Children’s voices singing the youth anthem “Seek Ye First” filled the sanctuary of Ambassador Baptist Church, as nearly 200 students and faculty gathered to honor and bid farewell to administrator Robert Setzer from Heritage Christian School.
“Mr. Setzer has been involved in Christian education for over 40 years of service to Caldwell County,” said Heritage Christian School Board Member Phil Crump. “As many people know, this man of God drove buses, installed and demolished gymnasiums, cleaned toilets, changed filters, laid floors, polished floors, took out trash, threw mulch, mowed grass, cleaned up destruction by the flooding and all that on top of managing finances, teaching and ministering.
Wednesday (March 2) marked Setzer’s last day as school administrator. He will leave for a temporary duty assignment with Hearts With Hands to help refugees in Romania on Monday, March 7.
Robert Setzer and his wife, Audrey, are founding members of Heritage Christian School located at 239 Mt. Herman Road, Hudson, which was started as a collaborative effort among five churches in 1999 to provide choice in education Christian.
“As we look to the future, we are – and I am always aware of the gift you [Mr. Setzer] have given to Caldwell County – and for the cause of Christ,” said John Sawyer, pastor of Ambassador Baptist Church, as he began the ceremony.
Grade 5 teacher Elizabeth Hamby, sophomore Nicolas Hamby, accompanied by Heritage Christian School alumnus Matthew Baker, set the tone for the ceremony by singing “Goodness of God,” a song written by Bethel Music and Jenn Johnson.
One after another, teachers led their classes of elementary school students to stand before the altar to raise their voices in poetry and song in honor of the occasion.
Sunshine Meister, a high school teacher, said she has known the Setzer family all her life. When she was younger and attended Caldwell Christian School, Setzer was her principal and Mrs. Setzer was her kindergarten teacher. Meister has worked at the school as a teacher since its inception.
“It has been an honor and a privilege of my life to work with him and learn from him,” Meister said. “He is the very essence of servant leadership.”
Meister shared that whatever the task, whether it’s moving walls, painting or even cleaning toilets, Setzer was at the forefront of getting the job done and leading by example.
“He wasn’t a picture, he wasn’t the man in the tie – he was the man in the work boots. He served as a worker – that’s absolute servant leadership,” Meister said, speaking of Setzer’s dedication to the school and willingness to take on duties beyond administration.
“He has a heart for the people, and he is part of it, he does not serve from the pedestal, he serves from the trenches. It was always about the hearts of students and helping families,” Meister said.
As Setzer delivered his brief farewell address to faculty and students, he focused on acknowledging teachers for all they do for the school and students.
“No school operates with just one administrator, never has — and I have a very deep appreciation for our teachers,” Setzer said.
Grade 4 teacher Ashley Baker has known the Sezter family since she was 2 years old. Setzer was her pastor when she was growing up. Baker attended Heritage Christian School between grades 7 and 12 and returned to school to serve as a teacher. Baker has taught at Heritage Christian for 11 years.
“He’s been there through every stage of my life, ups and downs. I was diagnosed with cancer last year and he went through it. Baker said as he reflected on the role Mr. Setzer played in his life. “He was a teacher, a preacher, a prayer warrior and a friend to me.”
“He’s very compassionate with people, an extremely hard worker, and he loves Christian education,” said Coleman Hamby, principal of Heritage Christian School, reflecting on Setzer’s role as an administrator. “This man has done it all.”
In addition to being a school administrator, Setzer served as pastor of Ambassador Baptist Church for 31 years, until two years ago.
Setzer works with Open Door Baptist Church in Hickory, where his son-in-law is a pastor, and will continue to do so. He will also continue his new mission of assisting a disaster relief team, Hearts With Hands, based in Asheville.
“I think it’s good for the county to know that there is an alternative to public schools, which are doing a great job.” said Audrey Setzer. “But it’s a bit different, it’s based on Christ and the Bible. We still have the academics like the other schools, but we incorporate Christian principles into our subjects.
The Setzers plan to continue to make service to Christ the center of their future.
“Jesus Christ is the most important thing in my life,” Mr. Setzer said. “I would encourage parents to be really sure that Jesus is just an absolute major part of their life – whether it’s work, education or worship, it all goes together. Home, school and church are absolutely essential to raising children successfully.
The Setzers expressed their appreciation and gratitude to everyone who has helped over the years.