Thursday Jul 17 2008
Community Christian Schools founder chooses life
By: Tom Kellar Gold Country News Service
Becky Romness battles cancer as school moves into modular building
For people claiming to believe in a higher power, faith can be an easy word to toss around. Faith — trusting that God exists although he cannot be seen or known in a physical sense – can be much harder to actually live. You could argue that few will ever feel their faith tested to the extent that Lincoln’s Becky Romness has. Romness, the principal and co-founder of Community Christian Schools on the grounds of First Baptist Church on First Street, has seen her life turned upside down in the last year. First, she learned that her school would need to vacate several classrooms that it was using at First Baptist. Then, in March, she was informed by doctors that she had a rare form of inoperable cancer. “I was told that it’s a form of cancer that normally only older men in Japan get,” a smiling Romness said. “And now me.” Given the circumstances, it would be easy to forgive Romness some self-pity, some bitterness over the turn her life has taken. But according to those who know her best, her concern has been for those around her. Her resolve to keep the school she started going and beat the disease that threatens her life has been unyielding and her faith in a loving God unshakeable. Clay City Church pastor Jody Shorkey, a former associate pastor and youth director for First Baptist, remembers calling on Romness in the hospital after hearing of her illness. “I wondered what it would be like when I went to visit her,” Shorkey said. “I wondered if it would be sad, would the windows be drawn, would it be dark, would she be comatose, but when I walked into the room there was Becky Romness, sitting on top of the covers with a great big smile on her face and it lifted my heart. I asked her if it would be OK to visit and she said ‘you picked the perfect time.’” Romness and her family first arrived in Lincoln in 1994 to help to start Heritage Church. With a background in public education, it wasn’t long before she began to notice the lack of private schools in the Lincoln area. “I really felt God impressing upon me that I should start a school.” Romness said. A year later the wheels had been set in motion to open Community Christian. In the summer of 1995, Romness met with then-pastor George Dawson to discuss the possibility of the school using the facilities at First Baptist. “The church embraced the school and said, ‘Yes, this is a ministry we want to support,’” Romness said. “First Baptist has graciously housed our school since 1995.” In the beginning, she said, Community Christian Schools had little in the way of start-up money. The school’s initial enrollment numbered 14. To help launch the school, Romness, with the blessing of her husband, Bob, sold a piece of vacation property in Montana. “That was the beginning of our adventure,” Romness said. In its second year, a second teacher and classroom were added. Today, under the guidance of Romness, Community Christian Elementary is a fully functioning grammar school. Five years ago, a preschool program was added at another location. Enrollment at both schools is 135 children with a staff of 12. “We teach a very traditional curriculum in our school,” Romness said. “By the time our students reach kindergarten, they are reading. We teach cursive handwriting in the first grade and teach a very traditional math program. Our students do very well academically. Our second-graders are in the 80th percentile nationally on their test scores.” But this year, Romness said, the church leadership at First Baptist told her that Community Christian Schools would no longer be able to use its buildings. “The church has needs for their buildings that they don’t feel are compatible with our school,” she said. “This spring, it was decided they no longer wanted us to use two of the rooms in their Sunday school building. That created an immediate need for two new classrooms.” Community Christian Schools must add a modular classroom, then equip it with a fire-sprinkler system and a bathroom. “We are quite suddenly faced with $75,000 in expenses that we don’t have a budget for,” Romness said. “We have been very careful to operate the school in the black and have done so for a number of years. We budget very carefully and conduct three fundraisers a year to bridge the gap between our operating expenses and the money we take in through tuition.” Romness added that the school could borrow the funds, but she doesn’t want to put the school in debt. Several organizations in town currently are working to help raise money and provide help with construction. But the challenge Romness faces in moving Community Christian Schools forward pales in comparison with her battle for survival. After being diagnosed with cancer, Romness spent 18 days in the UC Davis hospital and was not given a very positive prognosis after it was discovered the cancer was considered stage four and spreading. “I spent about a day getting ready to die,” she said. “I’m an organizer and a planner and I wanted to be sure that Bob was going to be OK, and I was thinking about things like grief counselors for the school and those kinds of things. I wanted everything to be in place.” But then, she said, two family friends, both pastors, came to see her, each encouraging her to have faith. “I made a choice to live,” Romness said. “I told my doctors from that point on to treat me like I was going to live, not like I was going to die.” “People have been really encouraged by Becky’s outlook,” Bob Romness said. “She told everyone who came to the hospital to go back and give the people that knew Becky a good report and to be encouraged.” Romness has started chemotherapy and says she is heartened by the results. “For a long time I couldn’t eat anything,” she said. “I had to be fed intravenously, but I can eat now on my own and keep it down. My doctor is very pleased with how well I’m doing. He feels I’m making very good progress.” She becomes emotional when talking about the number of people who have shown concern over her illness. “I have people all over the United States praying for me,” Romness said. “It’s humbling. Many people are knocking at God’s door on my behalf and I fully expect to be completely healed and back to school in late fall.” In the 2007-08 Community Christian Schools student yearbook, there is a Bible verse that seems appropriate, given the faith of its founder and principal. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” For more information or to make a donation, call 645-6280 or go online to www.ccslincoln.com.