There’s something in us that makes us look for heroes. We crave inspiration. They give it. It starts at a young age, as we watch characters like Spiderman or Captain America with wide-eyed wonder.
But the thing about superheroes is that while entertaining, they aren’t characters that we can emulate. Their feats require strength and endurance beyond what we, as humans, are given. We can’t actually be like them. We end up waiting for Superman to arrive, and not actually believing that we could do something to help the world around us.
So, what if kids were directed to real heroes, like the ones the book of Hebrews talks about? Whose lives and struggles are relatable, yet their stories are still remarkable in regards to human courage and dedication? People like Corrie Ten Boom, Desmond Tutu, and Leymah Gbowee. These individuals, and many others, dealt with hardships like the rest of us, yet demonstrated heroism. Depending on a strength outside of themselves, they pressed forward in faith to do something that changed the world for the better. These aren't superheroes, they are heroes of faith.
At the Academy for G.O.D., students are being introduced to these incredible individuals on a weekly basis through our new course, “Heroes of Faith.” The course takes place on Wednesdays, when we have an alternative schedule that centers around spiritual development. Students have classes about prayer, songs, enjoy chapel together, and now--Heroes of Faith--a new favorite.
Students are swept up in true tales of heroism. They learn about men like Dr. Vivien Thomas, an African-American man who overcame racial prejudice to become a renowned cardiac surgeon in the early 1900s. While working as a lab assistant and earning a janitor’s wage, he developed a surgical procedure that saved the lives of countless infants with "blue baby syndrome." He showed such skill that his mentor once observed a suture line during surgery and exclaimed, “Vivien! This is like something the Lord made.” Thomas went on to become the instructor of surgery at John Hopkins School of Medicine.
Other classes have focused on Harriet Tubman--a woman whose trust in God led her to courageously lead hundreds of African American slaves from bondage to freedom. As if being born into a slave family wasn’t enough, Tubman suffered a severe head injury at a young age that left her susceptible to bouts of unconsciousness with no warning. Rather than despairing, she was determined to achieve freedom no matter the risk, and help other slaves to do the same. She became known as “Moses” to the enslaved Africans, a modern-day, female example of a deliverer doing God’s work.
When 8-year-old Samuel Johnson learned about Harriet Tubman, his normally calm and serious demeanor was lit up. His mom remarked that while he always enjoys school, she’d never seen him arrive home more animated and wanting to share what he’d learned more than that day. Samuel was fascinated by the way Tubman had been able to live through such a challenging time in history, and yet do so much good.
Eden Loeffler, aged 6, asks her teacher almost daily, “When are we going to learn about the orphans again?” She is referring to the class on George Mueller, when she and her classmates became actors in a famous story of God’s provision.
Mueller lived in England in the 1800’s, and throughout his life as a minister he opened orphanages and cared for over 10,000 street children. At one point, Mueller ran out of funds, and found himself with 300 hungry children one morning and no food for breakfast. He calmly instructed the children to bow their heads and led them in a prayer, thanking the Lord in advance for the provision He would offer.
No sooner did he say “Amen,” than a knock came on the door. A baker who said that God had placed it on his heart the night before to prepare bread for the orphan’s breakfast. As the baker was bringing in the bread, a milkman entered the orphanage and explained that his cart had broken down just outside the gate. He asked if Mueller could use a cartful of milk, as he needed to lighten his load. Such a story of the power of prayer, by a man of great faith!
Teachers are able to choose their own heroes, bringing their own inspiration to the classroom. Academy teacher Stephen Ownby, a performer and actor himself, chose John P. Kee who used his songwriting ability to help others connect with the Lord. Others chose Nelson Mandela. While students are being inspired for the first time, teachers are re-visiting the stories that touched their lives. Students are being reminded that God’s story is still being written, and they have the chance to play a role in history. The Lord is looking for willing people, people whose love and perseverance enables them to become skilled servants in the world--true heroes for whom the world is waiting.