Saints hitting the re-boot button -
MT. JULIET -- Standing in the midst of an athletic complex ravaged by the March 3rd tornado, Mt. Juliet Christian Academy athletic director Paul Christensen is far from dejected.
Now in his 22nd year at MJCA, Christensen said his school is, "laser-focused" on rebuilding and improving everything that was lost in the storm.
"With every tragedy, there comes opportunity," Christensen said. "We now have the opportunity to make sure our planning is good as we move forward on this blank canvas we now have."
Christensen referenced the history of MJCA that saw the athletic complex developed and expanded as the need for more playing facilities grew and as money was available.
"As we built the first time, we put things where we could, not necessarily were they would have been best-suited. Now with everything being destroyed, we've got a campus planning team that is taking a good, hard look at where we'll rebuild these fields," Christensen said.
"We'd like to see a more symmetrical sports complex. For example, baseball and softball presently share a fence (baseball's first base and softball's third base). That will certainly change.
"Ultimately, we'd like to create more room around our football field in hopes of one day adding a track. We don't want to just re-build, we want to re-build the right way.
The Stilts Sportsplex, a combination locker / meeting room, storage and practice facility, was completely destroyed. An adjacent metal storage building is nowhere to be found.
Suey Field, home to MJCA football, has been rendered useless with the destruction of bleachers, light poles, the scoreboard and a makeshift pressbox.
Fencing, lights, dugouts and scoreboards were destroyed on the baseball and softball fields while the restroom building had only superficial damage.
"MJCA has hit the re-boot button and since we've lost everything, this is the opportunity God presented us and we intend to take full advantage of it," Christensen said.
Much of the main building has been damaged and the gymnasium has sustained serious water damage from rain associated with the tornado.
All things considered, the tornado of March, while devastating for the school, has signaled a new beginning for Mt. Juliet Christian Academy.
"We could either sit around and talk about what we're going through or develop plans that will carry us into the future.
"We've chosen the latter.
"There's certainly a bumpy road between now and the finished product.
"We've got to find a place to play football and (girls) soccer this fall, but two years from now, we're going to have a gorgeous, functional and special athletic complex."
Christensen spoke glowingly of the leadership in place -- both at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy and at First Baptist Church Mt. Juliet.
"I firmly believe God placed visionary leaders here at MJCA and our church at this time in history -- referencing Head of School Brig Thompson and FBC Mt. Juliet Pastor Dr. Phillip Dunn.
"The time to lick our wounds has passed," Christensen said. "We're turning the page and taking advantage of the opportunities in front of us. I'm not sure there has been a more important time in the history of our school."
About MJCA -- The 2019-20 school year marked 40 years of Christian education at MJCA -- a pre-K though 12 school. The church and school sit on 54 acres of land less than one mile from I-40.
MJCA opened its doors in 1979 with grades 1-3. An additional class was added yearly until 1989 when the first class graduated from MJCA.
Today, MJCA has approximately 590 students enrolled from preschool through the 12th grade.
MJCA's stated mission is "to partner with families in developing students to think, live, and lead based upon a Biblical world view."
All administrative offices have been moved to the Keller Williams Realty Building, 2031 N. Mt. Juliet Road.
In the wake of both tornado damage and the COVID-19 virus, all classes have converted to "distance learning" with online lessons.