Port Austin Bible Campus
Letter of May 30, 2007
May the Eternal continue to bless you and your family with a meaningful life in Him. Even after years of reading the Bible and trying to live by its teachings, we do not outgrow the need for daily prayer, study and meditation. We must forever see the world, not as a place to procure things, power and pleasure; but as the place where our Father tests the hearts of those he loves (Ps 7:9; Prv 17:3; 1Th 2:4).
When people suffer sickness, or when families or church groups break up, our God is testing people to see what they will do. Yes, He has set in motion laws that will produce peace, happiness and long life. But He has also given us a chance to give our bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1; Gal 2:20), just as our Messiah and His apostles did. While the fruit of obedience is a long and peaceful life (Prv 3:1-2), they, as well as we, do give up these blessings for the sake of the Gospel.
THE DILEMMA CONTINUES
While it has now been over three years since we purchased the property here for PABC, I have seen no other good answer to the situation that faces nearly all of the smaller Sabbath-keeping groups: Most continue to grow in knowledge, but their congregations are in danger of dying out because most of their young people do not remain in them.
The importance of families and raising young people was brought out well in the latest (May-June 2007) issue of The Good News, a publication of the United Church of God, an International Association (PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, Oh 45254, 513-576-9796, www.ucg.org). In general, this is an excellent free magazine that is a blessing to hundreds of thousands of people. This particular issue had three articles to help families: How Can You Help Your Child Succeed?, Playing the “Dad Card”, and Your Child’s First Year: What Can You expect?
The first article, by Jerold Aust, contained a fictitious story of a couple who diligently raise their children in God’s way, and then continue to help as grandparents when their children continued the same practice. It offered “building blocks” to help parents achieve this worthwhile goal:
1. Set a good example for your children
2. Encourage your child to read and communicate
3. Extend your child’s educational opportunities
4. Teach your children godly morals
5. Never stop sharing yourself with your children
I believe that these are good principles and I know many Sabbatarian parents who have worked diligently to follow them. I could expound how they did that in detail, but their children still frequently stop attending Sabbatarian services—even stop attending any church service. This usually happens when the young person leaves the parents’ home—or when they are emotionally ready to leave, even though they may not physically leave. Such young people are in the state of mind where if the parents were to require church attendance or else cut off all financial support, the teen would probably not back down, but would rely on his/her friend’s for support.
This can happen even when a child’s home environment was largely good. Young people look at the lives of other young people and their parents who do not attend their congregation, and they see good things happening there, too. Plausible alternative ways to conduct one’s life are continually offered by high schools, colleges and the electronic media. While the young person may have liked their upbringing, it too often appears to them that Sabbatarian congregations are having so little effect on the world that it is not worth the great effort required to remain within them.
Now it is certainly true that young people who greatly depart from the ways of God will begin to feel the effects of living in sin. Many will later repent and want to return to the ways in which they were raised. But there are things that a parent can and must do to help their young people avoid those intermediate years of departure from God. A parent needs to fulfill two more important tasks not covered by the article:
6. Teach their children to develop their own commitment to God. This includes the young person, on their own, deciding to pray, to study the Bible, to figure out what it means for them, to repent, to be baptized, and to live their whole life in Christ. It means that they pray to God not just to bless people or to get things they want, but for God to show them how to deal with the big issues of their life and for Him to give them peace in their decisions. While some evangelical churches may have an “invitation to accept Christ” at every service, some Church of God groups may never deliver a message designed to stir young people to making God a real part of their life. (On the other hand, Church of God groups often have in depth Bible teaching that evangelical groups rarely have. In truth, we need both!) For many Sabbatarian young people, Christianity is just another set of rules to be followed—much like schools rules, state laws or workplace rules. A young person who has made a personal, individual commitment to follow the parts of the scripture that they understand is more likely to be faithful to God than a young person who is doing everything that their parents want them to do, simply because they do not want any conflict with or punishment from their parents.
