Maranatha Christian Academy graduate Anna Hoduski first discovered her pro-life passion as an MCA fifth grader. Today, she’s racing across America to spread awareness and combat abortion. Meet Anna Hoduski.
Anna (right) and her Project If Life team members
Anna as a Maranatha student: Anna attended Maranatha from kindergarten through her senior graduation and loved her time as an MCA Eagle. “My time there built me up in my Christianity in so many ways,” Anna says. She particularly treasured the chance to make Christian friends, study under Christian teachers and develop a Christian worldview. She was encouraged to love God steadfastly, despite what the world is like. “Now that I am graduated, I am happily loving the Lord and still strongly connected with the Christian friends I made while a student at Maranatha.”
How she connected with the pro-life movement: Anna’s dedication the pro-life movement was first sparked as a fifth grade student in Mrs. Steinbrink’s class. “Mrs. Seinbrink had such a heart for life and such a love for the unborn,” Anna recalls. “We did so many arts and crafts about being pro-life and all the scripture we memorized was based on pro-life. She was a wonderful influence on me and changed my life that year.” Ever since, Anna has been hungry to contribute to the movement herself.
From passion to project: “My passion to combat abortion continued all the way into college, but I didn’t know how to make my passion into an action,” Anna says — that is, until she started training for a half marathon. “The Lord laid it on my heart to run across America for the equality of the unborn. Anna’s organization, Project If Life, was born.
Project If Life, defined: “Project If Life is a run across America, from Kansas City to LA and then from Kansas City to D.C.,” Anna explains. Over the course of the 3,000-mile run, Anna is speaking in churches, at youth groups, Bible studies, pregnancy centers and more. The message is simple — “We educate people on abortion, teach them that there is hope and then teach them how to get involved.”
$2K and a car: “I had no idea where the funds would come from or where we would get a vehicle, but God told my team and I to go, so we did,” she says. God’s provision came through $2,000 and a vehicle, and Anna and her team launched their project on July 23, 2016. They held their launch at Maranatha, where Anna’s pro-life passion began. “Most of the people who came out to support us were Maranatha friends and family. Maranatha has proven to be a family to me.”
The Project If Life team: Anna, as the runner and speaker, isn’t going it alone. The crew also includes writer and web content manager Sarah-Marie Hoduski, trainer Nicholas Hoduski and project manager Megan Maier. Sarah-Marie and Nicholas are Anna’s fellow MCA grads, while Megan is a college friend. “With this team, we have successfully completed running across Kansas, Colorado and more than half of Utah,” Anna reports.
How her Maranatha experience cultivated her character: “Maranatha did not just teach their curriculum from a Christian worldview, but taught me the importance of possessing and developing a Christian worldview myself,” Anna says. After graduating, she worked with many non-Christians, and her faith was put to the test. “But so many of the lessons that I learned from my Christian teachers and my Christian friends helped me to stay true to the Lord. Even today I see how much I have been blessed because of my Christian education and my Christian background. I am so thankful for the friends I was surrounded with and for the godly atmosphere I was so privileged to grow up in,” Anna says.
The Maranatha legacy: “I can hardly count the blessings that I have encountered from having been raised by so many Christian people and brought up with so many Christian friends,” Anna says. “I love that I still hang out with my friends that I’ve had since kindergarten or first grade. We still build each other up in the Lord and are still growing together into who our Savior wants us to be.” And prospective Maranatha parents, Anna wants you to listen up — as an alumni, Anna cannot recommend Maranatha highly enough. “If anyone is considering whether or not to send their child to Maranatha, know the answer is that they should,” she shares.
At the Webb home, it’s certainly a full house. Maranatha teacher Travis Webb and his wife Kristy have a total of 11 children, 10 of whom were adopted. Their oldest son, Nathanael, is 20, with four-year-old Isabella rounding out the group. Strong Christian family is at the center of everything we do at Maranatha, and that same heart extends to the Webb family.
Mr. Webb and his wife, Kristy, met while they were college students at Baylor University, and soon discovered a common calling to adopt. “We’d both considered adoption even before we met, and when we started dating, it was something we discussed fairly early on,” Mr. Webb says.
Their Christian faith was a driving force behind the decision to adopt, Mr. Webb continues. “Adoption is used in scripture to explain our relationship to God, and it is a symbol of the spiritual reality of what God has done for us,” he says.
In part because of the time they’d each spent in Africa, they started their family with adoptions in Ethiopia and Liberia, later adopting two foster children in the United States. Several Webb children attend Maranatha, and the MCA community had rallied around the entire Webb family.
“At Maranatha, the faculty has done an amazing job of coming alongside our kids and treating them just like every other kid here,” says the Cultural Geography and Ancient History teacher. “We’ve been very fortunate.”
