Port Austin Bible Campus

PO Box 474    Port Austin, Michigan, USA 48467-0474    989-738-7700    pabc@portaustin.net

Letter of May 12, 2006

 

Dear fellow-brethren:

Thank you for returning your Response Page or otherwise informing us that you want to continue receiving Servants’ News. We will make sure that you continue to get every issue. This letter is being mailed to all readers for whom we do not have an e-mail address. Thank you for saving us time and money by reading it this way.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP IN OUR TIME OF NEED

Last month, for the first time since Servants’ News began, we sent letters to our readership directly asking for financial help. Thank you for your prayers and offerings. The help we received has sustained us, but we still have a few more hurdles to jump over in order to make this project a success.

We appealed to you for help when we needed $30,000 on short notice. Our sellers had initially approved, then rejected our plan to raise this amount to pay our land contract by selling a building to Mike Zaeske. We did receive about $9,000 as a result of this request. While this was not enough to pay off the contract in its entirety, it was enough to make two more monthly payments and forestall foreclosure.

Unfortunately, time rolls on and we are once again more than three months behind in our payments and again in danger of foreclosure. We received 140 offerings of $15 or more since sending the letter. An offering of $15 from each reader would have easily raised the $30,000.

Quite a few sent $30 in order to pay for someone else. Others sent larger amounts. One person sent $100, suggesting that if 300 people could do that, we would have what we need. A few called to suggest various means of obtaining a loan, but nothing worked out.

We hope that those who did not send anything would consider doing so now if they are able. Collectively, you could easily take care of our current financial needs. It is noteworthy to recognize that hundreds of people have returned their Response Page and 136 have asked for our 2005 Music Camp CD, but only a fraction have sent an offering with their CD request or response to continue Servants’ News. Indeed, many people have received Servants’ News for nearly a decade and never offered to help. Some may not be able to contribute financially, but most probably could. We want to offer these things freely as Christ instructed (Matt 10:8), but “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1Cor 9:14).

SERVANTS’ NEWS NEEDS TO CONTINUE

The need to continue publishing Servants’ News to us seems greater than ever. Many independent Sabbatarian ministries have ceased functioning over the past few years. Since our Jan/Feb Servants’ News issue, we have again received a number of interesting and informative letters and articles. We hope to be able to print many of them. We also received over 200 changes of address and requests from dozens of new readers.

We want Servant’s News to not simply cover old “Church of God” issues, but to cover the most relevant subjects for Sabbatarian Christian believers today. We hope that it will not simply inform, but stir believers to action.

We are working on many interesting articles. As an example, we will have some articles on biblical apprenticeship. This is a valuable concept that is obscured by most Bible translations. There are a pair of Hebrew and Greek words that mean “one who is in training”. The Hebrew  words are na’ar (male) and na‘arah (female) and the Greek words are pais (male) paidiske (female). Most Bibles translations say “young man”, “boy”, “servant”, “son”, depending on the context. While those translations are true, the concept of “one who is learning” is lost. “Apprentice” or “trainee” would be better translations, but even those English words have a more formal connotation than the Greek and Hebrew. A study of the hundreds of places where these words are used teaches much about how education was carried out in the Bible-and what we should be doing now.

We also have many news-related articles to publish. Our article written before the war, the Hypocrisy of Attacking Iraq, has proven largely accurate, and has received numerous comments. The corruption in governments and big business has probably reached an all-time high. Finding the truth about almost anything is becoming more and more difficult. The Bible teaches that evil leaders conspire, plot and lie to benefit not just their people, but also to benefit themselves, personally, at the expense of their people. We should not expect anything different from leaders today. However, sifting through the mainstream media monopoly, and the sometimes equally biased alternative media is not an easy task.

We have saved a lot of good information as it was brought to our attention. We have a good article base to work from, but our output is lacking. We still need to put our March/April issue together. And for the first time, we may have difficulty finding the funds to print and mail it.

DEVELOPING THE PABC COMMUNITY

Admittedly, most of our time has been spent maintaining the PABC campus, with much building maintenance, grounds maintenance, appliance maintenance, real estate management and even eight court cases-four of which have been resolved in our favor and four more in progress. There were disputes about who owns certain parcels of land and who was responsible for running the water and sewer system and other things. Developing an internal community government based upon Matthew 18 has also taken a significant amount of time, and has been put to practical use. We hope to write more about this.

