{ Hors d’œuvres & Honor: An Evening at Hope Academy }

Last night, we attended a fundraiser for a school located in the toughest part of Minneapolis. It’s an unlikely place to find a treasure, but Hope Academy is a gem.


I was welcomed by a young student who escorted me—yes, he held out his elbow and ushered me—into the school building. The entryway and halls were decorated with first grade art, smiling faces and glimpses of engaging classrooms.

Under the sparkling lights that crisscrossed the gym ceiling, I listened to the student choir sing and sipped my sparkling water. Finishing my plate of hors d’œuvres, I gazed up at the screen, which read: IMAGO DEI – image of God.

Founder Russ Gregg took charge of the microphone and explained the IMAGO DEI model at Hope Academy. Recognizing that every person is made in the image of God–IMAGO DEI– it’s important to honor each other.

When we do, we uplift the God who created each of us.

Then Gregg revealed the touching birth story of Hope Academy.

Russ and his wife Phyllis are devoted Christ followers.  When they started house-hunting, they knew they wanted to live where they could reach out to their neighbors.

They bought a house in the Phillips neighborhood – and got lots of neighbors.  They chose to plant themselves in the neediest neighborhood in Minneapolis, where they could generously give away God’s love and grace. They got to know and love their neighbors.

When their kids got older, they looked past the local public schools, and opted for a ten-minute drive to a private Christian academy.

Russ explained how he would drive past neighborhood schoolkids each day, waving good morning on the way to his kids’ private school.

“I’d pray: God, can’t You send somebody to help them?”

God smiled and said, “I have—and that person is you.”

So, in response to God’s prompting and providing, Hope Academy was born.

It’s a unique inner-city school, and I felt privileged to learn what makes Hope Academy special.

Uniformed, but beautifully diverse, Hope’s students radiate enthusiasm and love for their teachers. Hope Academy urges both students and parents to take responsibility for education. Teachers discuss educational and character progress with parents. Each family pays a portion of school expenses; donations provide the rest. Churches, businesses and families can sponsor individual students, tour the school and read to their sponsored student. It’s another way to connect, thank and encourage; another way to remind everyone of the IMAGO DEI mindset.

Students receive a quality education at less than half the cost of what the local public school uses to educate a student.  Sports, mission trips and other enriching activities are part of the package, and the common thread in everything is the honor-giving IMAGO DEI worldview.

As I funneled out with the happy crowd, I reflected:

  • The transformed lives, dedicated staff and noble school mission inspired me.
  • The radiant students, quality education and financial stewardship impressed me.
  • And, as I walked out the door, I felt involved.

Involved—not only in the mission of Hope Academy, but in the larger, awesome task of honoring the IMAGO DEI in everyone I encounter.

“…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”—Luke 10:27

© Lisa M. Luciano 😊



Word prompt of the day: neophyte –a beginner, a learner…

{ Bde Maka Ska: my quick journey to acceptance }



One historic summer, I started a daily exercise routine: biking around the lake.

Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun are like twin sisters, nestled in a lovely part of south Minneapolis.

After work, my brother and I would bike 1.8 miles to the nearest one– Lake Harriet– loop 2.99 miles around the lake, then home.

I grew to love the trip, the lakes, and the loss of ten pounds that summer.

Now I live 50 miles west of Minneapolis.  I rarely visit the lakes, so on a recent jaunt into the cities,  I was surprised when I noticed the sign showing the name change from Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska. This is its original Dakota name and it means “White Earth Lake.”

Lake Calhoun was named after John C. Calhoun and apparently, his character was in question.

I rolled my eyes.

“Why do we have to be so politically correct?”

I stumbled through my made-up phonetic version of “Bde Maka Ska” and complained that it was hard to say.

My daughter was in the back seat and started digging to find facts about John C. Calhoun and why he was out of favor.

We found out:

  • Calhoun was a political figure through two presidential terms: Democrat senator, Secretary of War, and Vice President under Andrew Jackson.
  • The lake was named after him when he sent surveyors to map the area around Fort Snelling.
  • He actively advocated the benefits of slavery and Indian removal.

So, I pondered this.

Typically, I do not embrace change very quickly.

But why should I defend this deceased man and his right to have a lake named after him?

Although his values may have been the norm for many Southerners in the 1800’s, they are offensive to most people now.

Then, my daughter played the proper pronunciation of the Bde Maka Ska on her phone.

It sounds like “Bih—DAY – Makaska (rhymes with “Uh SAY, I’ll boss ya!).

Hearing its musical Native American name aloud put me over the edge.

I was converted.

But I have one request: please don’t find any dirt on Harriet Lovejoy, namesake of that other lake.

The one next to the beautiful Bde Maka Ska.

© Lisa M. Luciano