The Webb family has appreciated Maranatha’s PETS program — that’s short for Prayer, Encouragement and Treats. MCA parents spend a year rallying around a specific teacher and that teacher’s family. “Every year I’ve been at Maranatha, families have come alongside me as a teacher and supported us, with things like gift cards and favorite coffee . . . it’s been a blessing to us.”
Informally, a group of families with a heart for the Webbs have banded together to offer support. “They pretty regularly bring us dinner, or groceries we can turn into dinner. Because of the number of kids we have to feed on a regular basis, it’s a big blessing that they’ve endeavored to do this for our family,” he says. The group has even give the Webbs holiday dinners for Easter and Thanksgiving.
“We know other families who have adopted in places not quite as open as Maranatha, and it’s been more challenging for them,” Mr. Webb says. “I’ve been fortunate that Maranatha has accepted our family.
As a Cultural Geography and Ancient History teacher, Mr. Webb often has occasion to talk about family and cultural differences in his classroom. “We talk about the definition of family in different cultures especially, and I always incorporate the idea that these are important subjects for the students to talk about with their parents,” he explains. “We study history and geography, but ultimately that’s for the purpose of knowing who God is, why we’re here and understanding the Gospel and our role as his creation.”
In and out of the classroom, Maranatha offers a compassionate, Christian family environment. “We are thankful for the opportunity to have adopted and to share our journey with the Maranatha community — and hopefully, our family is a visible representation of what God has done for us through Christ.”
Growing up, Duane Cilke never felt at home in the English classroom. Junior and Senior year were particularly frustrating, when he earned a D in English both years. “I didn’t apply myself academically as well as I should have,” he says. It was in his first English Composition class at junior college that Mr. Cilke found his calling, thanks to affirmation from his professor. Today, as a Maranatha English teacher, Mr. Cilke strives to offer that same encouragement to his students as he integrates faith into the classroom.
The life-changing assignment was about a line in a William Wordsworth poem. Mr. Cilke invested time in the assignment, and a week later, he earned an A on the essay. But more significant than the high grade was the encouragement his professor offered in the margin, calling him articulate and saying that he had a great gift. “The comment in the margin of a paper changed the trajectory of my life,” Mr. Cilke says.
“That was a pivotal point in my life, and the affirmation is still meaningful to me today,” Mr. Cilke recalls. “Because of that, there was a spark in me — if someone could make that kind of investment in me, maybe I could make that kind of investment in others.” He later transferred to Evangel University, where he earned his degree in English.
Mr. Cilke’s inspiration for integrating faith into his classes stems in part from his passion for a Biblical worldview. Two trainings towards the start of his career — one with Summit Ministries and one with the forerunner of Association of Christian Schools International — were especially significant. “Since then, I’ve done everything I can to equip myself to articulate a Biblical worldview,” Mr. Cilke explains.
“Some schools set up their curriculum, and then they add a Bible class or a chapel or a devotional, making it a Christian school,” Mr. Cilke reflects. “But the difference with Maranatha is that Christ is at the center of all we do and is the hub that keeps everything else in perspective.” It’s with this mindset that Mr. Cilke makes faith and a Biblical worldview part of his curriculum in the English classroom.
Mr. Cilke’s sophomore English students study Homer’s The Odyssey and complete a thorough companion project calling them to reflect on their own life events and themes. “These students explore their souls and passions and what God is calling them to do,” Mr. Cilke says.
Also as sophomores, students write a position paper. Past topics have included abortion, human trafficking and immigration. They explore sources on both sides, then write their opinion backed by their research, exploring the role faith plays in the large issues of our time.
Mr. Cilke’s seniors write a thorough career paper, the culmination of assessments on spiritual gifts, their heart and passion, abilities, personality and experience. “We’re wonderfully and fearfully made and we’re unique, so this assignment helps students consider how they can glorify God in the optimal way based on how they are gifted.”
Faith integration is paramount not only to large-scale assignments, but to daily class discussions too. Recently, one of Mr. Cilke’s classes studied a poem by William Wordsworth that mentions the exhilaration of reflecting on nature. The discussion included Psalm 19, which considers the glory of God in creation.
And integrating faith extends beyond the curriculum: it’s part of Mr. Cilke’s relationships with students too. “I’m constantly praying for the kids and looking for opportunities to affirm them and encourage them.”
Mr. Cilke recalls a sophomore who was bright, yet kept to himself. “I felt called to encourage him,” he says. “I said, you have incredible ability and I believe you could do anything you want to do — but you’re not going to believe what God has for you if you start seeking him with all your heart! You can use your ability for yourself or use your ability as a servant.” That moment marked a 180-degree change in the young man. They’ve since kept in touch, and today, the MCA graduate is enrolled in seminary at Princeton.
“The bottom line for me is not that Jesus is an add-on or an addition to curriculum. He’s the core of our being, and the core of our classes here,” Mr. Cilke says. “My passion in everything is to see high capacity leaders realize their God-given redemptive potential.”