Spreading The Love Of Jesus
Everyone knows that the Johnson Central Eagles and the Paintsville Tigers are natural born rivals. Everyone, that is, that lives in Johnson County, Kentucky. And that's because these are the mascots of the two local high schools. But there's one thing that unites these rivals — God.
Students from the opposing schools meet together regularly at McDonald's for an informal Bible study group. And when the group decided they'd like to do some type of outreach, they came up with the idea of using post-it notes to put inspirational bible verses on every student's locker at both schools. The initiative was completely student-led, and they spent roughly two months writing 1,600 notes so that every locker would receive an uplifting bible verse.
“We just wanted to spread the love of Jesus. We wanted everybody to realize that they are loved,” says Laura Keeton, a student at Paintsville High.
Little did they know, the mission to spread the love of Jesus would also spark much controversy. And that's because of the drastically different reactions from the administration at each school.
Immediately following the end of the day, students at both schools went about posting their handiwork. The next morning, the students of Paintsville High were greeted with the handwritten bible verses. The students at Johnson Central, however, were not. That's because a staff member noticed the post-its and notified the school's principal, Russell Halsey, who had them removed that same evening. He says,
"We have students from a wide range of backgrounds, students of the Islam faith, students of the Jewish faith. I’m in church as much as I can possibly be, but in a public school we are required by law to be responsive to all groups of any faith, of any special interest."
There was no disciplinary action for the students hanging the post-its, but the move sparked controversy, as some felt it was a violation of the student's rights to free speech. Others agreed with Principal Halsey's reaction, saying he was just trying to be fair to everyone.
At Paintsville High, the notes were left up and it was up to the individual students to decide whether or not to remove them from their locker.
As for the students who had worked so hard to write and hang the notes, they were at first frustrated and disappointed by the response at Johnson Central. However, they soon came to realize that God can use any situation for His glory. Laura, one of the students from Paintsville HIgh who was involved says,
"Then I realized that if they hadn’t been taken down, we wouldn’t have gotten so much publicity and God wouldn’t have gotten his name out there.”
Likewise, Josh, a Johnson Central student says,
"Even though God’s word was taken down, it still reached so many people over Facebook and everything…”
Proof that God's will cannot be thwarted! The very controversy that arose from the removal of the notes actually extended the message far beyond the walls of the schools. And it served to unite the students from two schools often pitted as rivals. Ben Stephens, a teacher from Johnson Central, points out,
"To see kids take the lead on that, and see them work together to do something for both schools, I think it's pretty impressive. There’s a lot we can learn from that.”
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