Port Austin Bible Campus

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

Letter of December 19, 2006

 

Dear fellow-brethren:

Our last letter to you was dated September 8, 2006. Many things have happened here at Port Austin--we will try to hit the high spots, below:

FEAST 2006 A BLESSING

While our Feast size was smaller this year, it was much appreciated by all who came. The organic produce, eggs and meat were appreciated by the brethren. The feast-goers spent one afternoon helping with the harvest. It would have been nice to have a video tape of John Leitch climbing to the top of an apple tree and shaking it until it looked like he and the tree would come toppling down. As it was, only the apples fell down--which provided apple juice for the Feast.

We continued with the activities of years past: services, Bible studies, Bible bowl, variety show, sports, etc.--but also added a moderated panel discussion on prophecy. Not all of the panelists agreed, but it was lively and appreciated by all. We are already planning a Feast for next year.

ONGOING NEED FOR PLACES LIKE PABC

Our studies and communications with other congregations show the continual need for a place like the Port Austin Bible Campus (PABC). We continue to read or personally hear about cases where children of Sabbath-observing brethren want to continue keeping the Sabbath, but gradually stop doing so because they are not able to find a school or job where they can do that. Others find the Sunday through Friday school or job, but the influence of the people there gradually pulls them away from their beliefs.

Word of what we are doing has spread locally. A few days ago, a middle-aged Port Austin mom, who had previously met one of the other young PABC residents, walked into my office and said, "I want to put my son in your program". We explained our current lack of funds and people--and that we may not be able to provide all the help that her son needs. However, we said that if she could not find another solution, we would let him stay here and to help. She was very thankful and we have not heard back from her yet.

THANKS TO THOSE WHO HAVE HELPED

If it were not for the people who have so generously supported us during the past year, I do not know how the project here would have continued. As it has been for over two years, we have had the money we need almost exactly when we need it. As of now, we are two $5000 monthly payments behind on our mortgage with ELBI, but we do have a plan whereby we should be able to catch up on those payments and make a few more. We have been able to pay our utilities and numerous credit-card loans on time, but only through many hours of careful juggling and last minute payments. We have borrowed all we can on available credit--much was at low interest to begin with, but is now quite high. We hope to find a way to pay it off or refinance it at a much lower rate.

We have successfully implemented various cost-cutting measures:

1)         shutting down the dorms for the winter and staying in one building to minimize heat costs

2)         with only a few exceptions, confining our food to what we produce or what is given to us (we grew many months supply of winter squash)

3)         doing most repairs with functional existing or used parts

4)         stopping existing projects and not starting any new projects that take a significant amount of money

For example, we want to feed our chickens corn that is not genetically modified (GMO). We have read of controlled studies where animals that were fed genetically modified grain had far more sickness than those that were fed unmodified grain. But non-GMO chicken feed can usually be found only at very expensive organic feed stores. In order to get a good price, we had to buy a ton of corn from the wholesale organic vendor. As it is, $300 worth of corn should produce all of the cornbread and eggs that we can eat for a year.

Unfortunately, cost-cutting measures can be time-consuming. We are not advancing and fulfilling our mission as quickly as we would like to. However, we believe that we must learn to be content with what the Eternal has provided. We are also learning to grow in faith, and work in the face of great adversity. We are trying to be more diligent in our communications to others in separating what we would like to accomplish someday from what we are able to do right now.

NEW ADDITION TO PABC

William Swenson came to PABC at the Feast of Tabernacles this year and decided to stay. He brings a very interesting background that can be helpful to other young people. He rebelled against his parents in his teen-age years, and "ran wild"--drinking and using drugs. Not having the money to afford these themselves, some of his friends got him into burglarizing pharmacies to get their drugs. One time he decided to take the quick way and carry a gun in to get some free drugs during business hours. Even though he never intended to hurt anybody and indeed, nobody was hurt, it resulted in an armed robbery conviction.