While some readers have suggested that we just concentrate on the newsletter and see little need for the PABC Christian community, we disagree. Over the past several years, it has become clear that many of the independent Sabbatarian believers were dividing and splitting over more and more issues-arguing more about what is truth and working together less. There are young people in these age groups that literally do not know anyone their age with the same beliefs as their parents. Lastly, it has been noted that when the leader of one of these groups dies, the leader’s work frequently dies with him or her. PABC is intended to be a place to help defeat these problems. While PABC and its associated ministry has no intention of  becoming a denomination, it is our hope that we can become a repository of Sabbatarian teachings and resources; in other words we want to be a place where biblical principles can actually be lived out, as in the Christian communities in Acts 2 & 4; a place for young people to meet, work, learn and study; a place where artists can capture and distribute their Spiritual encouragement on paper and audio and video recording; and a place where teachings can live on past the life of a single teacher.

Our Survey of CoG Young People was revealing about Sabbatarian young people: After they turn 19, they are more likely to have moved out, have had a job, have been to college, or have had a serious relationship than they are to still be a participant with some Sabbatarian group. Indeed, there were almost as many 19-25 year-olds who were engaged to be married as were still associated with a Sabbatarian group. Of those responding who had had at least one serious relationship, only 23% had their most recent relationship with a Sabbatarian. If we expect our teachings and practices to continue to the next generation, we need to do more for our young people. Why would any new family want to participate with a religious group  that retains only a small percentage of its young people?

WE NEED MORE BELIEVERS INVOLVED

It is now over 26 months since Norman Edwards paid $6548 in earnest money, which led to the signing of the purchase agreement for the Port Austin property. The project was always intended to bring together a diversity of non-denominational Sabbatarian brethren to learn to live and work together-with tolerance for those with differing understandings of the scriptures, but unity and harmony through the Holy Spirit.

We believe that those here at Port Austin have worked diligently to procure and maintain, and, in fact, improve this property over the course of the past two years. Most of this has been accomplished on a very economical, though labor-intensive basis; i.e. doing the work ourselves, shopping for second-hand materials, growing and cooking much of our own food, etc. A few of us have even spent our life savings to accomplish these things.  During this time we have been fortunate to have helped a few young people at PABC. But recently, two of our young people have chosen to leave. One of the main reasons they chose to do this was that we were not able to spend adequate time with them. We know of other young people that we could possibly help here, but without the financial and personnel resources to bring this about, we are very hesitant to ask them to come.

We have been praying and believe that the Eternal will stir others to see what is needed and recognize the benefits of what we are doing and help us to do it. So much work has already been accomplished and it would seem a waste for us not to continue. We are willing to work together with people who have knowledge, ideas and experience that differs from ours. We are looking for individuals who are dedicated to serving God and who are willing to work with others who want to do the same.

We are even willing to share leadership here at Port Austin with any who are willing to make a similar commitment. Remember however, that anyone intending to do this will be required to make a commitment like the one Jesus asked for in Matt 19:21, with the difference being that this would be a commitment to educate Sabbatarian young people in a way that is simply not being done anywhere else. While we did not have a clearly undisputed command from God to start this project in Port Austin, the things that have been accomplished to date and the things we are continuing to do at Port Austin certainly are all things that can be found in scripture.

WHY SHOULD THE PORT AUSTIN PROJECT CONTINUE?

We believe that the Port Austin Bible Campus is a unique ministry that needs to be carried forward because it is fundamentally very different from any other ministry that we are aware of. We believe to the best of our knowledge and to the best of our abilities that this ministry can and should continue to be based upon a biblical foundation in all ways. Examples of this are abundant. For instance:

1.      It is non-denominational. No one is excluded because they are or were a member of some other group. Teaching and practice do not need to correspond to some pre-existing doctrinal statement, but are based on what we find in the Scripture.

2.      Sabbaths, Feast Days and clean meats are observed. There are virtually no other nondenominational Christian communities or post-secondary education places like this.

3.      The biblical model of apprenticeship is primarily used for training young people, as opposed to the common classroom model. All that a person does is considered part of their education. People are expected to produce, not simply learn.

4.      Matthew 18:15-17 is the basis for handling community problems. There is a procedure whereby anyone can take an issue to the church if they and their witnesses have not been heard. With young people involved in the operations of church and ministry government, it is much more likely that they will organize congregations and ministries of their own when they are older.

5.      We have a physical plant that is ready to use right now and has great potential for expansion.  We believe continuing with the existing physical facilities can be done at a much lower cost then it would be to start from scratch and build something new.

6.      We have purposely not applied to the IRS for 501©(3) exemption. Receiving this status requires an organization to follow all present and future IRS regulations. There have been many news headlines during the last few years where churches and ministries have been told to stop preaching and publishing on certain subjects or they will lose their tax-exempt status, which would result in huge tax bills for both the organization and its donors for the previous couple of years.

