published Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Tranquility base: Prayer room offers serene retreat for Silverdale Academy headmaster

Becky Hansard, the headmaster of Silverdale Baptist Academy, reads in her "prayer room" complete with students art and scripture border at her Harrison residence.
Becky Hansard, the headmaster of Silverdale Baptist Academy, reads in her "prayer room" complete with students art and scripture border at her Harrison residence.
Photo by Dan Henry.
  • photo
    Becky Hansard reads in the prayer room that her husband and son created for her in an unused computer room in their Harrison home. A stained-glass window of a pastoral scene provides a tranquil view from the seating area.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

Colorfully traced, overlapping handprints splash high-fives across a whiteboard hanging in Becky Hansard's home. Each hand represents a student at Silverdale Baptist Academy who has signed the palm and jotted down a favorite Scripture verse.

"I read their verses out loud and pray for them individually," says Hansard, headmaster at Silverdale Baptist Academy.

Late Monday night, Hansard placed her hand to that of sophomore Allison Meadows on the whiteboard. At that moment, Allison was in surgery in Pittsburgh, Pa., being treated for knife wounds she'd sustained Monday afternoon during an unprovoked attack at a Target in Pennsylvania. Stabbed in the right arm and the back, which deflated her lung, Allison is expected to recover fully.

"Came to my prayer room in my home to pray for our Allison," the headmaster later posted on Facebook. "Touched her handprint that she put on my wall and claimed the verse she put as her favorite months ago while at our Bible study."

That verse: Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart."

The headmaster says the whiteboard is a continual source of inspiration within her prayer room, a serene retreat made out of an unused computer space in the downstairs playroom of her Harrison home. The prayer room was originally created to provide comfort during a time of personal crisis, says Hansard, but it continues to offer solace almost two years later.

The computer room was remodeled in one week's time by her husband, Rick, marketing director for Chattanooga Coca-Cola Bottling Co., and son Sam, now a sophomore at Silverdale Baptist Academy.

The impetus for the prayer room began on her birthday in March 2011, when Hansard was diagnosed with invasive, Stage 2 breast cancer after several months of tests to find the source of her extreme anemia.

"Once we found out what it was, it was still a shock," she says. "We found there were so many decisions to make, so much to consider. I had to decide when to tell -- my mom is elderly and I didn't want to worry her -- and it was right at the school's re-enrollment time."

The educator says she realized "it wasn't just a diagnosis for us" but one that rippled across Silverdale Academy communities of students, parents, faculty and staff.

"Rick and I would get by ourselves, a lot of times after Sam had gone to bed, seeking the Lord's direction. When I realized what solace I got from that quiet time, I told Rick I wished there was a quiet place in our home that, as I went through treatment, I could just talk to the Lord," she explains.

Choosing the 5-foot-by-8-foot computer room because the pastoral scene in its stained-glass window set a tranquil mood, her guys began remodeling.

The black/white/red/gray color scheme was decided by a painting of Jesus' face her students made her when she began treatment. Rick and Sam painted the walls a soft gray with white trimwork, cleaned the room's carpeting, and gave white wicker chairs a coat of black paint to contrast their comfy red cushions.

"The entire time Rick and Sam were making the room, I read Scripture out loud and played praise music," she recalls.

The guys stenciled borders in black paint around the top of the walls declaring "Be still and know that I am God" and "For we walk by faith, not by sight." Canvas wall hangings themed to prayer were finishing touches.

"We based it all on faith and prayer," says the headmaster. "Faith that, however it turned out, it was going to be OK. I'd either be healed here or in heaven."

Angie Sterzik, family friend and Silverdale Academy staff member, describes the room as "a calming, soothing environment. It really is where you can go sit down and listen to what the Lord has to tell you."

Hansard finished her cancer treatment in August 2011 and is still on the drug tamoxifen. The prayer room remains her place for quiet meditation and, since the addition of the handprints, has taken on new inspiration.

She says she comes down each night after school, journals memorable events of the day, prays for her students and "whatever else is pressing on my mind."

Silverdale Academy senior Cameron Gonzalez says students learned about the prayer room through word of mouth after Hansard began inviting classes to her home following cancer treatments.

"When I first heard, it kind of took me back for a second. But then I realized how much she must care and how fortunate we are," says the student.

His mom, Dianne Gonzalez, agrees.

"To know that the headmaster of my sons' school is praying for students and faculty, as busy as she is, is very important to me because I believe so strongly in the power of prayer. I think it's a pretty neat thing."

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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