On Mission in Martinsville | Linda Prillaman (MACE, 2020)

Alumni Spotlight

My husband, Lee, glanced over at me. “Should we retire early? Move to Martinsville?”

Martinsville—Lee’s hometown. A town financially devastated by the North American Free Trade Agreement and offshore takeover of the furniture and textile industries. A city whose economic disparity fragmented neighborhoods into the haves and have-nots.

“Nope. The beach sounds better.”

“Let’s just try it. On mission in Martinsville.”

“Let’s pray about it.” (If I couldn’t outright deny it, I might as well delay it.)

“We’re moving.”

And we did. Within six months of being “on mission” in Martinsville, Virginia, I was grateful for being within four hours of my parents. My dad suffered with ALS, and my mom was exhausted from being his sole provider. The move also opened the door to finishing my MACE with an emphasis in Children’s Ministry by traveling to various satellite sites and spending time with friends and family in those locations. While I completed various hybrid classes, I learned from amazing professors and was challenged by fellow students who were eager to “Teach Truth and Love Well.”

Finding an internship was complicated and, admittedly, my attitude needed adjustment. After fifteen years in children’s ministry, I was a little salty about being an intern. However, I am amazed at how God used those humble moments to grow me as His child. The complication of finding an internship were staggering. We were in a new town, most churches were legacy churches, the average age was seventy-two, and I often traveled to my parents. Lee and I finally decided to quit church shopping and stop at the church closest to us with a strong biblical foundation. Having just finished Ecclesiology with Dr. Svigel, we knew the right questions to ask when looking for in a new church family.

So, we joined McCabe Memorial and the pastor, Dr. G.H. Vaughn, agreed to be my internship sponsor. The plan was to start a family ministry outreach with a multigenerational approach.

Then, COVID-19 hit. Church moved outside and online. Gatherings stopped.

I stayed busy with my internship, but in unexpected ways. I taught Zoom discipleship classes with families, giving moms a break during the day. We developed a parent equipping blog to help parents get back to the basics of following Jesus as a family. I realized that I had been so busy “growing” a ministry that I completely lost sight of discipling the next generation.

After graduation, my internship rolled into opening a satellite learning center (called “The Center”) in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge at McCabe, where I served as the learning director. Our staff of eight partnered with thirty-five students from eight different schools. Our team assisted students with Zoom classes, homework, tutoring, and playing. Everything we did was built on a biblical worldview. Or, as my husband likes to say, “everything was sprinkled with the love of Jesus.” Elderly church members led music, acted in skits, played games, and donated all the supplies—including “workstations” and top-notch headphones for each student.

While serving the students, my heart was transformed with a new passion. I have always loved the University Model of Schooling: the model outlines the discipleship of children as the parent’s responsibility with the support of church and school. But I had met the “orphans,” children being raised by grandparents, elderly relatives, single parents—all doing the best they can to provide basic needs but unable to be the education partner that the UMSI model requires. What if the Church led the charge in discipling these students?

To do this, we are prayerfully planning to open Paratus (Latin for “be prepared”) in fall 2023. Paratus is a school that partners with families and the church, equipping students to think critically, live biblically, and lead courageously to impact the world as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our vision is to have graduates who will represent a generation of Jesus disciples who are fully equipped and ready to impact the world by serving according to their God-given mission. DTS has been a huge part of this journey, and I am continuing my education in the EdD program to gain wisdom about running a K-12 school from the very best.

Looking back to 2013, I could not have imagined being where I am today. I am grateful for Kelly Hawkins (MABC, 2016), who was serving with me on staff at a church in Houston. One day, she asked me, “Hey, do you want to audit a class I am taking at DTS?”

“Nope, I’m too old to go back to school, and I really wasn’t too good at it the first time around.”

When I brough it up to my husband, Lee, he glanced over at me. “After being on staff in a church and serving children for fifteen years, maybe you should go.”

“Let’s pray about it.” (If I couldn’t outright deny it…)

The next semester, I found myself in a classroom, beginning an adventure that would wind through DTS, Martinsville, and—Lord willing—a new school that will equip students to think critically, live biblically, and lead courageously to impact the world as disciples of Jesus Christ.