7.      We are founded as a privately declared church and ministry, as was common 100 years ago. We are not a corporation. This allows us to avoid much of the hassle an overbearing government with its myriad of regulations and red-tape can create. As a result, we can operate much more efficiently, our expenses are less, and, we like to think, improves the quality of life for most believers associated with us. By way of a specific a example as an illustration of this, certain regulations imposed by the State of Michigan prevent even private schools from serving food grown in their own gardens. But we are able to do this because we are unique in the way that we are organized

8.      We have already overcome many of the problems caused by the fact that governments and businesses have forgotten how to operate with non-incorporated churches and ministries: We have our sales tax exemption. We are recognized as a legal entity by both the district court and circuit court in Huron County. Additionally, we have partially completed the process of achieving property tax exemption recognition.

9.      We are dedicated to making the fruits of our learning available free of charge through the PABC publications, library, CDs, internet sites, etc.

10.   We have the long term goal of self-sufficiency and no upfront cost to any who come here.  Of course, we expect that they will be willing to work and, more importantly, to learn and grow spiritually from their experience at PABC.

What we need now is a few more capable people who can work and/or provide us with funds necessary to build upon the operational foundation that has been laid. God has supplied our needs up to this point, but we believe He has shown us that there are others who should now be involved. We do prayerfully ask that God will guide us and this is why, in part, you have been presented with this letter.

NON-DENOMINATIONAL GROUPS NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB

Someone may be asking, what makes us think that we should be the ones leading this? We have had some helpful experience, but the main reason is, as previously stated, nobody else is doing what we are doing. If there were to be brethren more capable or directly chosen by God, we would gladly work for them. That does not mean that we would be naďve enough to accept anyone who claims such ability, but we would certainly consider accepting the leadership of another who is thoroughly committed to accomplishing what we have described in this letter.

Even after years of writing against the problems of church hierarchies, it is evident that they have done much good and we are willing to work with them if they are willing to work with us. While God gave ancient Israel freedom and a central government consisting only of judges, he gave the people a king when they asked for one and much good work was accomplished as is recorded in the Old Testament under the few good kings. Similarly, the church today should be able to operate directly under Christ, but most religious work has been accomplished by various church denominations that provide a means to organize the action of believers. Indeed, our survey showed that the percentage of young people 18 and older who are still attending a Sabbatarian church is 65% for those in a national church group but only 22% for those in local congregations.

This observation agrees with our experience over the years. We have known many believers who felt church denominations were unbiblical and yet continued to attend the services of a big church organization simply because their young people had friends there, both young and old, who were a good influence on them. Young people usually do not struggle much with issues of Church government, the biblical calendar or the meaning of certain Hebrew and Greek words. They want to know how to find friends, get a job, achieve independence, perhaps even find a mate. At this age, they are often searching for genuine meaning to their lives. They need to decide if they can do those things in the way that God has been presented to them by their parents and their church group. Otherwise, they may try looking for God elsewhere, putting God on “hold” for a while, or ignoring Him altogether.

We recently received a very startling article about non-denominational Sabbatarians who are seemingly losing the seriousness of their calling. Freedom to follow God by our understanding of the Bible has become freedom to do whatever comes easy. Many people were actually more diligent under the hierarchical system than they are under independence. Reality requires the reverse must be true. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” How many people think that they do not have sufficient time or money for the things of God, but then end up spending unusually large amounts of time or money for medical care, home repairs, legal expenses, auto repairs, etc? How many feel like they do not have time to get involved actually serving God or assisting in preaching the Gospel, but do have time for bad habits or for pursuits with little eternal value? How many people feel like they barely have enough for the necessities of life, yet their homes are full of stuff that they have acquired-much of which is no longer used or needed?

Non-denominational believers must be totally reliant on Christ to work with them and through them. They do not need to have a church organization to keep pushing them along. This requires daily prayer and regular Bible study, but more than that, it requires the WILLINGNESS to take action. The words of Edward Everett Hale are applicable here: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.”

MORE INFORMATION

We encourage those of you whom God is stirring to help us with this work. Please call or visit us at the PABC campus in Port Austin. That is the most effective way in which any questions you might have can be answered quickly and completely. We are willing to send you copies of our governing documents, contracts, financial statements and other things explaining what we do. Whether you are young and wanting to be a pioneer, or retired and still seeking accomplishment in life, we are interested in hearing from you. We have dormitory, motel-room and house-type accommodations available on short notice. We are also establishing an e-mail list for individuals who would like frequent updates about PABC. Please e-mail or write us and ask to be placed on the PABC Updates list.

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AT THIS TIME

We wish to thank everyone for their prayers, encouragement and support. We know that many people are struggling with illnesses, perhaps a recent death in the family, insecure jobs, underemployment, unemployment, and other serious financial issues. We ask that God may bless you and strengthen you as a result of these trials. Whatever our lot in life, we must remember Hebrews 13:5: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.

In Christian Love,

Norman Scott Edwards

 

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