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Lessons From Taking High School Students Out of the Country

September 18, 2023
By Mark Persson

Sixteen high school students, two faculty members, and I went to the Dominican Republic for a week in June to serve with Kids Alive International (please checkout this awesome organization!). Trips like this are always a mixed bag. They come with all the normal challenges that you’d expect trying to get so many people on buses and planes, through airports, and settled into a cross cultural context. But they also provide unique opportunities for personal and communal spiritual development. This trip began with the former.

The next week was marked by surprising elation and expected frustration. There were moments when students were phenomenal - sharing testimonies, working together, enjoying God, His people, and creation. There were other moments that were not. But here is what I’m learning from taking high school students out of the country.

I am just like them. I crave love, significance, and comfort more than God.

“But, but!” I say to myself, “my cravings are justified.”  How can it be wrong to miss the love of my wife and kids, long to make an impact, and to give myself permission to take it easy?

But their cravings are vices! Phones, momentary impact, and flirting. Oh they are bad. I’m good.

Here is the reality, I missed my phone too, I’m just a little more experienced in behavior management. I wanted the feels of momentary success and significance of this trip too. If I am really honest, I want people to think I’m attractive, impressive, and desirable too. Idolatry is not pursuing bad things but craving anything more than the presence and favor of God. And I’m still fashioning idols at 32.

And I need the same thing as them. The highlight of the trip was team worship each night. Something profound and mysterious happens when you sing with others. Singing changes the way you look at others and yourself. When you see others singing, it humanizes them. You realize they aren’t the caricature you’ve made them out to be. They are living and breathing; made in the image of God and sustained by His grace. And when you sing, you realize you aren’t so great. Singing about God’s glory reminds you that you have been living very much for your own, and it humbles you. Singing to the LORD confronts us with the message of Jesus. But, the good news that Jesus came to share (and be!) starts with bad news. We are more sinful and selfish than we thought, but we are more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope.

‘23-24 School Theme

Our school theme this year is Sing to the LORD from 2 Chronicles 20 and Psalm 100. Singing is risky and makes us vulnerable. Not surprisingly, it can be hard for everyone (and especially students and young adults) to belt it out. But we all listen to music, we are shaped by melodies and lyrics, and there is a strange power in music that moves us, removes us from worries, soothes our spirit. So, God commands us to sing and praise Him so that we can tangibly and communally experience the benefits of being loved and saved by God. We are going to explore and experience the power of singing together this year through corporate worship and special concerts!

Spiritual Life at CHS - Partnership, Participation, and Process

Spiritual life at Christian Heritage is a partnership with parents and churches to help students understand that “In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Learning to be captivated by Jesus Christ and His Kingdom means participation. It happens everywhere from student clubs to the science lab and from the sports field to chapel. Learning to love Jesus is a process. At CHS we want our students to live in the hopeful tension expressed in the Gospel of Mark, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Pursuing Jesus and His Kingdom is not an easy road, but it is the path to life (Psalm 16:11).

The flight home…
Our trip home looked like it might be just as nightmarish as the start. We were on the runway and ready to take off when the pilot announced, “The main engine didn’t start right. A heat sensor is not working.  We are going to get the engineers to take a look.” Then he added, “It might be a different story if we were in the air.” The ambiguity of that last sentence was not what the passengers were looking for. What followed was no small amount of hysteria and grumbling. Some passengers immediately went to the door and demanded to be let off. They wanted no part in this flight. Finally everyone was asked to deboard. The mood in the terminal was the same on the flight. It was packed. Nowhere to sit. Long lines for food. Spotty WIFI. And no clarity on if we’d have a flight out. Meanwhile, I had no idea what I would do with 19 people in Santiago if our flight was canceled and rescheduled for another day. We waited for three hours with no clear message from the airline (I won’t tell you the airline - this isn’t about them). Then, the gate agent said that the flight was on and we needed to board immediately. I ran back to the students and delivered the message - and their jaws dropped. It was more shock and awe than the joy and relief I was expecting from them. “Chappy,” they said, “we literally just finished praying that God would sort this out.”


Mark Persson, aka “Chappy P,” is the Chaplain at CHS. He is married to Michelle, and they have three children: Karis (starting Kindergarten at CHS!), Micah, and Asher. Mark likes baking (read “eating”) bread, running, reading, and building forts with his kids. He is an elder at his church. And, he is blessed beyond belief to work alongside the incredible staff and faculty at CHS as they serve students and families!

Academic Counseling: Guiding, Supporting, Advocating

September 05, 2023
By Beth Maree

Hello friends,

For those of you who haven’t met me yet, I am Beth Maree - the new Academic and College Counselor in the Upper School at CHS. I hail from sunny South Africa - undoubtedly one of the most beautiful countries in the world. How my family ended up in the United States (and snowy Connecticut!) is a story for another day - but joining God’s story for our lives has been surprising and beautiful.

According to a study by the Fuller Youth Institute1, there are 3 Big Questions that change every teenager; Who am I? (The Question of Identity), Where do I fit? (The Question of Belonging) and What difference can I make? (The Question of Purpose). Teenagers are a walking bundle of questions, and yet all of the questions that are asked can be filtered down to these ‘Big Three’. At CHS, we encourage questions, guiding our students towards Christ-centered answers.

As they navigate these (sometimes debilitating) questions, trying to figure out who they really are, we casually ask them to please, pick a future! Deciding what to do after graduation can be completely overwhelming for students AND parents - but it doesn’t have to be.