7. Provide access to Christian friends of similar age and belief. While parents can only lead a child in the previous point—they cannot do it for them. Providing access to Christian friends is something parents can do—though to be most effective, it must be done before the young person becomes completely opposed to his/her parents’ ways. It often takes a lot of effort, but the life-changing effects are nearly always worth it. God put a natural tendency in young people, as they reach the age of maturity, to want to seek out others of their age; to discover their talents, likes and dislikes; and to eventually find someone to marry. God placed this responsibility on the young people, not on the parents: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother…” (Gen 2:24). Young people are much more likely to continue in his biblical teachings if they see many other persons their age continuing in those teachings. Parents can provide these Christian friends in several ways:
1. By moving to a place where there is a congregation with many young people of similar age and belief. It is best to make such a move before the children reach high school. It is not essential that the parents have a 100% agreement with the teaching of the congregation. When a child has their own relationship with God, they will end up with some differences anyway. For example, I do not agree with some of the hierarchical government teachings of the United Church of God, but they do accomplish a lot of good Christian work and I would prefer that my children accept that error along with the UCG’s good teachings, rather than to have them give up on God or the Sabbath altogether.
2. By developing a “long distance” relationship with other young people of similar age and belief. A family can make a habit of spending Feast Days, vacations, summer camps, and other available time with another group of similar believers. With the addition of letters and electronic correspondence, the young people with similar church backgrounds may grow to be “best friends” in these “long distance” circumstances. When Christian young people talk about who they might go to college with, sharing an apartment with, or possibly marry; and the names are almost always from this long distance group, the mission has been accomplished.
3. By sending their young person to live at a place where there is a good supply of young people of similar age and belief. While this could be the home of a friend who attends the kind of congregation described in “a”, above, it is more often some type of institution. I was a little surprised that the United Church of God article did not even mention their own Ambassador Bible Center (ABC) as a place for young people to establish life-long Christian friendships. Working together for a period of months is a far more effective way to do this than a few days of primarily entertainment. As it is, the mission statement of the Ambassador Bible Center is only about conveying biblical knowledge, and says nothing about Christian fellowship. Yet many friendships and some marriages have started there. We hope that brethren will recognize this other vital function of the good work that they are doing there.
Spring Vale Academy (for high school students) and the Port Austin Bible Campus (when it is fully functioning) are two more environments that will fulfill the vital need for Christian friendship. Please read on for the latest news about them.
APPOLOGY TO CHURCH GROUPS
Before continuing, this writer would like to acknowledge the great amount of good work done by the United Church of God as well as other Church of God groups. While I wrote that their church governance and their treatment of their members who sometimes attend other groups is not biblical, I believe that God is probably leading many believers to remain in these organizations to continue to do the good works that they are doing. In Revelation 2-3, Christ did not command believers to leave their churches if they had error, but to repent. I realize that there are members who would like to change the governance in their organization and are working toward that end.
I apologize for my past writing where I said or implied that every believer should leave church organizations. Just as we find Ezekiel serving as a captive with his people at the same time Daniel is a high-ranking official in Babylon, so we can find God placing people today in a variety of places to do his will. We, as believers, ought to respect the good work that God is doing in each and encourage more cooperation, rather than more division. Will all of the various Church of God groups unite together soon? Probably not. Can individual brethren decide that they will honor the biblically sound work of every other believer and group, and decide that they will be willing to work with them as God allows? Yes!
SPRING VALE ACADEMY
Spring Vale Academy is an excellent choice for parents who want to immerse their children in a Sabbatarian Christian environment during one or more of their high-school years. For half a century, thousands of students have made and kept Christian friendships there. Numerous marriages have also resulted from people who met at SVA (usually several years after graduation).
The school is independently run, but associated with the Church of God (Seventh Day), based in Denver, Colorado (cog7.org). Students from a variety of Sabbatarian backgrounds attend the school. The church has a central office that has an emphasis on doing Christian work. The Church’s doctrinal statement is very basic, having only 10 points. They teach that each individual should believe and practice what they understand from the Bible. Their statement says, “…all people who have trusted Christ unto obedience are members of the spiritual body, the church of God.” They do not treat others like “second class” Christians if they attend another group some or all of the time.