William still tried to fight the system for 15 more years, but then turned to God. He read his Bible numerous times, and much literature from the Church of God groups. After talking with William, I have a much greater respect for how much prisoners appreciate the free literature furnished by the Worldwide Church of God and its follow-on groups. Prisoners sometimes work hours just to buy a stamp. Booklets that cost several dollars may be out of reach. Prisoners do not have the Internet. William has helped me set up our literature room and has mailed some to prisoners and others. We hope to do more of this in the near future.

While some prisoners are angry hateful people who might subscribe to a free publication just to extract its staples to put into some homemade weapon, others are sincere people who want to set their life right with God and learn as much as they can, so they can be a useful citizen someday. That was what William did. He spent thousands of hours reading the Bible and good religious books--as well as studying health, nutrition, gardening and law.

William came to some conclusions from his studies that are not taught by the Church of God groups:

1)         the examples of "community living" by the Church in Acts 2, 4 and elsewhere

2)         the need for brethren to depart from the materialism of the world and do God’s work as the apostles did (we all have trouble with this)

3)         vegetarianism (We are not planning to become a vegetarian community, but there is much sound medical evidence to show that most American’s health would be improved if they ate less meat.)

After many corrupt decisions within the prison system, and a 30-year stay, William was released--no parole. He is free of errant ways that he learned in our society, and he is free from prison systems of our society that rarely corrects those in error. He is what God has done for him. He has been very helpful here, doing whatever tasks need to be done.

HEALTH ISSUES

The importance of health issues really begins to hit home as I read more and more obituaries of people who were my classmates in college. Like so many other aspects of our society, the medical profession continues its trend toward putting profit first. Today, even the New York Times ran an article summarizing studies that show people who spend more money on health care often fare worse then those who spend less (www.nytimes.com/2006/12/17/business/yourmoney/17view.html) . They documented large-scale hospital use of more expensive treatments for patients who could afford them--even though the cheaper treatments were known to be more effective. Unfortunately, the article's proposed solution to the problem was additional layers of management and more government regulation.

The problem is further compounded by the insurance industry. Years ago, people paid low premiums for insurance to cover big disasters. They hoped that they would never need to use their insurance. As the years went on, people expected insurance to cover more and more things. Health insurance has now become a form of prepaid medical care. There are an increasing number of people who, upon signing up for insurance, hope to get more money from their insurance company than they pay in. Insurance companies have countered the greed with greed of their own. They have greatly raised the premiums, created vast sets of rules as to what they will pay in various cases and bolstered their legal staffs to find ways to avoid paying big claims. Today, the overwhelming majority of insurance premium dollars--both health and otherwise--does not go to pay claims, but for administration, legal services, and profits.

After reading things like this, I find it easier to be more bold about my practice of raising my family without health insurance--and not having any health insurance for PABC. Without insurance, one can pay for the treatment one needs, and avoid unnecessary treatments. What about the cases where some big disaster falls upon us and a very expensive medical procedure could make us whole? "God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble" (Ps 46:1). We can have the confidence, as did all of the people of faith in the scripture, that He will not let anything befall us that is too great for us (1Cor 10:13).

The old advice of eating good food, drinking good water, getting exercise and sleep, live at peace and trust God for the rest is even more relevant today than when we were young. But how many young people get that advice today--even from their church? How often is that advice overshadowed by, "Get a job with good medical benefits"? Many young people realize that our society is largely corrupt, and are somewhat disappointed that their parents, the churches and other institutions have done little to reverse the trend or to help them escape the corruption.

SERVANTS’ NEWS

We hope to write articles in the future that will help others sift through the medical maze--both as individuals and in the church community environment. Unfortunately, we have not been able to resume Servants' News yet, due to other pressing responsibilities. It is still our goal, and we are still convinced that we will be able to do it eventually.

We wish to thank everyone who has patiently been waiting, and who has been supporting us in this area.

PABC PROGRESS

If we are not producing Servants' News, then what are we doing? The answer, in short, is many different things. We must continue to maintain the facilities--both our own and things pertaining to the water and sewer plant that we share with other nearby homes and businesses. We try to make safe and long-lasting repairs in a way that minimizes the cost. This frequently results in a lot of time--learning how to do the job, and then finding and working with used but serviceable parts.