  • Firstly, because we don’t write our own story - we seek to join God in the story that He has for us. There is a freedom and a reassurance that when we lean into God, pray, ask advice from Christians we trust in our community, and then do the hard work of knocking on doors - we can trust our loving Father to guide us.
  • Secondly, our hope is that you feel supported on this journey - that’s where I come in! Ask questions, research, pay attention to emails regarding deadlines - and if we don’t know the answer, we’ll find out together! We were made to be in community for this purpose. It is my pleasure and my passion to support our students as they explore what life after graduation might look like for them!
  • Lastly, take advantage of information evenings - we have a fantastic College Fair coming up on Wednesday, Oct 4th. Come along with your teen to explore what other colleges have to offer! Register here to receive a unique barcode that will match you up with colleges that might fit your priorities best (or simply just arrive!). Come armed with questions and an open-mind.

As your teen progresses through the grades of the upper school, they will be seeing more of me as we partner together on their academic journeys - encourage your teen to stop in and say hi if they haven’t done so already. We believe that excellence in education is when we do everything we can to enable our students to become everything God has made them to be… at school, and into life post-graduation.

 1 3 Big Questions that Change Every Teenager, Powell and Griffin, 2021



Beth Maree received a Bachelors of Education at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She majored in English, History and Special Education. She began her career teaching 4th Grade and then discovered her love for teenagers when she transitioned to High School English teacher. Mrs. Maree is also experienced in school leadership, leading an English Department, overseeing Student Academic Services, and finally serving on the Senior Leadership Team of a busy, all-girls school in South Africa. She is now the Academic and College Counselor at Christian Heritage School and loving every minute of it!   

Back-to-School: Balancing Big Feelings

August 21, 2023
By Nancy Fujii

The beginning of a school year can be challenging for kids. Summer break is over, and it's time to focus, follow a schedule, and get organized. While some students may be excited to see friends, meet new teachers, or learn new things, others can feel anxious. No parent wants to see their child struggle, but challenges can help them (and us) grow.

Balancing Big Feelings

Most people want to ensure children feel less anxious when they see they're in distress, so they rush to accommodate their discomfort. But rescuing children from stressful situations can worsen their anxiety as they learn to depend on you to remove their fear, which becomes a coping pattern and hinders their maturity. You won't always be there to relieve their distress, and their anxiety will deepen as they grow.

It's better to be empathetic, help them understand their anxiety, and encourage them to face their fear. You can say, "I know you're scared, and that's okay. I'm here, and I'm going to help you get through this." With time, they'll learn to handle challenging situations, and your child (and you) will become closer to God through your endurance.

". . . the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." (James 1:2-4)

Stories Matter

Want to change how you feel about a situation? First, change how you think about it. Try thinking about how God helps us see the world differently.

As relational image-bearers of Christ, we all desire human connection. Those connections often happen in our shared stories, so talk with your child to express your interest in becoming part of their story.

If they had a challenging day, talk about it, and bear their burden. If they had a great day, celebrate, and encourage them.

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)

"stir up one another to love . . . meet regularly . . . encourage one another." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Christian perseverance is a community endeavor. God calls us to love Him and love our neighbor. It's in mutual affection for one another and sharing our stories that we persevere and thrive.

Questions for your child could include:

  • Tell me a few things you liked and didn't like about your day. 
  • Who in your class can we pray for?
  • What happened at lunch today? 
  • Tell me one new thing you learned and what made you laugh today. 
  • What was the kindest thing you did for someone today?

Often kids are not facing academic and social demands at home, which can trigger behaviors in school that the teacher will see, but the parents won't. A teacher knows the challenges, successes, and friendships their students have. They are allies who genuinely want what's best for each student.

Good questions to ask teachers include:

  • How is my child doing? 
  • Do you have any concerns about their social or academic skills? 
  • Do they need my help with anything?
Parent Tips
  1. Create a routine to talk with your child about their feelings. 
  2. Kids can pick up on nervous energy, so be positive and calm, expressing faith, perseverance, and joy as your child begins the school year.
  3. Anticipate and trust what God has planned for your child.
  4. Don't put unrealistic expectations of perfection on your child.
  5. Most setbacks are healthy for maturity, so embrace them.
  6. Ensure your student gets proper sleep and eats breakfast before school.
  7. Try to avoid fixing every problem your child experiences. Sometimes kids want to talk about challenges to validate their feelings without someone trying to fix them. 
  8. Talk about changing friendships and how to have REAL (Respectful-Encouraging-Accepting-Loving) God-honoring relationships with others.
  9. Changing teen brains causes mixed thoughts and behaviors, so ask them about school experiences and challenges.
  10. If your child struggles with extreme behaviors about returning to school, talk to their teacher or the principal for guidance and next steps.
Abounding Grace

Parenting is a gradual process of letting go as our children mature. Wherever you are on your parenting journey, God’s grace is sufficient. We can’t be with our children 24/7, but God can. His care and presence are better than anything we can give them.

“God makes all grace abound, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)


Nancy Fujii Bio/Work Experience

Nancy joined CHS in 2021 as a part-time K-12 Christian Counselor. Nancy counsels and teaches in a classroom, small group, and individual setting, helping students understand God and themselves through their identity in Christ. This school year, Nancy will teach a social-emotional Christlike character formation curriculum showing how our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences shape us. Before joining CHS, Nancy co-founded the Family Peace Center, where she continues to serve in the local community helping families build God-centered relationships.

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