In 1990 I tagged along with my mom to a little-bitty workshop in a church in Memphis where this guy, Mike Farris, was to speak. I was 20. He was…younger. And he was on fire about this “homeschooling movement of God!” The HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), which he founded along with Michael Smith, was only a few years old and there was still a great deal of work to do to secure homeschool freedom for parents. I was not homeschooled. My brother, Tyler, was. A few years from graduation and Tyler was doing great — art, classical guitar, college-level programming courses… in high school. I knew there was something to this school-at-home-thing or my 14 year-old brother wouldn’t be happy for the first time since he was about 6. My mom was so into this new movement she took a job with Gateway Christian Schools to help graduates. She was a sponge. And she was so full she dripped on everyone who would listen. She kept homeschool books in her truck and gave out her home phone number on a daily basis to inquisitive parents.
I went as a skeptic, wondering if my brother was getting properly socialized. I was getting ready to go off to Bible school to become a minister. I thought I knew my calling. But as I sat there listening to Farris wind up like a tornado siren, with the zeal and passion of an avid sports fan, I couldn’t help but become convinced God was doing something in this country in the area of education. And it was going to have a far-reaching and long-lasting impact on America. He planted a seed in me so deep I carried it through 4 years of undergrad and 2 more years of graduate school. Along the way the seed was watered by other leaders in the home education movement. And I joined those who pile up the homeschool books on their bedside table. Ultimately it changed my calling, and led to our starting HomeLife Academy.
For 22 years I have thought of that fiery speech by Farris as the launching pad for where I am today. For years I’ve thought it would be great to meet him, and on Saturday God gave me that chance. We were at the National HSLDA Leadership Conference, where Mike spoke a few times in workshops and in the general session. In between there was always a line to get to him so I didn’t want to push my way in. But when I told Lana Thornton (THEA President) about how I keep getting chills listening to Mike, she asked what I meant. I told her the whole story. As I did, her face lit up like only Lana’s does. Then she announced, “Oh, you have to let me introduce you to him! And you have to tell him that story! And I have to see his face when you do!” I agreed whole-heatedly. She whisked me out to the patio to find him, where I did in fact tell him the story. He smiled and bowed his head in humility. He also remembered the talk he gave.
We talked some more, and I told him about HomeLife Academy and our amazing staff. I explained that I wanted to learn more about Parental Rights and to educate our parents. He gave me his business card and told me to call him in a week and we would talk more. Just then Ken came up and met him as well. We chatted some more, about homeschooling and Jackson, TN, took a photo together and off he went.
It’s a bit difficult to fully explain my feelings right now. It’s not just that I met Mike Farris. That was a real treat for sure. It’s more that I feel God confirming this calling again in my life, and giving me some new direction and new energy to move down that road of ministry to families. I thank God for the encounters He gives us, for He always truly knows our every need. And He will always supply. Today I’m inspired by the HSLDA event and can’t wait to tell you more. But even more I’m inspired by the ongoing plan and purpose of God to partner with His lowly creation — you and me — to do our part, to humble ourselves, to yield to His Spirit, to speak words of comfort and courage to moms and dads throughout this country. They CAN do this! They can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens!! And HLA will do our part to hold their hands, listen to their stories, and speak to their hearts — that God has their family, and their children, in the palm of His mighty Hand!!