Families help each other. The strong and unique branch of God’s family known as Ohio Released Time Bible Education (RTBE) is no different. Here’s the story of how, by God’s grace, one new program got started, and the many who prayed and helped to make it happen. Here’s the testimony of one of Titan Christian Education’s leaders, Beth Acker, with comments by other established RTBE leaders who came alongside in the process…
Back when my girls were 3 and 4, I was talking with another mom and she mentioned that her kids went to a Bible class at school. A few more questions helped me see that this took place during the school day and several area schools had programs like this. I was shocked, and casually mentioned that Triway should have something like this.
Imagine Beth’s surprise, when she discovered God had heard her offhand comment as a prayer – and in a few years, would use her and many others to bring a program to Triway.
Fast forward a few years. Joy is in first grade Lucy is in Kindergarten and I am at the school a lot volunteering in their classes. Then in January 2014, I started to have pain in my back and left leg. After trying doctors, a chiropractor, physical therapy, different medications, oils, and massage… nothing was helping; in fact, it just kept getting worse. In May, the doctors suggested back surgery the next month. By this time, I was pretty frustrated and desperate to find something to help. I knew it would be hard after – there were a lot of restrictions of things I could not do. The surgeon said that it would take about 6-8 weeks to recover, so I thought I would still be able to enjoy at least the last part of summer before school started again. I had the surgery and I felt great… for a week. Then I started to feel the same pain I had before the surgery but now, it was in both legs. Not as bad, but I was scared… and also started having issues with my neck. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. I was supposed to be getting better, not worse. I was frustrated and a little angry.
During this time I was journaling with my devotional and prayer time. This is an entry is from June 17, 2014: “Lord I want to be done with training in perseverance! I want to be all better now! Help me to be patient and do not let me get discouraged. Don’t let me get trapped in self-pity. Lord use me as I am. Order my day to your glory.”
Beth went to physical therapy all summer, 2-3 times a week. But as summer wore on, she still was very limited in what she could do. Though she wouldn’t have chosen this, there was one bright spot… her first grader and Kindergartener were learning how to do laundry and help around the house 😊 But, unable to participate in many activities, Beth journaled on July 8, 2014: “God what are you doing right now? What are you showing me/teaching me? Lord I desire healing without complications but I know you are with me and will help me through whatever I encounter. Reveal to me what you are doing.”
As the summer dragged on, Beth struggled, but trusted and hoped for God’s healing.
One day after feeling sorry for myself not being able to participate again… God spoke to my spirit telling me to stop focusing on what I can’t do but to look at what I can do. This is what I wrote Aug. 22, 2014: “Lord Thank you that all we need to do is call out to you. Help me to rejoice always because you are good. I may not like what I am going through or how long it is taking but you are good and your ways are perfect along with your plan. Lord be with me as I look into how we can bring you to the kids at Triway. Help me to trust you and lead me if it is your will to pursue this. “
Beth start asking others to pray for her as she began to look into the possibility of Released Time for her district’s schools. She was led to investigate other nearby communities that have RTBE programs.
The day before Thanksgiving I visited Linda Kline who taught at Norwayne’s program. There I learned of others the schools have programs in the area: Northwestern, Smithville, Rittman, and Southeast. Linda helped connect me with the other programs and she connected me with Jenni Miller with School Ministries of Ohio.
After that visit, Beth journaled Nov. 25, 2014: “Lord I am so excited to see you work. Go before me and guide my way. Bring up those who will stand with me and have the same desire. Let us be like minded. Lead the way.” And so He did.
In January 2015 I connected with Jenni Miller at WeCARE for Students (now School Ministries Ohio). She shared the three legal requirements, prayed with me and connected me with nearby local programs. I began to visit schools with others gathering information. We visited Northwestern and met with Tracy Price. She shared samples of Bible verses, permission slips, and curriculum. We visited Carolyn Baer at Breakaway in Smithville and Daisy Martin with Southeast’s program. Each program was eager to help and share resources and ideas. Each program was different but all shared the same desire to share Jesus with their students.
