Madrone Recognizes COVID-19 Miracles

When Oregon Conference schools had to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Laura Bowlby, Madrone Adventist Elementary School principal, was barely able to sleep. Madrone, located in Cave Junction, Oregon, is a small school of 19 students and had struggled financially even before the stay-at-home mandate. Finding donors in this southern Oregon community that is already in poverty seemed impossible. Then a series of miracles began for the school that demonstrated God will provide even in the most unlikely times.

When Madrone had a school board meeting in March, near the beginning of the shelter-in-place order, the board members discussed the viability of keeping the school open. School parents were losing jobs and not able to pay tuition. Still, the board members all felt convicted that the school needed to exist. Several board members personally donated scholarship money to Madrone.

Then, a former student of Bowlby’s, who is now a business owner, asked his aunt, Chris Harwood, a teacher’s assistant at the school and a board member, “What’s your need?”

She responded, “Scholarships for students so they can remain in school.” He came to her house the next day with a check for $2,000.

Then a current student donated to support the school. The seventh grader gifted $500 for scholarships, giving “all he had.”

The blessings continued, thanks to the efforts of one board member in particular. This board member, a retired missionary with a heart for Adventist education, reached out to his friends from overseas and in the U.S. to share the school’s story of need. “I just tell my story,” says the board member. “I just share. And I don’t say I need money.”

One of his friends, a Buddhist from Hong Kong, gifted $6,000 — enough to cover the cost of tuition for every student for a month. When asked how he gets people to donate, the board member responds, “It’s basically relationships.” He especially emphasizes, “Where there is a need, the Lord will take care. And you just have to make that first step.” That first step led to his raising about $14,000 from four or five people.

The local church also has increased its financial aid to the school. They voted to raise school subsidy for the first time in six years and have a plan to increase it every year going forward. Also, despite the church being closed to in-person meetings, church members have faithfully continued to drop off their “Lamb’s offering” for school support each Sabbath afternoon.

The outpouring of support from Bowlby’s school board and community brought her from anxiety at the beginning of the pandemic to rejoicing. She comments, “It is just a miracle to me that during this time of shelter at home, that is when we have been able to get caught up and meet the needs of not only our students, but also to become viable as far as being able to pay our bills. I just feel like all these miracles are God telling us that our school is here for a purpose and He is not ready for it to be done.”

Featured in: September/October 2020