While they do not teach the biblical Feast Days, they take no action against members and ministers that attend or even sponsor Feast Day observances. Indeed, a former WCG minister, now a Church of God (Seventh Day) minister, Bruce Chesney, regularly sponsors a Feast of Tabernacles. Some of the Church of God (Seventh Day) leaders attend it occasionally, others attend it every year. During the past few years, there have always been some Spring Vale Academy Students and Staff that have observed the Feast Days.
You can learn more about Spring Vale Academy, for yourself or for other believers you would like to help, from its website http://sva.cog7.org/ (soon to be upgraded), by calling 989-725-2391 or 989-277-8322, or by attending an upcoming Sound and Action performance near you.
“SOUND” and “ACTION” PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE
“Sound” is SVA’s 9-member touring musical group. This year’s program consists of lively current and traditional Christian numbers. Most songs are accompanied by piano, bass and drums and are exciting enough to keep young people interested without being offensive to parents. I have encouraged numerous people to attend in years past and never found one person who was not glad that they went.
“Action” is SVA’s 7-member touring drama group. They perform a variety of short skits that pointedly illustrate vital Christian principles for our day. It is easy to see ourselves in many of them—both how we act and how others treat us.
All of the performances are free. Visitors are welcome. There is no need to call in advance, but directions and answers to any questions are pleasantly available by calling the appropriate number, below:
Date Day Time Contact Phone # Church Address
29-May Tue 7:30p.m. Napthali Davila 773-436-4727 1125 W. Army Trail Blvd Chicago (Addison), IL
30-May Wed 7:00 p.m. Abe Endecott 319-210-1658 1691 Marion Airport Rd Marion, IA
31-May Thr 7:00 p.m. Melvin Sweet 660-562-0480 214 E. 2nd St Stanberry, MO
1-Jun Fri 7:00 p.m. Andy Hassen 417-831-5435 1525 E. 84th Street Springfield, MO
2-Jun Sab 10:00 a.m. Joyce Hinds 918-260-6937 512 E. 10th Street Claremore, OK
2-Jun Sab 7:00 p.m. Don Rodgers 479-452-6245 3915 Massard Rd Ft. Smith, AR
3-Jun Sun 5:30 p.m. Joe Davila 512-927-4832 4110 Guadalupe St., Bldg. 639 Austin, TX
4-Jun Mon 7:00 p.m. Joyce Gold 830-947-3602 (Call Contact for directions) San Antonio, TX
6-Jun Wed 7:00 p.m. Joyce Gold 830-947-3602 7735 Hwy 87 East, San Antonio, TX
7-Jun Thr 7:00 p.m. Ron Cummings 361-994-0807 3885 CR 61 (Violet Rd.) Corpus Christi, TX
8-Jun Fri 7:00 p.m. Marcos Bernal 713-459-9771 406 Harbor Street (Denver-Harbor) Houston, TX
9-Jun Sab 1:45 p.m. Alex Ciurano 832-877-7482 1203 N. Main Street, (Galenda Park), Houston, TX
9-Jun Sab 7:00 p.m. Nugget Gold 936-264-1660 18745 FM 1484 Conroe, TX
10-Jun Sun 6:30 p.m. Omar Mellado 713-699-0074 8520 Sweetwater Ln, (Little York) Houston, TX
12-Jun Tue 7:00 p.m. Darrin Burrell 972-262-6270 2341 Acosta Street Grand Prairie, TX
13-Jun Wed 7:00 p.m. Ruben Marquez 405-598-5815 19210 Gordon Cooper Rd Shawnee, OK
15-Jun Fri 7:00 p.m. Ivan Burrell 405-828-4498 (Call Contact for directions) Dover, OK
7-Jul Sab 2:00 p.m. (office staff) 303-452-7973 (Call for directions) Overland Park, MO
The final performance is at the Church of God (Seventh Day) 2007 Convention or “Conference” as most members call it. Conferences are a mixture of services, seminars and recreation for the whole family—much like a Feast of Tabernacles. Some Church of God (Seventh Day) brethren have somehow come to believe that celebrating the Feast Days is strictly an exercise in Old Testament ritual. When told that the activities are “a lot like your Conference, just held at the time of year that God prescribes”, they suddenly see the Feast Days in a new light. Similarly, brethren who have never attended a Conference before may find it a spiritually uplifting way to spend a summer vacation.
