About 14 years ago I was in the coffee bar area and it suddenly occurred to me that there was great potential within the building for starting a pre-school. I had been involved in pre-schools previously, but hadn’t particularly been looking to go back into that occupation.
The more I thought about the possibility of a pre-school in the Church building, the more I realised that it wasn’t just an idea or thought – but that God was stirring me and that this was actually a vision that he was giving me. I didn’t search for scripture, but was definitely given the verse in
Isaiah 54 v 2
Enlarge the place of your tent
Stretch your tent curtains wide
Do not hold back
Lengthen your cords
Strengthen your stakes
For you will spread out to the right and to the left.
[This became quite amusing to staff over the years, each time we were able to take over more of the building space!]
Once I realised that God was speaking to me, two people came to my mind Caroline Watkins and Sue Ozzard ( I didn’t know either of them that well which seems absurd to me now!!). In my initial talks with them it became obvious that they would be the people that I would start a pre-school with. After much fundraising and grants (I never wanted to be a financial drain on the Church, and we never have been) and renovating, our precious Little Acorns Pre-school opened in September 2000 with 3 staff and about 5 children!
Over the years we have grown into a very well respected and established Pre-school. We have around 50 families a year – most of who are not connected with the Church. Our aim was and still is to provide a safe, nurturing environment, to reach out to the community – to demonstrate our faith in God, not by words, but by our commitment and genuine love and care for the children and their families.
Once we were established I was given another scripture Isaiah 45 v 2
I will go before you and level the mountains
I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron
I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places.
I felt that the treasures/riches were these families that we were being given, chosen by God, for us to become a very important part of their lives, to be people they could totally trust and to be a witness of the love of God.
For me personally, I have had the privilege to have worked for 11 1/2 yrs with the most dedicated and loyal staff, in an environment which is unique, and nothing like that of a working environment of the world (Caroline, Sue and I have never fallen out!) Our staff at present are Pam Grosvenor, Emma Lucy, Tina Medley, Lucy Small and Debbie Newton. In the past we have worked with Helen Beecham, Ann Branson, Rachel Gosling, Bethan Venn and Julia Burton.[by Anne Clowrey]
Looking back and remembering the origins of Little Acorns I find it incredibly exciting and encouraging. It began with Anne having an idea, sharing it with others – who started to daydream together about what God might be saying, and finally dare to believe that actually it might be something quite big that could impact the area. I’m so glad we were brave enough and actually stepped out of our comfort zone together.
Before pre-school opened I clearly remember receiving this word:
“I want to reach out to the community and the way I can do this is through My people who I have been put in this place for a purpose. To be used in areas in which they are already gifted and known to those around them. To use them naturally – supernaturally, so they aren’t trying to be something they are not.
Friendships and acquaintances that have been formed are not co-incidental, but are all part of My bigger plan. Experiences you’ve gained over the years are all to bring about what will happen now. Be ready and willing to seek My face and ask me each step of the way, for I have the finer details in mind.”
I think this is still relevant now and in fact is for everyone in the church. A few weeks later I had this word also:
“My love to you is greater and more significant than you can imagine. No one can fully grasp what being outside of My love really means, for My love is demonstrated in so many forms. I am calling My people to rise up and become the ‘people of My love’ that I have called them to be. To be Jesus to the nations, and just as Jesus reached out – I want you to. To weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that are glad. To be a friend to sinners – but to make the difference. To stand out and be proud of who you are in Christ.”
Our hope now that this is becoming our testimony, as we aim to love the children and families in our care. We hold onto these verses that God showed us:
“They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour.” Isaiah 61 v 3.
“Lift up your eyes and look about you: all assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy.” Isaiah 60 v 4,5.
I felt God gave us these to encourage us and make us aware of the impact we are having on so many families in the area. He showed me this after chatting to an ex-pre-schooler and mum in Tesco!
In recent years we have been able to offer work experience placements to school and college students, as well as adults undergoing an NVQ. At present we have Bernice Mullen and Carolyn Stokes volunteering with us. It is great to demonstrate high quality care and education in a professional yet God-loving atmosphere to those that visit Little Acorns. This is another aspect of what I believe God wants us to do.
Please pray for us as a pre-school team, as we continually need to keep up with new government initiatives and legislation, yet want to maintain what God envisions us to do, to keep Him central.[by Sue Ozzard]
Little Acorns main room – where children can experience a wide range of toys and resources to learn through active hands on play
Our book corner area now has a smart board in it. The gym is used to develop children’s physical skills through co-ordination and spatial awareness.
At whole group times (such as register time, story time and singing) children sit on a mat. The pre school garden has planting and digging areas.
We now have a giant sandpit at the far end of the garden which the children can climb into.
Role play and small world toys give the children the opportunity to develop imaginative play with peers.