West Dallas Community School

Final Thoughts from the Desk of Bentley Craft

by wdcs

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As most of you know, I am concluding my tenure as Head of School at WDCS here at the end of the school year and so this is my final blog post. When I was offered the opportunity to serve as Headmaster of West Dallas Community School, I viewed it as a calling from the Lord, something for which He had been preparing me for most of my life. As such, I imagined myself being a part of the West Dallas community for decades to come, especially on that opening day of school my first year in August of 2012. After the students left morning assembly, I remained in the chapel alone – awash in the light from the stained glass, looking out toward the Dallas skyline, the room still echoing with the heavenly strains of the children’s voices, and was overcome with gratitude. I knew how privileged I was to be a part of the West Dallas story; I saw with poignant clarity the unique power of the WDCS mission; and I felt as if I had come home.

So you can imagine, this has been an extremely difficult decision for me. Sadly, the burdens of leadership at West Dallas Community School, along with raising my own children, have grown too great for me to bear simultaneously; believing that I cannot do both with the excellence and dedication that each deserves, I sense God calling me at this time to step away from West Dallas and give more of myself to my family. As much as I love this community, as passionate as I am about the ministry and mission of WDCS, as convinced as I am of the mighty work God is doing here in our midst, I see my first calling as a husband and father. It is clear to me now that during this season of my life, with five children between the ages of 3 and 15, I need to focus more of my energy and attention on my first home.

But I will always be a champion of West Dallas Community School because it’s mission is so dynamic and unique. It is a ministry of mercy and justice.

MERCY

WDCS is a ministry of mercy in that we introduce our students to the love of God. While we offer a challenging, classical academic program, we also provide our students a nurturing environment, saturated in the Word and worship. As we fix our students minds and hearts on those things that are good, true, and beautiful, we pray that they would ultimately come to love the author of all that is Good, True, and Beautiful. We are distinct from most urban school alternatives in that we are Christ-centered. The greatest needs of our students is are love, atonement, forgiveness, and to be reconciled to God. It is what we all need. The work of WDCS extends beyond its students to the families, faculty, and volunteers as well. We are all lost sheep. We are all prodigals. And all of us need to come home; to know the “running, embracing, forgiving, accepting, celebrating, dancing love of the Father.”

Time and again I have heard from students, parents, and grandparents how they have come to know this love at West Dallas Community School. I, too, have experienced WDCS as an instrument of God’s mercy in my own life. I have come to know of His provision and love in fresh and profound ways. For so many, it is a special sort of “home” where they are known, challenged, cherished, and loved. WDCS is a ministry of mercy.

JUSTICE

DISD is one of the poorest districts in the state and the zip code we primarily serve, 75212, is disproportionately represented in the penal system, as critiqued in this School-to-Prison Pipeline study. A recent study exploring disconnected youth (people between the ages of 15 and 24 who are neither in school nor working) ranked West Dallas as one of the most economically disconnected neighborhoods in DFW with 34.4% of youth disconnection. By most measures, it appears that the achievement gap in schools is widening and the deep historical inequalities in our country persist unabated. Pastor Wilson felt called by God to represent the Lord’s heart for justice and mercy in this part of the city that had long been forgotten. So, in a very simple sense you can say that West Dallas Community School is a ministry of justice. –Refusing to accept the narrative at a child’s zip code determines their future – we are seeking to create the conditions here where people created in the image of God can experience full human flourishing. That is what drew me to WDCS.

One of my most cherished memories, now shared with five classes of 8th graders, is visiting the Washington National Cathedral and pointing out the ornate stone pulpit that served as the very spot where Dr. Martin Luther King preached his last Sunday sermon just a few short days before his fateful trip to Memphis. Many of Dr. King’s most memorable phrases were employed that Sunday morning, and among them, my favorite, and included at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” This quote resonates with the story the scriptures tell us, that God has vanquished the enemy and that sin and death were conquered on Calvary.

 

We are closing out this school year singing one of my favorite hymns, This is My Father’s World. The original final verse states, “Jesus who died shall be satisfied and heaven and earth be one.” The story of our world ends in justice and those belonging to God’s family are called to work to that end. It is one of the great mysteries and marvels of the universe, that though God does not “need” us, He nonetheless chooses to use us and to call us into creative partnership in His master plan of redemption. Remarkable though it’s true – we are the plan. There is no plan B. We are called to be God’s Ambassadors, reminding and revealing to a watching world that God as expressed in Jesus is a God of compassion, mercy, and justice. Towards the end of Dr. King’s sermon, he reflected, “Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God.”

This school is truly a remarkable place, with a rich history, an uncommonly wide and enthusiastic support base, and a strong philosophy and identity. WDCS is blessed to have a board and staff filled with some of the most faithful and gifted people I have had the privilege of knowing, they are those “persistent and dedicated individuals,” God’s co-workers representing the Lord’s heart for mercy and justice in Dallas and beyond.

For the many of you I have come to know, thank you for your partnership and support. This ministry would not be possible without the generous and sacrificial giving of God’s people. For those of you who have not visited the school or do not regularly give to our mission – please prayerfully consider joining this exciting work. For God’s kingdom is on the move in West Dallas. His name is being lifted up. People are being healed. Children are coming unto Him. Lives are being changed. I bear witness to these beautiful things and look forward to what God does in and through WDCS in the years to come.

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Bentley Craft
Head of School

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