This year’s conference is July 2-7, in Overland Park, Missouri. I am planning to go, God willing, for a number of reasons: to build bridges between brethren of different groups, to learn from their teaching, to take my youngest son there (he wants to go), and to see the final Sound and Action performance. You would be welcome, also (see http://convention.cog7.org/ or call 303-452-7973).
Since our family has been supported largely by the offerings of brethren since 1995, and since I have focused so much of the last few years on transferring our beliefs to our young people, and since the Bible states that Christian leaders should have their houses in order (1Tim 3:4-5,12; Titus 1:6), I feel compelled to report on what is happening in my own family.
My wife Marleen is finishing up a successful year as the cook for Spring Vale Academy, a 2.5 hour drive away from me, here at Port Austin. One of us drove to visit the other nearly every weekend. We do not like being away from each other that much, but we would not have been able to afford to keep our two sons in Spring Vale Academy without the 75% staff discount (nearly all of the remaining 25% was paid by scholarships and student work). While we do not look forward to being away from each other for another school year, it seems to be the only way that we can both take care of our children’s needs and establish the Christian community at Port Austin.
Last Sabbath, May 19th, our oldest son was married to the young lady he has been pursuing for four years. During his latter high school years, he rejected some of the biblical teaching he received growing up, and stopped attending any church service. His wife is from a Lutheran background, but she stopped attending regularly, also. After our family moved to Port Austin in 2004, our son realized that he needed to be responsible for earning his own living—and he has ever since. He also realized that he needed to be responsible God. He prayed and asked God to work some things out for him financially, and if He did, then he would be baptized and change other aspects of his life. God did His part, and my son did his. Now, my son has told me that he and his wife know that they must find a church to attend (they live in Chicago). This personal commitment is what is necessary to be a Christian—not simply attending because one always has, or because one’s parents command or encourage it.
Our second son, finished a very successful year assisting the boys dean at Spring Vale Academy. He was also the assistant director of the Sound group, and spent countless hours arranging and playing for various church music.
Our third son, also an accomplished musician, graduated with honors last weekend from Spring Vale Academy. (Videos of the baccalaureate and graduation are available on DVD for anyone who might be interested.) After their summer tour with Sound, our second and third sons will start a two-year commercial music program at Lansing Community College this fall. They will need to work part-time, also, but they will be able to live in their mother’s apartment on the SVA campus, and still help occasionally with music there. I think this program will be worthwhile, whether it helps them to earn a living, or prepares them for greater service to God in music ministry for the rest of their lives.
Our youngest son enjoyed his first year at Spring Vale Academy and is anxious to return. He is also developing musical skills. He will be a tremendous help to me here at Port Austin, this summer.
PORT AUSTIN BIBLE CAMPUS NEWS
During the SVA graduation weekend, I spoke with Phyllis Weeks, the widow of a man who was a Church of God (Seventh Day) minister for much of his life. She was very happy to hear about our efforts at Port Austin to build a Christian community to help teach young people. She said that the seventh day groups are suffering greatly because there is not enough vision for the future. She related an account of a Sabbatarian group in New York that had a chance to easily acquire a functioning 600-bed hospital in New York which they could have run for the benefit of Sabbatarian staff and patients, but turned it down because they were not sure they could handle it. She knew of another case where a Jewish group in Florida was willing to give their old school to a Seventh Day Christian group, but nobody was willing to stop what they were doing to accept the building and run it.
We intend to stay here at Port Austin until God clearly shows us that we should leave, or until we are bankrupt and cannot continue. Unfortunately, we are continuing our policy of not seeking to bring new young people here until we have the time and money to devote to them. That was the major criticism of those who were here before, and we believe it was valid. Of course, we are still seeking help from those who have either the time to come here or the funds to send to help make this Christian community the blessing to so many others that it should be.
