A Distinctly Different Approach
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A Distinctly Different Approach

A Distinctly Different Approach

A Distinctly Different Approach

It was the summer of 1948 when a grandmother named Matilda Randall went on a retreat to Forest Home Conference Center and met a group of women who together felt the Lord’s calling to start a Christian school in Riverside. Matilda saw where public education was headed, and God had impressed upon her heart to provide a Christ-centered alternative. A prayer from Matilda written in a journal at the camp still remains as a testament to the start of a legacy known as the Woodcrest Christian School System. More than 75 years later, the fruit of that prayer is a school of more than 1,200 enrolled students, and more than 2,800 alumni impacting the world for

Matilda was not exuberantly wealthy. She did not hold a political position, nor did she have the social status to woo crowds towards a vision, but through her faithful obedience God used her to make an impact. Her impact was not one of force, will, or power but rather was one of obedience that over time has sprouted like a mustard seed. Christian author and writer Andy Crouch describes true impact as that invested over time rather than strong forcible moments: “…the power of time, this is the power of raising a child, this is the power of building a friendship…this is the power of a life of prayer.” Matilda did not make an impact through one moment of force or power, but her example of humble faithfulness and obedience over time has made a remarkable difference.

This impact is not just something of the past. Woodcrest Christian is full of staff members who passionately pour their hearts into their work of preparing students to go out into the world. Seventy-five years later, Woodcrest Christian continues to bear fruit from the seed of faith planted through Matilda years ago. Even in the current school year, there are moments of this kind of Christ-first impact happening across and within our campuses every day.

In the fall of 2023, we celebrated cross country CIF State Champion Eyan Turk and the 34th consecutive year of the Varsity Boys Cross Country team winning league. While this is a remarkable feat for our student athletes, much has been given by faithful coaches for such a repeated achievement. Coach Ben Nunnally has been involved with cross country at Woodcrest Christian for 23 years. He shares, “As I look back, the Lord has truly guided the path for this program. Our son, Grant brought my engagement to the program, and I saw an unbelievable sport in a world that is so challenging and that doesn’t always give the athletes a way to see success. It has personally given me the strength to overcome great trials after Grant was called home to be with our Lord in 2002. The Lord showed me the importance of faith and family, especially with the coaches of Woodcrest Christian, let alone the cross country athletes! I have been blessed to be part of a program that has seen many athletes grow in confidence, stature, and truly believing in themselves, let alone see six State Championships, two individual State Champions, ten CIF Championships and undefeated League Champions 34 years in a row. Very few can be so blessed to be part of such a program.”

A WCS alumnus and now high school science teacher, JP Reynolds (Class of 2017) shares his dual perspective on both being impacted and now making an impact at Woodcrest Christian. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” he says, “and Woodcrest Christian gave me a lot. My coaches and teachers focused on relationships and building me up as an individual which translated into success on the track and in the classroom. I took those lessons and let them define me as a collegiate athlete. Now I have the opportunity to give back to the place that gave me so much.”

With a similar longevity as the cross country program, the missions program has been part of the high school for the past 24 consecutive years. In that time, more than 1,000 Woodcrest Christian students have traveled across the globe on mission trips to places like India, Jamaica, Belize, Costa Rica, and Chile. These trips often demand that students step outside of their comfort zones, and each year there are countless stories of lives being changed. Recent graduate Gavin Deering (Class of 2023) shares, “It was on these trips where I experienced God in a unique way through the change of my heart and mind. I was encouraged to do things for the Lord while serving the community.”

Scott Reynolds, who will be leading his 16th trip in 2024, shares, “Mission trips are an integral part of who we are at Woodcrest Christian. We want our kids to experience God in real and authentic ways outside of their regular environment. Mission trips are an amazing way that our students connect with God and experience Him in ways that will last for the rest of their lives.” An example of this comes from 2014 alumnus Justin White, who shares, “It was on these trips I learned how to journal and talk with God in a way that has since impacted the next decade of my life.” Undoubtedly, missions allows students to “impact the world for Christ” through service and outreach in different countries, and just as importantly, the students themselves are impacted.

While the continuity of school programs is a hallmark of impact, it’s the everyday, faithful dedication of faculty and staff that invests in students’ lives. Sixth grade teacher Cheryl Murdaugh, who started teaching at WCDS in 1980, shares her reason for teaching, “Hour-by-hour I get to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with students, helping them to see and know that God loves them and is wanting to interact with them on a personal level. I have been so blessed to see many young people go on to lead successful, God-honoring adult lives, who desire to serve Him faithfully in a variety of different arenas.What a privilege!”

Cindy Phillips has taught at WCDS since 1984 and currently teaches fifth grade. She has noticed the most notable impact over time in the Bible homework assigned. “One of the homework assignments that has impacted students and families the most is the Bible memorization homework. As students work on memorizing the Word of God at home, parents often help them with their homework by quizzing them and listening to them recite their verses. While the students quote the verses, they and their parents are touched by God’s Word as they learn and grow in Him. Many families have come to the Lord through the Bible verse memorization homework.”

This theme of impact through students into families is found not only in the schoolwork or programs, but also through the many avenues of relationships developed at the school. High School Bible teacher Dave Burdett is approaching 50 years of teaching and shares, “As I’ve watched almost 3,000 students graduate Woodcrest Christian High School, I’ve come to see that my job is not just to help them pass tests, but that I am a tool in God’s hands helping to shape them for what He has planned for them. Over this time, I’ve been blessed to share that future with many of them. I’ve even been able to teach a good number of my students’ kids, all of which has proven to be a joyful benefit of my time at Woodcrest Christian.”

The staff discipling students on mission trips,the heart of a Woodcrest Christian coach, and the faithful teacher doesn’t begin to capture the myriad of stories that go on at school. Above all, in its 75+ year history, the faculty and staff at Woodcrest Christian seek to be like Jesus, who made relationships His goal. In Matthew 31:13 Jesus compares His kingdom to a mustard seed to show His disciples the paradox of impact. While earthly kingdoms arrive through force, often led by a military hero, Jesus paints the picture of something sacrificially small growing into something large and strong through faithful obedience, even unto death. This is what makes Woodcrest Christian distinctly different—a commitment to Christ first, which over time is the true impact.


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