As an example, a sewer pump ("lift station") recently failed, which would have caused all of the sewage to back up into the houses that it served. The station had not had any maintenance done since it was installed eight years ago. As secretary/treasurer of the Hillcrest Water Board, I called a septic-tank business to pump out the pit, and then after spending almost a day on the phone, found the nearby contractor that originally installed the pump system. He was too busy with other rush jobs to even come look at the problem. However, the owner of the contracting firm did help me find a source for the pumps, and that vendor was kind enough to take the time to explain how to replace the pumps and repair the sensor failure that caused the problem. We picked up a replacement pump from him--over 100 miles away--and with the help of the president of the Hillcrest Water Board, a licensed electrician, we got it working. We have found someone to rebuild the old pump to use as a "backup". We could have simply called a sewer contractor from a major city 2 hours away, but that would have cost thousands of dollars more.

We have dealt with many other maintenance issues, some as labor intensive as above, but one example should suffice.

We continue to help people who are trying to organize churches and ministries apart from the common non-profit corporation with IRS 501(c)(3) status. The methods used over 100 years ago are much simpler and much less entangled with governments than the methods common today. It is as much of a matter of learning what not to do as it is learning what to do. Then, there is often the need to inform individuals and institutions about the old methods, as they have been used so little, that they have often been forgotten.

Most of these people find us via our web site. Some of them state that they believe God has stirred them up to change their type of organization. If we do not answer their first call or e-mail, we usually get another one in a few days--and another one after that if we have still not answered. We have spoken with other Christians who used to meet together in their church before each election to discuss the biblical basis for the ballot proposals. They have given up that practice this year because the IRS is now informing 501(c)(3) churches that they intend to enforce the laws that were passed back in the 1950s which prohibit them from speaking out on legislation or candidates for public office.

We realize that some of our readers will say that Christians should not be involved in this world's elections anyway. While we understand some of the scriptural reasons people use not to be a part of the world's systems, we believe that there is a big difference between expressing one's opinion of what is right by voting, and in thinking that one will solve the world’s problems through the current political process. I think the following example might help to illustrate:

Suppose a disturbed man has climbed high up on a bridge and is threatening to jump. There is a small group gathered below and some are yelling, "Jump! Jump!" Others are yelling, "No! It's O.K.! Come back down!" Suddenly the man shouts out, "If you think I should jump, raise your hand!" He counts them, apparently being deceived by some of the taunters who are holding up both hands, and then says, "If you think I should come down, raise your hand." He counts again and then... Whatever he does, the question to you is, "Should you, a Christian, have voted in this election?" You may not be sure that the count is accurate or if the man will even follow the vote. Should not a Christian stand for what is right, even if he may not be heeded? If God were to decide to show His power by using a Christian to raise that disturbed man from the dead right after he jumped, is not it better that the Christian first vote for the man to preserve his own life? Even if nearly all of the crowd votes for the man to jump, should not the few Christians be there to tell him to "choose life" and show him that he has Someone to live for? Can we not see secular elections in a similar manner and vote for those issues and candidates that appear to be closest to biblical values, even if they have little or no chance of winning?

The same laws that prohibit 501(C)(3) organizations from speaking out on legislation and candidates, also prohibit them from "the carrying on of propaganda", which the supreme court has determined to mean the propagation of any message. We believe It will only be a matter of time before the IRS begins to enforce that law on all 501(C)(3) churches, telling them that they are allowed to help the poor, meet for "worship", and preach pro-government messages, but that the proclamation of any message that disagrees with public policy will cause them to lose their tax-exempt status.

WILLIAMS V. EDWARDS

The court case of Terry Williams versus Edwards and the property-owning Trust continues with the trial set for February 15th. As we stated in our last e-mail, Williams made $85,140 of property payments with the anticipation of being one of four trustees. However, when he was offered a chance to become a trustee, he declined, preferring to work with the other two men who contributed nothing to the Trust. He then refused to discuss the situation with me and work out any kind of reimbursement plan—until October 31, 2006, when we received a settlement offer from his attorney.