Our court trial with Terry Williams has been adjourned until November 1. The Michigan Court of Appeals has not yet heard our request to allow our church trust to be represented without an attorney. While I was hoping for a speedy resolution to this case so we can get on with our mission, there are a number of advantages to this delay:
1. We know that we will be able to hold a Feast of Tabernacles here this year.
2. We will have time to be better prepared for trial.
3. We will have a chance to talk to Terry Williams in a “deposition” during this time.
4. We will be able to publish a Servants’ News issue this Summer, God willing.
We have summarized the court issues in previous letters, all of which are now available at:
Our courts have a “discovery” process whereby one can send written questions to the other party and then they are required to answer, within certain limitations. In our first discovery requests, Terry Williams answered our questions about the suspicious fire that occurred in the Edwards family living quarters. He claimed to know very little about it. A few months ago, he placed an article on the Internet that indicates that he knew a lot about it. He has since refused to answer questions about the fire. The judge suggested that I question Williams through the form of a deposition, a formal out-of-court questioning with a court reporter present. While the cost of the court reporter will be about $125 per hour, this court-enforced ability to “go to my brother” (Matt 18:15) should be greatly beneficial as I have not had a meaningful conversation with Williams since October 29, 2004.
On a positive note, the negative influences here from the other men who opposed this project, are now largely gone. Phillip Frankford, who bought two properties across the street, moved away and stopped making his land contract payments. The original owner finally went through the foreclosure procedure and got his property back. Frankford again refused to make his payments for the shared water and sewer services here, lost a second court case, and finally paid his entire bill plus costs. Homer and Carolyn Kizer (who at one time filed and lost a suit attempting to take over our campus), have been evicted from Frankford’s former property and have moved out. Even though Terry Williams still has his possessions in one of the buildings here, he does not stay here, even when he comes to see his attorney here in Huron County.
The wonderful spring weather is here, and with the help of a donated tiller, we have planted most of our garden—which should feed us through much of the year.
JULY-AUGUST SERVANTS’ NEWS
After responding to Williams’ discovery requests, and selling some things to raise some money, we believe we can publish a July-August 2007 issue of Servants’ News. Most of the articles are ready and someone volunteered to pay the publication costs for this issue.
We are also assisting a prisoner who has started a Sabbatarian publication for other prisoners. He is a friend of William Swenson, who lives here, and the two of them will do most of the work it requires. There are less than 100 recipients now, but prisoners can speak to other prisoners in a way that we on the outside cannot. The main article, “How to Live a Sanctified Life in Prison” is soundly grounded on the ten commandments. It downloads slowly, but the first 4-pate issue is available at the old www.shelterintheword.com website.
FEAST OF TABERNACLES 2007
We are certainly planning for the Feast of Tabernacles again this year. We intend to operate from offerings as we have done in past years. We have motel-like rooms, dormitories, space for RV’s and lots of motels two miles away in town. We will have a variety of messages, good music, home-cooked organic food, and all the fellowship you want. Attending the Feast here is an ideal way for anyone interesting in the project to get a first-hand view.
We want to thank all of those who have supported us during this time of struggle when we are not able to much back to you. But we are confident that if God is doing this work, He will see it through. And if He is not doing this work, then we don’t want to do it.
We have a temporary arrangement to take care of our property payments until the court case is over and we can move forward. However, after a winter with the highest utility bills ever, we are struggling to make ends meet. For the first time, we were not able to pay all the utility bills when they were due this month. But we are confident that God will supply what we need to soon catch up.
We are still praying that the Eternal will stir others up to come here to join us in this effort.
May the grace of God be with you. May He lead and guide all that you do.
In Christian Love,
Norman Scott Edwards
PO Box 474, Port Austin, Michigan, USA 48467-0474
P.S. This message was nearly all ready to send a week ago, but Netscape 4.7, which had worked for years to send these mass e-mails to the Servants’ News list suddenly stopped working. After several attempted alternatives, I am now using Eudora.