Is Your Pastor or Priest a Man of Action? Check Out Pastor Stephen Grant in, for example, WINE INTO WATER: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL, MURDERER'S ROW: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL and THE RIVER: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL by Ray Keating

Pastor Stephen Grant?

Stephen Grant is the pastor at St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on eastern Long Island. Grant is one of the more unique second-career clergy around, as he once worked for the CIA. Besides theology, his interests include archery, golf, writing, classic films, the beach, poker, baseball, and history. Grant also knows his wines, champagnes and brews. Oh yes, he generally dislikes politicians, and happens to be an expert marksman with a handgun and a rifle, while being pretty handy with a combat knife as well.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Should the Mark Zuckerbergs of the World Donate to Public Schools, or Is There a Better Option?

The news broke in late May that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was donating $120 million to San Francisco-area public schools. And four years ago, Zuckerberg gave $100 million to Newark, NJ, public schools.

Throwing more money at government-run schools makes no sense to me. There's a far better option for wealthy individuals if they want to make a real difference in the lives of children. Rather than feeding a political system dedicated to assorted special interests, they should give to private schools, especially parochial schools, such as Catholic and Lutheran schools.

I spelled it out as a subplot in Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel. Consider the chapter that follows:





Chapter 22



Part of Mike Vanacore’s story seemed to be a replay of others’ in the computer, digital, broadband economy.
The thirty-two-year-old billionaire fell in love with electronics and computers while growing up in Hawthorne, California, which happened to be the Beach Boys’ hometown. Vanacore’s hard-working parents supported his interests and talents as best they could, and rejoiced when his excellent grades in high school, particularly in math and science, earned him a full ride to the School of Engineering at Stanford University.
Since they were intense gamers, Vanacore and two college friends decided to do more than complain about the shortcomings of various video games. By their sophomore year, they were consumed by creating their own video games, and managed to generate some buzz. Vanacore’s buddies, however, moved on under parental pressure when grades slipped badly.
But Vanacore had little trouble maintaining high marks, while at the same time creating a video game business.
He found a couple of angel investors to provide start-up capital, and by his senior year, Corevana Entertainment had grown to more than 100 employees, and $30 million in sales.
But rather than dropping out to focus exclusively on his firm, as other young tech turks had done, Vanacore finished his degree. After graduation, Corevana’s growth only accelerated, and its initial public offering made Mike Vanacore a billionaire at the age of 26.
Along the way, Vanacore became known in various circles for maintaining his Christian faith taught to him growing up. Compared to some of his fellow tech nerds, who earned reputations for power trips and/or wild parties that came with newfound wealth, Vanacore was highlighted now and then in the business media for being, well, Christian.
As the U.S. Episcopal Church wandered away from the traditional Episcopal parish of his childhood, Vanacore actually spoke out. Some in the Episcopal Church took notice given his wealth and youth, but he was quickly discounted as just another “conservative” who refused to change with the culture. Some noted the irony of such criticisms given how he made his fortune.
When Vanacore decided to buy a home across the country on Long Island as an occasional escape from his California-based business, he stumbled upon St. Bart’s one Sunday. He apparently fell in love with the beautiful, castle-like stone church set on four lakeside acres in Eastport, and most importantly, with what was being taught and preached in the building. When the parish decided to leave the Episcopal Church, eventually joining the Anglican Church in North America, it was Vanacore who ponied up a majority of the funds needed to purchase St. Bart’s property from the local Episcopal diocese.
Vanacore was now expanding his charitable giving into primary and secondary education. His plan was to use his wealth to make substantive changes in individual local public schools, that is, in the kind of school he attended.
But his parish priest, Father Tom Stone, was about to ask Vanacore to listen to an alternative.
On the way out of Mass on Saturday night, Stone asked Vanacore if he had a little time to talk.
Ten minutes later, they were seated in Stone’s office, talking across the priest’s unique redwood, surfboard-shaped desk. A friend and parishioner had the desk specially made as a gift, given Stone’s off-duty love of wearing Hawaiian shirts, and his high school and college years spent living and surfing in southern California.
