Port Austin Bible Campus

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

Letter of July 30, 2006

Dear fellow-brethren:

It has been two and a half months since we last wrote you. We want to thank everyone who contributed financially and encouraged us in what we are doing and especially those who helped us in various other ways including prayers for our service survival and future success. We want to thank everyone who encouraged and helped us in various ways.

We hope that everyone is thinking about the Feast of Tabernacles 2006. For some years, the number of non-aligned Feast sites seemed to be growing from year to year, but now the number of available choices seems to be in decline.

We hope that you will consider the Port Austin Bible Campus for the Feast of Tabernacles this year. The most commonly kept dates are Oct. 7-14, but brethren observing other calendars are welcome. The theme this year is "be doers of the word, and not hearers only" (Jms 1:22). We will talk about how Sabbatarian Christians, both old and young, can apply this command in their lives, today.

Most of the menu this year will consist of organically produced products, including food grown on the Campus, including fresh eggs and organically raised chicken. We deliberately planted a number of late crops that will mature about Feast time. The rest of the food, as much as possible, will come from nearby farms.

While transportation to Michigan's "Thumb" area may be slightly more expensive than traveling to some other feast sites, this should be more than offset by the lower cost of attending the Port Austin Feast. There are still some campus rooms available, and many motel rooms only a mile away (see the Jan/Feb Servants’ News or reply to us for a list). We can arrange pickup from the Flint or Detroit Airports.

Numerous study and recreational activities are planned. There will be a variety show on October 12th and an evening Bible study on the 13th. Bible Bowls for the young are held on the Sabbath days. Come enjoy a Feast of both spiritual and physical food!

If you are at all interested, please contact us for more information or to reserve a place. (PABC, PO Box 474, Port Austin, Michigan, USA 48467; PABC@portaustin.net; 989-738-7700).

NEWS ABOUT SERVANTS’ NEWS

The last issue we mailed was the Jan-Feb 2006 issue. We would like to have sent two more issues to you by now, but that just has not happened. Nevertheless, we still hope to resume a regular schedule. As it is, there have been too many things here at the Campus that just had to be done right now, along with regular routine tasks:

·        When our workday starts, we study the Bible together.

·        When pipes spring a leak or plug up, they need to be fixed.

·        When visitors come, they need to be received.

·        When bills are due, they have to be paid—sometimes with the money that came in that very day.

·        When we have issues about how to work with, or get along with one another, they have to be addressed.

·        When Spring came, the garden had to be planted, then watered, weeded and harvested.

·        When the 20 acres of grass gets high, it needs to be mowed.

·        When computer and other electronic failures occur, we fix those too—so we can answer as many as possible of the hundreds of personal e-mails we receive.

·        When legal issues arise, we have to answer them.

·        And when the phone rings, we try and answer that, too.

This list could go on, but we will leave it at this.

In asking for advice from brethren, we received a lot of useful input. One letter made a good case for why we should push forward to begin educating young people and not worry about Servants’ News for now. Another letter said that Servants’ News was the most important thing and that we should only continue the Christian community and education plan if it can support itself.

In our seeking God for guidance on these issues, we realized that we need to do a better job of honoring the commitments that we have made and to do our best to avoid making commitments that we cannot honor. Sometimes it is difficult to know what to do. We have spent many dozens of hours helping other believers with their unique problems that would probably find no help at all if we were not here.. We have helped several groups form free churches (without incorporation and 501(c)(3) status), as they could not find help elsewhere. There seems to be such a growing understanding that both the “corporate church world” and the federal government are getting further and further away from what the Bible teaches about “church” and “state”. But we now know that we must ask ourselves, “Shall we do all these other things when Servants’ News is behind schedule?”

We committed to publishing Servants’ News on a regular basis back in January and we still believe that we should keep it up. With the passing of Jim Rector and Richard Nickels, there is a greater need than ever for independent Sabbatarian publications. On the other hand, we do not want to simply throw together whatever articles that are sent to us and call it a newsletter. We want to do our own original relevant research, as well as carefully read the articles we receive, correct errors, make them easy to read and organize the issues for the benefit of the readers. With much of our past difficulties behind us, we believe this can be done effectively and sustainably.

PABC REGROUPS

For a variety of reasons, some people have moved away from Port Austin Bible Campus. Some of the young people observed that we did not have as much time to help teach them as we had anticipated. We realize that we need to have enough people here who are able and have the time to be the mentors that young people need. We are asking God to provide us with these individuals before we tell young people that we are indeed ready to serve them.

Other brethren have wisely counseled Norman not to sacrifice his health and family to do this project. This advice has been taken and implemented in these two forms:

Norman has started a daily program of mile runs supplemented with other longer exercise periods. He did this for years when he was younger and it did not take too long to get back into it. The regimen pays for itself in more productive work time.

The Edwards’ two youngest sons both want to go to Spring Vale Academy, the Church of God (7th Day) boarding high school in Owosso, Michigan. The next oldest son, who graduated from there a year ago, has been accepted to work there as the assistant boys dean—a minimally paying position, but a wonderful opportunity to help young people come to know God.

With all the expenses of PABC, the Edwards had known of no way to pay the $7000 annual fee for each boarding student at Spring Vale Academy. However, SVA was in need of a cook and school expenses are effectively discounted by about 80% for staff members’ children. So Norman’s wife, Marleen, has taken the cook position to pay for the young men’s school year. Either Norman or Marleen will make the 2.5 hour trip to see the other on most weekends, but Marleen’s contribution to PABC will be missed. One positive advantage of all these trips between campuses is that Norman will have a chance to meet many of the Spring Vale Students and some of them will have a chance to visit PABC. There is also an opportunity for Norman to work at Spring Vale Academy, but as long as God continues to provide for PABC, Norman intends to use his available energies to bring it to fruition. Much encouragement for PABC as well as most of the young people have come from Spring Vale Academy.

