Servants' News

May/June 2003

No SN Final Decision Yet, Much Interest

by Norman Edwards

The exact future of Servants’ News is still uncertain but I am confident that God is working in the events of the last several months and I have learned much from them. I would not be the same person if I had not stopped to take the time to consider alternatives.

In a nutshell, we placed our two high school-age sons in Spring Vale Academy, the Sabbatarian boarding school less than 10 miles from our home. I began teaching two classes there in order to defray the cost. The experience has been more positive than expected. The value of such a school in the lives of both my sons and the many other young people there is hard to appreciate until one actually sees it happen.

This has convinced me to make it a life-goal to do what I can to start something like the Sabbatarian Educational Environment described in our previous issue. I was very happy to see how much interest there was in an independent Sabbatarian college/tech-school. Many wanted to help. There are even three possible methods under discussion whereby a campus and funding could be made available. I am anxious to begin some kind of organization so we can get to work. I realize that it may take several years, but I think it is a worthwhile goal.

Response Pages Received

The response pages indicated definite trends, but also a great diversity on the part of our readers. A full summary will be provided in a later issue. Out of 515 Response Pages tabulated thus far, here are a few highlights of questions and answers:

 

2) Do you think production of Servants’ News should continue?

51 Yes, produce more issues each year.

95 Yes, make same number of issues, but on time.

279 Yes, produce less often, only as funds allow.

38 No, discontinue.

25 (Other answers)

 

4) If we continue to produce these publications, would you like to continue to receive them?

379 Yes, please keep sending publications.

79 No, just send an e-mail link.

38 No, I do not read them.

 

5) Please check the statement at right that best describes your ability to financially support this ministry in the future:

142 I will continue to support as I have in the past.

107 I can support your ministry more than in the past.

154 I do not have the money to support your ministry.

31 I choose not to support your ministry.

9 I will continue to support but will be less.

 

6) 36 people volunteered to help Church Bible Teaching ministry in a major way.

 

7) 215 people recommended forming SEE.

 

8) 185 people want to be on the mailing list for SEE.

 

9) Would you be willing to serve on a council to further plan and implement a project like SEE?

29 Yes, I want to get involved.

64 Possibly, keep me informed.

 

10. 60 people would consider teaching, working as a staff member, giving property or assisting in some other non-financial way.

Quick Conclusions

There are more people interested in helping with SEE than there are with Servants’ News. There are more people who think that SEE should be started than there are who think Servants’ News should produce more or the same number of issues.

Nearly everyone wants to keep receiving Servants’ News, even though a much smaller group is interested in supporting it. Many readers wrote a paragraph or more explaining how they were on fixed incomes and simply could not support any ministry. We are happy to serve those people by continuing to send it.

The 107 people who plan to support the ministry more in the future and the 142 who plan to continue at current levels indicate that we should be able to continue at least some number of issues per year. After the last issue, offerings have been better than they were before, but still not up to the previous year’s levels. (We have not been able to “pay back” any of the money we used from our savings as some of our readers suggested.)

Even though 38 people asked to stop receiving the publications, we have received about 23 new requests to be added to the mailing list during the same time—the overall interest is not shrinking much. Some of these new readers are people who have just left a hierarchical church group and really need help realizing that they can meet with other brethren outside of that environment.

However, we would still like to hear from the 1800 readers who have not contacted us via Response Page, email or phone. If we do not hear from you, we will eventually drop you from the list.

The Plot Thickens

Another factor adding to the uncertainty of our future. The house in which we live and produce Servants’ News is undergoing a foreclosure proceeding. The situation is more completed that we can explain here—it involves several other parties beside ourselves. It is not for lack of payments—we have always been timely in our payments. What is needed is refinancing and the working together of all the parties involved. We believe a solution is possible, but in the rare event that it is not, we have already made some secondary plans.

If there is a spiritual lesson in it, it is that we should be like Abraham—not too comfortable where we are, but ready to move when and if God shows us.

Between teaching at Spring Vale Academy, coaching soccer there, exploring options for SEE, processing all the Response Pages, reading and answering SN mail, planning the Feast and dealing with the foreclosure; I have had little time to work on Servants’ News issues. I have had almost no time to organize all of the people who volunteered to help. Nevertheless, I expect the future to be better as the Feast work will soon be over and the soccer season ends a week after that.

Success at Spring Vale

One might reasonably ask why I would take time to coach soccer when there are so many other urgent priorities in my life. I have asked myself that several times, but reaffirmed my decision each time. First, I am able to concentrate much better on my writing when I spend a couple hours a day on my feet—the exercise is good. Also, I have gotten to know the students much better. But the most important reason is that I was removing my sons from the public school sports programs and I believe it is important that they have good sports opportunities at Spring Vale Academy instead. As it turns out, this is very important to many of the other young men there.