In fact, though about 20 years apart, Stone and Vanacore shared more than a common faith, but also a southern California connection.
Vanacore ran his right hand along the front of the desk. “As I said before, you have the best desk ever. A surfboard. Love it.”
“It was a gift from Clint Gullett. Handmade. It’s a great reminder of my California days. I’m sure he’d be glad to let you know who makes them,” replied Stone.
“I’ll ask him. So, when was the last time you hit the surf?”
Stone laughed. “It’s been at least, what, 25 years.”
Vanacore slipped into a mock surfer voice, and declared, “Dude, we have to remedy that.”
With his thin, tall frame, topped off by thick blond hair, and Clark Kent glasses, it was easy to see Vanacore moving comfortably in either the video gaming or surfing communities.
The young billionaire continued, “But I’m sure you didn’t ask me to stop by to talk about surfing.”
Stone replied, “No. Ever since you told me about the education foundation you’re starting up, something has been nagging at me. But I was not sure if it was my place to say anything, and then I got a call this morning.”
“Tom, you know I’m open to hearing your ideas and thoughts on anything, and considering that you’re a priest, and therefore, you teach people, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind.”
“I appreciate that. I know your focus is on targeting and helping select public schools.”
“Right.”
“Have you thought about supporting parochial schools instead, or as well?’
Vanacore paused. “Well, not really. I went to public schools growing up, and that’s kind of guided my thinking on this.”
“I can understand that. But given what you’ve told me about your childhood and your parents, do you think they would have sent you to a Christian school if they could have afforded it?”
“Actually, I have no doubt about that. I remember overhearing them talking about it late into the night at the kitchen table, and regretting they couldn’t afford it.”
“Today, it’s even tougher. Most families simply can’t take on the added cost of a religious education for their kids.”
“Like my parents. I understand that. But does it matter? I went to public school, and it was my parents, our priest and parish that kept me in the faith.”
“I’d say you were very lucky then. Given the state of our culture, it’s not easy to keep kids strong and active in the faith. Listen, Maggie and I have sent all our children to parochial school, and they obviously have gotten an up-close-and-personal church experience growing up as well. But when you consider the impact that schools have on children, just given the time spent in school and what’s being taught, there is that possibility of what’s being taught at home getting undermined in school. We only saw the upside in sending the kids to parochial school.”
“Yeah, that used to drive my parents nuts. My father complained about having to undo what was being done in school at times.”
“Now think about how many parents don’t even know what’s going on and being taught in school, or when they do know, not having the confidence to take it on, like your father did.”
Vanacore took his glasses off, and chewed on one of its arms. After a few seconds, he put the glasses back on his face. “Okay, Tom, you make a good case. What more were you thinking? What was the call about that stirred you to set up this little meeting?”
“As you know, the school that Maggie and I sent the kids to, and still send one, is St. Luke’s Catholic School. It’s been a tremendous blessing. And by the way, make no mistake, you can send your children to what you think is a faithful, traditional Christian school, and even then it unfortunately can turn out to be something different. But that most certainly has not been the case with St. Luke’s.”
“Well, that’s good.”
“Absolutely. However, there is a lot of uncertainty about the school’s future, given recent closings of Catholic schools. I’m not asking this because of my family’s link, but because St. Luke’s is a great place and it’s in the midst of planning how to grow and secure its future. I thought it would be an ideal opportunity for you to talk to the people who run a quality parochial school, see what the school offers, and consider the challenges it faces.” Stone paused. “I can set up a meeting or meetings with Father Burns and Father McDermott, the principal, Mrs. Fleming, staff, parents, whatever. What do you think?”
“I would love to meet with the people at St. Luke’s.”
“That’s great. Shall I set it up?”
Vanacore smiled. “Yes, but on one condition.”
“What’s that?”
“Before the end of the year, you have to promise to come out to my place in California and go surfing. The entire family is invited, and you’ll fly on my jet.”
“Mike, that’s really nice, but I …”
“No ‘buts,’ Tom. Either you promise to get back on the board at my place, or no deal on meeting with St. Luke’s.”
It was Stone’s turn to smile. “You drive a hard bargain, Mike. Take a free trip to surf in California, or else? What can I say, but yes, and thanks?”
“It’ll be sick.”
After Mike left, Tom called a friend for a little guidance on the economics of education.



Get Root of All Evil? at

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