PABC CLEARS FINANCIAL HURDLES

God’s provision for PABC does continue. Some of what follows is a bit detailed, but we believe we should do more sharing of the details of what is happening here. Some events are inspiringly miraculous, others are messy and disheartening. But after our morning Bible studies going through the life of David, it was obvious that most of David’s recorded life was about enemies attacking and things going wrong—and about David trusting God and rejoicing in his trials. We feel we have experienced similar trials, though to a lesser degree.

We received approximately $9000 as a result of the first letter we sent asking for funds. About $5,000 came from the second. That was not enough to completely pay the $30,000 that was due, but it was enough to pay the property taxes and the other expenses of the sale of one building to Mike Zaeske. (We will get these property taxes back eventually, but Michigan requires them to be paid before the county courthouse will record a deed; we are still waiting for the state to schedule our property tax exemption hearing for 2004.) Because Mike was able to obtain a conventional mortgage, the proceeds of the sale completed the $30,000 land contract payments. So, with less than $100 to spare, we were finally able to conclude the sale that we had planned five months ago, and pay off the intermediate contracts as described below. This has been a great blessing.

Our original contract required us to pay off two previous land contracts to the people who originally bought the Port Austin Air Force Base from the US government. After these contracts were paid, the property was deeded to us, and on August 15, 2006, we were to begin paying on a 0% interest mortgage of $420,000 at $5000 per month. With the deed now in our name and with only one party to work with, many issues are now greatly simplified. Obtaining a second mortgage or working together with another group is now a manageable possibility.

Some of the property we own is part of a “site condominium”. Typically, a “condominium” is a large building with multiple living units owned by different people and an association of members used to manage the halls, yard, laundry rooms and other common areas. When buildings exist that do not have the necessary lot size, street access and utility service to be sold as units of a subdivision, the only way to separately sell them in Michigan is to organize them as a condominium with an association to take care of areas used in common. For a variety of reasons, the association for this condominium had not met in six years and was totally inactive. Much needed work—both physical and legal—was not being done. With great effort and significant expense, Norman did most of the work necessary to revive the condominium association and is now the Secretary/Treasurer of it.

Paying off the land contracts and reviving the association has brought resolution to most problems that have been festering for the past two to three years. These include surveys, boundary disputes and the sale of another unit that was pending for three years.

THE PABC FUTURE

While we still do not have definite sources for more than one of the future $5000 payments, and while the Edwards are burdened down with personal debt incurred from this project, the Eternal has provided during the past two years. The present condition and potential future of PABC is brighter than ever before.

Nevertheless, PABC is still a work of faith. A person recently asked if it made sense for him to uproot his home to move to PABC with no tangible way to make ongoing payments. The answer was that it makes no more sense to come to PABC than it made for 2,000,000 Israelites to go into the desert with no tangible way to feed themselves. Remember, they actually went without water for three days and had food shortages. Thanks to our garden, that has not happened here!

A person should not come to help build PABC unless they are convinced, through their own relationship with God, that He wants them to come here. We encourage people to pray and ask Him for guidance.

As one person who made a special trip here to advise us said, “The capable people that you need, that can really make things happen, are not going to come to PABC. They have families, houses and businesses and they just will not pack up and leave. You will tend to get people who are simply trying to escape their previous circumstances.”

This is a sound piece of human wisdom. Indeed, to some degree, this has happened. We have helped several people who were homeless (mostly Sabbatarians) and believe this is a Christian thing to do as they had no where else to go. Some of them were a great help to us, and others knowingly exploited us. We learned a lot from these experiences. We learned how to have compassion for others while at the same time being firm. We learned more about how to implement Matthew 18. But we also realize that in the future we need to consider our existing commitments, such as Servants’ News, before we embark on new ministries.

But more importantly, we realize that we must utterly rely on God, and NOT human wisdom, to provide the people who will do His will here. We are determined to seek His will with each decision so that we do not get side-tracked from the things to which we are already committed.

Toward the end of 2005, we were almost out of money and had no tangible idea of how PABC would continue. We fasted and prayed, and a few weeks later, Mike Zaeske came up to the campus to visit and offered to help. He had only a few thousand dollars to offer, but he had some alternate plans that allowed us to make that money go further. Mike’s many years in facilities management and in business were also a great help to us. Mike had suffered a serious back injury several years ago that made it difficult for him to walk. But a recent back surgery has eliminated his back pain and apparently corrected the problem. He intends to regularly be on site at PABC later this year.

Similarly, we feel that God will provide people in the near future—both experienced and otherwise, and possibly a young person or two who will come to help us accomplish our purpose while they learn. The areas of work include computer publication layout, web design and accounting, as well as building maintenance and construction with Mike Zaeske overseeing. We realize that there will be a lot to do, in exchange for a place to stay and food to eat, but if God is prompting you to do it, we know that He will take care of those who serve Him. If God is inspiring you to work together with us, please pray and ask him to show you for sure—there are many Biblical examples of this.

We hope you are all looking forward to the next issue of Servants’ News. May the Eternal bless all of you and grant you his peace.

In Christian Love,

—Norman Scott Edwards