Spring Vale Academy is not a place where all Church of God Seventh Day children are desperately seeking to go. While some students have looked forward to it for years, a reasonable number would much rather stay home with their local friends than come to Spring Vale Academy. Some arrive “turned off” to God, Spring Vale or both. Before school began, my own sons were very skeptical and wanted to let me know that they were going to “try it’, but wanted to leave if they did not “like it”.

However, it is amazing to see the change in young people when they are set down among caring teachers in an environment where biblical values are honored. Just as young people tend to pick up pop culture values “by osmosis” through public schools and electronic media, they tend to pick up godly values at Spring Vale.

Sometimes, the students are asked to give their testimony—talk about their life and how God has changed it. Some were opposed to the school or even religion for their first months at Spring Vale. Nearly all turned around from their positive school experience and the working of God in their lives. From listening to such stories, and from taking the Bible classes, my own sons have asked me why I have not taught them even more about a relationship with God and about the Bible. While there is no doubt that I should have done more teaching in the past, it is also true that they were simply not as interested when their peers and school routine had little to do with God.

This positive influence extends to music as well. My sons and other students are now excited about playing stirring praise and worship music, rather than imitating the latest pop music of the day. The drama program will certainly be similar.

I have personally become acquainted with most of the students, and have given seven Bible studies. The students and other staff appreciate my knowledge and talents and appreciate their love, diligence, faith and many other gifts. Even though most in the Church of God Seventh Day do not observe the Feast days, they are generally supportive of those who do.

Actually, I have been amazed to learn many things about the Church of God Seventh Day:

  1. They have an “open creed”—their headquarters does not try to define every doctrine for them.
  2. Hundreds of former WCG members attend there and some former-WCG ministers serve there. At least a dozen SN readers, former WCG members, regularly worship with them.
  3. There have been a few WCG member’s children at Spring Vale Academy on and off for over 30 years.

Some young people seem to naturally cling to their parents, a few church friends or a few school friends. They largely accept their parents’ example and teaching and do not have a lot of difficulty with outside influences. Other children are contentedly home-schooled. These students probably do not need a place like Spring Vale Academy. But for young people who want to excel at large group activities such as music, drama or sports; or for those who need a big social environment, Spring Vale Academy can be a wonderful place (call 989-725-2391 for info). It also shines when parents find themselves in a difficult or broken-home environment that they are not able to correct. An orderly place with godly values can be much better than a difficult situation that does not represent God well.

Sabbatarian Educational Environment—More to Come

Even my brief experience at Spring Vale Academy has given me much more insight as to what needs to be done for SEE, the Sabbatarian Educational Environment. I have also gleaned some ideas as to how to implement it. Recent phone conversations with some leaders in various Church groups have found much support for the concept of SEE. Potential students have said “build it and I’ll come”. people volunteer to teach, etc., etc. I am talking to three different groups of people who have the ability to provide a campus or major financial support. None has said “yes”, yet, but there is interest.

A visiting mother of a Spring Vale student came up to me, not knowing about SEE at all, and talked about how the Worldwide Church of God had their Ambassador Colleges and how good it was for the young people and how the WCG grew more in this country than the Church of God Seventh Day did. She hoped that the Church of God Seventh Day would be able to have access to something like that in the future—and wanted to receive Servants’ News when she found I was proposing such a thing.

What I hope to be able to do with SEE is to enlist the support of all those who volunteer to help. The plan is to divide up the responsibilities, and write a detailed plan for how SEE will work. This would include costs, living arrangements, courses offered, work opportunities, etc. We would also produce a nice color brochure for those wanting a simple explanation. This literature would be sent it to a variety of Sabbatarian groups, asking them to endorse the concept and agree to encourage their young people to attend when it is built. We would similarly ask for potential students to “sign up” stating that they would be interested in attending if it were begun.

Hopefully, with this information in hand, it should be possible to estimate the size of a potential student body and staff, and the costs of running the program. The current or yet to be discovered groups that are interested in providing facilities for see can hopefully make a decision based upon this. More detailed information about the plans for SEE will follow in a later issue. With as much interest as there is, and with God’s blessing, it has a good chance of happening.

Prayers and Pages

So as usual, we have more than ever to do, and less resources to do it with. Nevertheless, I know that God does not worry about these things, but provides when we need it (not always when we want it).

We will certainly appreciate everyone’s prayers on the matter.

We can only continue if we receive offerings from you.

We would still like the Response pages from those 1800 or so who have not turned them in. If you need another one, please write, call or e-mail.

May God bless all of us in the tough decisions that we face.


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