The amount that Williams was requesting was still more than his documents actually show that he spent in support of the project and more than we thought the court would award him if he won. In November, we spent over a week trying to find affordable methods to at least partly reimburse Williams what he paid, and also continue to meet our mortgage payments and maintain the campus. We wrote a proposal with three separate reimbursement methods. We believe all of the offers were reasonable, though substantially less than Williams was asking for. While we think we have a reasonable chance of winning the case, we would gladly give up some money to be rid of the case and spend our time writing Servants' News and developing the Port Austin Bible Campus. We also realize that from a practical standpoint, Williams may be financially better off to accept our lower offer than to pursue the case. Trying the case will cost him thousands more in attorney's fees. Even if the Court were to completely side with Williams and order us immediately to pay him the $136,000 sought by his suit, and to sell the property to raise the money, there is a good chance that he would get nothing from that. A quick sale of the property might not produce enough to pay off the first mortgage to the seller and there would be nothing left for Williams.

As it so often happens in life, it seems that the only way for Williams to receive anything will be for us to succeed so we have something to give him. We feel badly that others have probably pushed him not to talk to us or settle with us, but we do not know what else we can do. As we have said to so many friends who have called, we say to all of you: If any other brother can arrange a meeting between Williams and ourselves, please call us and we will cooperate. (So far, it hasn’t happened.)

Since it appears that the case is going to trial, we will be filing our motion and brief with the court showing why our religious trust should be able to represent itself in court through its trustee. We discussed this in our last e-mail. The Michigan law appears to be different from most other states and very much in our favor. We will keep you posted on how it goes.

THE FIRE OF JANUARY 3, 2005

Almost two years after a fire strangely broke out in our dormitory while we were all sleeping, a new investigation has begun. A new expert looked at the professional photos that were taken of the electrical receptacle (outlet) located very near the starting point of the fire. The starting point was both seen by the Edwards and determined by the State Police. According to the new expert, a State-licensed Master Electrician, multiple elements of our pictures show evidence that human intervention caused the short in our electrical receptacle. It is NOT typical of the type of failure that occurs from simply old or carbonized wiring. This expert is quite willing to testify in court and has been in contact with other expert witnesses familiar with these kinds of deliberately damaged electrical outlets. Indeed, the fire appears to have started a few feet away from the outlet—the out let set up to be a scapegoat. We will keep you updated as this story develops.

EDWARDS FAMILY

Every letter like this needs some good news!

On the home front, our decision for my wife, Marleen, to work as a cook at Spring Vale Academy has worked out well. One of us has been able to make the 2.5-hour trip to see the other nearly every weekend. Through staff discounts, scholarships and her contributions, we were able to pay for all of our third and fourth sons' expenses there. Our second son, Josh, has been working at Spring Vale as an assistant dean and, in the words of many of the other staff, has done an excellent job. He is soft-spoken, but a natural leader. He is frequently in charge of a dorm full of high-school boys, and has managed to do his job for an entire semester without using the school's disciplinary procedures. (There is nothing wrong with school disciplinary procedures, but inspiring others to want to do the right thing is far better than punishing them for doing wrong.) I thought I did well to use them only three times when I taught part-time there for a year.

All three of these young men have considerable leadership ability and are respected by their peers. They have all become accomplished musicians and sing or play for worship services. I hope that in the future there will be enough resources here at PABC to where we can keep them busy full time with many other Christian young people with whom they can share in both learning and mutual edification.

WALK BY FAITH

These past three years that we have spent establishing this Sabbatarian Christian Community have been the most faith-building experience of our lives. Every time I see the life that God has created, either the plants and animals outside, or the sons and daughters made in His image, I realize that I am looking at something so complex that no man will every know everything about it. Each one is a miracle of God and proof of His existence. Just because man can manipulate or destroy these things, does not set him on the level of God, who is the only one who can create them. Those who cannot see God as both the Creator of all that is, and the sustainer of each one of us, individually, are ignorant indeed. We must realize that God will provide for us as long as we are serving Him. If He chooses to correct us and/or change our course, then we pray that we will be listening.

May God bless you all.

--Norman Scott Edwards

 

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