In May, my Pastor and Pastor Bud Olszewski from Rittman’s Released Time program went with me to meet with the principal at Shreve. He was open to a Released Time program and we begin to make plans for the following year. In July, fellow Titan CE organizer Carla Lendrum and I went to School Ministries of Ohio’s statewide Released Time conference and we learned about the business aspects of Released Time. I met Cindy Rainsberger, who had taught RTBE and now was feeling the nudge to start a program in nearby Holmes County. We learned our need to become incorporated, create a constitution, bylaws, statement of faith, get board approval…. way out of my comfort zone. The national Released Time organization School Ministries and Breakaway gave samples of constitutions, by-laws, statement of faith, and more. Jenni was just a phone call away providing answers to our many questions.
People began to come alongside us and support us. One person helped get us incorporated and then connected us with an attorney to complete our 501c3 application to be tax exempt. We started working to create bylaws, constitution, and statement of faith. We discussed and sought counsel on how to approach the school board for approval. We talked with the Superintendent.
Answered prayer! Following a community meeting that fall, we started classes in January 2016 for 3rd and 4th grade at Shreve: about 45 students. We are blessed to have a great first year. God opens the door to another elementary school in the fall of 2016 and suddenly, we were serving 135 students. This year, we teach 3-6th grade at 2 locations with 230 students. God is so good!
By the way, Beth’s back and neck are much better. And the elementary students taking classes from Titan Christian Ed are learning more and more about the healing love of Jesus, each week.
This is not our program; it is God’s. I truly believe He opened up my schedule and limited what I could do so that I could hear Him clearly and He could use me. This was way outside my comfort zone but God has brought just the right people alongside and opened up doors. I am excited to see what else He has in store.
And here are reflections of several in our Ohio RTBE family that interacted with Beth and others as Titan Christian Education began and continues:
Pastor Bud Olszewski, RittmanCares had this to say… The RittmanCares committee has been praying for our friends at Titan CE since the very beginning. What a thrill to observe up close and personal the way God has moved to grow this exciting ministry! I have always said that there are three components to starting a Released Time Bible group: 1) A vision that sees children through the eyes of Jesus; 2) connections with the right people in the right places, and both of these are fruitless unless we add 3) bathed in lots of prayer! May God continue to bless Titan CE and many other Bible groups across our great land!
Cindy Rainsburger, Co-Founder, President and Administrator-Nehemiah RTBE Program Holmes Co. Ohio, and a major source of inspiration to Triway says… Connecting with Beth Acker at the 2015 School Ministries Ohio conference opened up the opportunity to share information as Titan Christian Education was in the process of starting a new RTBE program. Later as Nehemiah RTBE began the new RTBE program process, it helped give us direction as we used the TCE constitution as a base along with resources from School Ministries Members Zone to draft our own Constitution and Statement of Faith.
Carolyn Baer, Director and teacher at Breakaway, recalls:
When the Holy Spirit is inviting someone to consider starting Released Time in their community, we (Breakaway) always enjoy inviting them to come see our Bible classes in action! When Beth Acker and Katie Holmes came from Triway District, we could sense their love for the Lord and for children. As they saw what’s happening here, their enthusiasm and eagerness to get going was an encouragement to us, as well! They observed, we all talked, and we prayed.
Linda Kline, longstanding teacher at Northwestern/Norwayne, remembers:
I was excited to have Beth visit my classes. I tried to answer her questions, gave her suggestions, and connected her with Jenni Miller and others that could help her get stared. We also rode together to (Ohio’s 2015) Released Time conference and discussed ideas and answered questions as we traveled.
Jenni Miller, Executive Director, School Ministries Ohio reflects:
Titan CE has embraced excellence from its very beginning. It has been a joy to see how intentional they’ve been to reach out and learn from established RTBE programs and practitioners all over the state and area. It has been an encouragement to see them eager to adopt and develop best practices. Last fall, I was privileged to visit their Volunteer Training session and came away with more ideas to share with other programs, going forward.