From attending school in the Czech Republic to enrolling at Maranatha Christian Academy in Windsor, Ont. this past year, the four Potma children have made a major switch, and they’re finding much more than they expected.
“We’ve been really blessed,” their mother Gretchen Potma tells OACS News.
The Potmas have been living as missionaries in the Czech Republic for the past 14 years. All four children were born there and attend local public schools where they speak the Czech language.
Every four years the family returns to Canada for a year-long stay when they fulfill various requirements for their ministry, such as reconnecting with local churches that support them and representing their mission at various conferences.
Mark, father of the family, says when they first returned to Canada in 2000 he and his wife were looking for a school for their children that would provide a safe environment of acceptance and understanding, especially in light of the family’s unique situation.
“We felt that this school (Maranatha Christian Academy) was large enough to provide a collective environment for our children to grow and develop in, but small enough to have a family feel, as well (provide an opportunity) to meet and connect with families who have a similar understanding and beliefs and a passion for ministry,” says Mark.
“Community was our main goal for the kids, that they would just find a place where they would feel connected while they were in North America,” she adds.
Knowing that their children were receiving consistent Christian input was also important, Gretchen says, noting that this is something they don’t receive in the Czech schools and it’s more difficult to ensure happens through church attendance in Canada as the family travels so much for speaking engagements on weekends.
Both parents say that Maranatha Christian Academy is providing what they were looking for, and more.
“The school is a missions minded school already, and they understand where we’re coming from as missionaries, they also understand the importance of evangelism and church planting, that’s the ministry we’re involved in, and so there is a real atmosphere of understanding and acceptance at the school,” says Mark.
He also points out Maranatha Christian Academy has provided financial support for the family to be able to attend the school, and then has even gone beyond that.
After the Potmas completed their second stint in Canada in 2006, the school announced that they were making the family their mission project for the year.
A collection was taken in all the elementary classes and donated to their ministry.
“So we were very blessed by that, and very grateful,” says Mark.
For this current stay, a family from the school that is spending a year in China made their home available to the Potmas until next July.
“That was just a tremendous answer to our prayers as well,” says Mark.
The children have also been able to strike up friendships with many of the Maranatha Christian Academy students, and have continued those connections through the years, even when they’re half a world apart, through e-mail and other online means.
“We’ve been really blessed that we could come back again five years later and a lot of the kids are the same and their classes, the teachers, so it was just really a positive experience and it kind of gives our kids stability coming back to North America,” Gretchen adds.
“I would say two thirds to three quarters of the students in the (oldest two) children’s classes are the same as five years ago, so that means that a lot of families are committed to Maranatha Christian Academy, there are a lot of families committed to Christian education and they’re in it for the long haul and so that really impresses us as well,” says Mark.
Gretchen also notes she really appreciates the school’s openness to having parents around, both as volunteers and extended members of the school.
“It’s just really welcoming. Even if you’re not volunteering you can just come in to the school and pick up your kids or drop them off, and it’s always a feeling like we’re all working together.”
Looking past this school year, the Potmas could be back in four years, just in time for their second oldest to take her final year of high school at Maranatha.