000 more in our building fund, as I mentioned above. You can mail a check to that fund as follows:
PO Box 4528
Wheaton, IL 60189
On the check, please indicate:
The Till family would also appreciate your financial support. It is a tight season. You can do that at the same address:
On the check, please indicate:
BMA Personnel:1014901 · Paul & Sharon Till.
It is not too early to pray about possible new directions, such as a new elementary school. Perhaps you know a teacher who has missions on his or her heart.
Thank you so much for standing with us. I can't wait to share the next chapter with you! If you will be in south Texas or the Kansas City area between April 18th - 23rd, would you please let me know? I hope to make a quick trip for my sister's wedding. I'd love to meet personally. I'm sorry that I can't get to Chicago or New York.
God bless you,