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Schools: Christian education classes see numbers grow

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Bible study classes have nearly doubled in enrollment at Waccamaw schools, and so have the costs.

Lisa Hutto, a member of the board of directors for Students in the Word, an organization that schedules Bible classes off campus for Waccamaw middle and high school students, said the organization committed to raising an additional $30,000 this year and has just $6,000 to go. “We have faith,” she said, “that it will all happen the way it should.”

Students in the Word brings 22 high school students to a classroom made available at All Saints Church year round, Hutto said. The big growth has been at the middle school. That program, hosted by St. Paul’s Waccamaw United Methodist Church, has gone from 40 students to 80 and from one semester to two.

Ginger Beasley, another Students in the Word board member, said the program is reaching young people. “I truly believe one of the most important things we have going on is to be able to keep God in school at any level they will allow. We absolutely love this program.”

Waccamaw Middle School student Cooper DesMarteau said the class brought him closer to God. “It’s more like a conversation I can have with God,” he said. “I’ve really learned his word.” Samantha Kelley, another middle school student, said the online video class, “Alpha,” has taught her life lessons.

Hutto credited teacher Susan Graves with the growing popularity of Students in the Word. “These kids have connected with her,” she said. “She has taken this program to a whole new level and living out Proverbs 22:6: ‘Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old he will not depart from it.’”

Refusing to be a victim, a lesson in forgiveness

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Dawn Smith Jordan says God gave her a story to tell.

It took years for her to understand his plan after her 17-year-old sister, Shari, was kidnapped and murdered near Lexington.

“It’s the kind of thing you never see coming,” Jordan told a luncheon organized last week to benefit Students in the Word, a Bible program at Waccamaw Middle and Waccamaw High School.

Shari was abducted at gunpoint when she stopped to get the mail in front of her parents’ house after school on May 31, 1985. Her car was found running with the door open. The case has been portrayed numerous times in movies and in a “Forensic Files” episode. It will be made into an episode of a new program, “Eyewitness,” by ABC Television next year. Shari’s abductor, Larry Gene Bell, forced her to write a “Last Will and Testament” to her family before he killed her.

“I can’t imagine looking at that blank piece of paper,” Jordan said.

Shari wrote a letter that continues to inspire her sister today. “Please don’t worry,” the teen-ager wrote. “Remember the special times we shared. Keep living one day at a time for Jesus.” She ended her letter with words from Romans 8:28: “Everything works out for the good.”

Jordan said, “That’s what it looks like to trust in the Lord with all your heart, when you can’t begin to understand why you are where you are.”

Investigators found the imprint of a telephone number on the notebook paper that Shari was given for her letter. It led to Bell’s capture after the biggest manhunt in state history.

Bell wrote Jordan a letter from Death Row that he had accepted Christ as his savior. She prayed for God to show her how to forgive this man. She read Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another just as Christ has forgiven you.” It took two years, but she wrote back that she had forgiven Bell before his execution. “I knew that I had done what God had called me to do as a follower of Jesus,” she said.

Jordan had already found that the Lord works in mysterious ways. She was crowned Miss South Carolina a year after her sister’s murder and was second runner-up in the Miss America Pageant. She joined the Billy Graham Crusade and told her story again and again. Proverbs 3: 5-6 became her life scripture: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

She refuses to be a victim of violent crime. “I’m victorious through Christ,” Jordan said. “He paid the price so we would not be victims.”

Jordan said she learned a valuable lesson from her mother, who wrote a book and spoke in public about Shari’s murder even after she was stricken with an aneurism and ovarian cancer. “She was really frail and very sick,” Jordan said. Before one of her last speaking engagements she tried to get her mother to stay home. “They’ll understand,” Jordan said. “I’ll go for you.”

Her mother would have none of it. “I can cancel. I’m sick,” she said. “As long as I have a breath in this body of mine I will be about the business of telling this story God has entrusted me to tell. Now, are you going with me or not?”

Jordan said one of her greatest blessings was going with her mother that evening. “I’m so grateful that she taught me that,” Jordan said. “As long as we have breath, every single moment is a divine appointment. I want to leave behind a story of faith, just like my mom did, just like my sister did.”

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