“We Knew Nothing Was Too Big for God, But It Was Daunting…”
Battle Creek Academy's future was looking rather bleak. Their roof was crumbling, and if they couldn't raise 1.2 million, they would have to close the school.
Battle Creek Academy (BCA) has been in formal operation for a stunning 151 years, serving Battle Creek’s youth since 1872, when the school was established. Before that, in 1856, Mary Osgood unofficially led the school out of her home and charged each student 25 cents tuition.[i] BCA has since expanded from just one teacher and a parlor to a building located on 44 acres with eight classrooms, a gymnasium, science lab, music room, fitness center, three-bay garage and more, all supported by over fifteen faculty members.
The school is not a stranger to adversity. The academy’s original three-story school building was built in 1903 on North Kendall street in Battle Creek, and served for 42 years before being destroyed in a fire in 1945. Three years later, a new school was dedicated on September 6, 1948. The school opened for its first academic year on September 9, 1948, and has undergone numerous expansions since then. Thousands of alumni have been blessed to receive an education focused on scholastic excellence and spiritual growth. This year, it all threatened to crumble.
For years, BCA’s roof had been causing serious issues, says Dan Grentz, BCA school board chair. “We had been patching it for years,” he said, “but it was getting to the point that it had been put off for too long and was not sustainable anymore.”
The roof was so bad that parts of the school would have to be abandoned if it wasn’t fixed. Three years ago Grentz and the school board began looking at solutions, but contactors were quoting at above $830,000. Then, because of supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, the price skyrocketed to $1.2 million. Grentz and his team had been raising funds, but it was nowhere near the required $1.2 million.
BCA was awarded several grants, and benevolent individuals donated large sums of money, “but when we counted what we had raised, we had raised probably about 80,000 of a 1.2 million dollar project,” says Grentz. He adds, “we knew nothing was too big for God, but it was daunting.”
By the end of the 2022-2023 school year, the situation was worsening. “There were buckets all over the place,” Grentz says. “Rooms were getting flooded, computers were being damaged—it was ridiculous.” Grentz and his team placed buckets in local businesses in an attempt to raise money, and money came in, but it was nowhere near enough.
The school board was becoming quite discouraged. “We’d looked into every possibility that we could think of. Nothing was feasible,” says Grentz.
In March 2023, Grentz and his good friend, Buddy Houghtaling, were invited to fly out to California to do a concert for the Azure Hills SDA church, not far from Loma Linda. “The interesting thing,” Grentz says, “is that they were in the midst of fixing their roof!” Grentz and Arthur Blinci, who works in Adventist Risk Management and was in charge of the Azure Hills roof, struck up a conversation, and Grentz shared BCA’s difficulty in finding an affordable solution.
Blinci shared Azure Hills roof was being fixed for an affordable price, and shared with Grentz that it was a nation-wide service, not one exclusive to California. Grentz did some research, and went back to the school board to present what he had learned.
In Grand Rapids, there was a company that repaired roofs by using foam, which is sprayed over the roof to make a white, reflective, water-proof layer, called a polyurethane roof. The board voted to approve the company to take a look, and would revisit, provided the price was fair.
The company, True Colors Industrial, sent an employee to take a look at the roof and assess the damages. The initial response was uncertainty. The roof was so damaged that he wasn’t sure if it would be sustainable. The owner of the company came back a few days later and drilled holes in the roof to see if the new roofing could be supported. When they climbed off the roof, the owner said it was possible, and that he would send them an official bid in a few days.
When the bid came back, it was $250,000. The bid was taken to the school board and it was approved. BCA signed the contact and handed over the down payment. That was one answer to prayer, but now they needed to fundraise the rest of the money. “We still needed about $190,000,” says Grentz, “but on faith we went ahead.”
Over Memorial Day weekend, Grentz wrote a letter to “everyone in our database.” He spent Sunday and Monday printing and folding letters, hand-addressing envelopes, stuffing them with the letters and sealing and stamping each one. Grentz had fought hard up to find a solution for BCA’s doors to stay open, and so he placed his faith in the Lord as he sent the letters.
Grentz mailed out over a thousand hand-addressed envelopes with a letter pleading for alumni to save the school. He also sent over 1,100 emails. “When those letters arrived in people’s homes, I don’t know what happened,” Grentz says, “but in the course of six weeks we had raised over 150,000 dollars.” It was a miracle. Previous fundraising attempts over past years had not raised even half of the funds raised through a leap of faith and a heartfelt prayer.
“Every time you would go to the mailbox at the school there was just more envelopes,” Grentz says. Some donations were large sums, others were not, but each dollar that came in was appreciated, for it would directly impact BCA.
There was one envelope that impacted Grentz personally. The handwriting on the envelope was shaky, and inside was a note from an old woman, detailing that she had attended BCA in the old building on North Kendall street, the one that had burned in 1945. “She could barely write,” Grentz said, “but she wanted to make sure that her school would stay open.” The woman had enclosed five dollars. “It was all she could do, but she wanted to help—it was her widow’s mite,” Grentz says, with tears in his eyes.
“I get emotional,” Grentz says, “thinking about this. Despite all the roadblocks, the Lord brought everything in the nick of time. We had people telling us that we would have to close the school, the building is going to fall apart, but we had just had our accreditation and the accreditation team was so impressed with what was going on with our school. It was going upwards academically and spiritually and socially—we thought we had exhausted everything. We thought we would have to close the school, but this, this was a gift from God.”
Grentz further explains that originally, the Battle Creek school board thought God was going to work by raising $1.2 million. “God didn’t raise the million dollars for us—he found a 900,000 dollar discount,” he says. Grentz and the school board had faith even when it seemed their school would be closed, and God richly awarded their trust in Him.
The polyurethane roof has a warranty of 12 years, and after that time, the company will redo the roof for one-third of the original cost. Grentz calculated that if the roof is resprayed every 12 years, it will be 72 years before the cost of the roof reaches 1.2 million. “This was a no-brainer,” Grentz says, “from God.”
When Jeremy Hall, superintendent of Education for Michigan, reflects on this miracle, he sees a “direct correlation to the care that the Lord has for Adventist education and our young people.” Not only is the school blessing Battle Creek youth, but a significant number, 40 percent, of students are Burmese refugees who are able to take the gospel truth back to their families and abroad.
“Battle Creek Academy is serving a great means,” Hall says. With the new roof installation, the Lord will continue to use BCA to lead young people to Christ and instill hope in thousands, just as He did with the small group who met in Mary Osgood’s home in 1856.
[i] Erickson, Charlotte (2020, January 29). Battle Creek Academy. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved August 01, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D8Y3.