Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Chris Tomlin – "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" (2006)

My chains are gone 
I've been set free 

It takes a special kind of faith to view death not as something to be feared, but as something that sets one free from his or her earthly chains.

The family of Teressa Rosalind French – a 16-year-old student at Covenant Life School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, who was struck and fatally injured by a speeding car while walking near her school on January 24, 2014 – possesses that special kind of faith.  

Teressa Rosalind French
The Teressa Rosalind French Foundation, which honors Teressa’s life on earth by providing scholarships and grants that enable students to attend Christian schools and camps and participate in worthy faith-based activities, represents the transformation of that faith into something tangible. 

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Among other things, Teressa was a popular member of the Covenant Life basketball team.  A friend of hers told the Washington Post that she was “so exuberant that she even smiled when she once scored a basket for the other team.”

“She was always happy, always smiling,” according to that friend. “Biggest encourager on the team. . . . She would pick everybody up.”

So it’s fitting that the “Teressa French Tip Off Basketball Tournament” is held each year at Covenant Life to raise public awareness of her foundation.  

I first became aware of the Teressa Rosalind French Foundation when I was assigned to referee one of the tournament games last November.

Later I spoke to Teressa’s mother, Monika French, about her daughter and the foundation’s mission.

2 or 3 lines:  Mrs. French, your foundation’s website states that it was established “to honor Teressa Rosalind French for her lively and lovely spirit and to ensure her influence continues for generations to come.”  As I understand it, the money raised by the foundation is used to provide scholarships and grants to young students to encourage their Christian education and spiritual growth.  

Mrs. French:  The Christian schools where we offer scholarships – schools like Covenant Life School and Rock Academy in San Diego, which Teressa attended when our family lived there – encourage students to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ while also providing a distinguished, well-rounded education.  But private schools can be expensive, and many families need financial help in order to be able to send their children there.  We also provide grants to members of church youth groups so they can go on mission trips to share the gospel.

2 or 3 lines:  Involvement is athletics is one of the criteria you use to choose scholarship recipients.  Tell us about Teressa’s involvement in athletics, and why you think participation in sports benefits students.

Mrs. French:  Teressa played soccer, basketball and softball.  She won the “Most Improved Player” award from both her basketball and her softball coaches.  I was raised to play a sport for each semester, and I passed that on to my children.  Being active is important for good health, and Teressa enjoyed the  camaraderie of being a team member.  

2 or 3 lines:  You give special consideration to military dependents when it comes to choosing scholarship recipients.   

Mrs. French:  Yes, we do.  We believe that the children of those who serve in the military serve their country, too, and we want to honor that service.

2 or 3 lines: As the family of a Navy admiral, I’m sure that you moved around quite a bit.  Was it hard for Teressa to always be the new kid in class?

Teressa's high school classmates presented
 this award to her parents at graduation
Mrs. French:  Teressa lived in nine different places in her 16 years.  But moving to new places was never a problem for her.  She welcomed the opportunity to make new friends.  When Teressa turned 16, she wanted to invite everyone in her class from school to a Nationals baseball game – even though she was told by some of her friends that certain people in her class wouldn’t fit in.  But she invited everyone in her class, and all of them came.  It was a great 16th birthday!

2 or 3 lines:  I know you have a fundraising event for your foundation coming up soon.  Tell us about it.

Mrs. French:  On Saturday, May 19, we’re holding the “Sweet-T 5K Benefit Walk” at Covenant Life School in Gaithersburg, Maryland – Teressa’s school – to not only raise money but also to get the word out about the work of the Teressa Rosalind French Foundation.   There will be food, music, and fellowship, and everyone is welcome.  But we especially encourage church youth groups to attend the walk so they can learn more about the scholarships and grants that the foundation offers.  Registration for the walk is now open, and you can click on this link to register for or get more information about the event.

Some of the participants at last year’s
“Sweet-T 5K Benefit Walk”
2 or 3 lines:  Mrs. French, thank you for taking the time to tell us about Teressa and the foundation that you and her father have created to honor her by supporting the education and spiritual growth of other young people.  I wish the foundation much success in its endeavors.

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“Amazing Grace” – which was written by John Newton, a 18th-century English slave trader who later became an evangelical Anglican clergyman and outspoken abolitionist – is a very well-known and beloved hymn.  

Christian recording artist Chris Tomlin’s version of “Amazing Grace” – which combines Newton’s original verses with some new verses written by Tomlin – was a particular favorite of Teressa French.

Click here to listen to Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone),” which was released on his 2006 See the Morning album.

And click here to if you would like to honor Teressa French’s memory and support her family’s good works by contributing to the Teressa Rosalind French Foundation.

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