A History of Bible Training Institutions in Austria, Part II, from Ampflwang until the closing of Wallsee in 1999
The official opening of the Austrian Bible Institute was a highlight of our missionary career, but we knew from experience that Satan would not
accept this challenge to territory that he considered his own. We could expect him to do all in his power to render the school ineffective or
even to close it down.
OPENING OF THE AUSTRIAN BIBLE INSTITUTE
The Austrian Bible Institute opened October 7, 1984 with six students. Sunday, October 10, was the opening celebration and dedication of the
school. It was a great day, not only for us, but for many others, who had prayed and given generously to see this day. Pastor Gerhard Janz had
worked hard to help establish the Mennonite school in Linz and when that school closed, he invested much more time and effort in an attempt to
found an interdenominational school. When that too failed to materialize, he grew despondent. When I approached him about serving on the Charter
Committee, he said that one more failed attempt would be too much to take. But he agreed and poured himself into the work. This was a great day
for him, but soon afterwards, he was diagnosed as having leukemia. He went home to his eternal reward four months later, rejoicing that his
vision had finally been fulfilled. Pastor Graham Lange, who started the church in Ampflwang and shared his vision with us of a Bible school in
these very buildings, was also present and rejoicing.
Hubert was head Deacon of the church in Ampflwang. Like doubting Thomas, he found it difficult to believe that anything significant would happen
in Ampflwang. Like many Austrian believers, he was certain that everyone else viewed evangelical Christians as a religious sect. When the mining
company agreed to rent us the property, he was convinced that they would back out. Even after attending the meetings on November 19 and December 3,
and in spite of the 600 plus campers who came that summer, his pessimism remained unshaken. I had been sharing prayer requests and giving updates
to the church week after week, but Hubert still seemed to think that not much would come of our efforts.
On prayer meeting night prior to the dedication service, I shared details of Sunday's program and asked the ladies to help in the kitchen and
serving tables. When I enlisted the youth to direct visitors to parking places, Hubert asked, "How many people are you expecting anyway?" I said
that we were planning on at least 150 from all over Austria and a few from other countries. I also said that we had invited the Mayor to give a
speech and asked Hubert if he would sit near him. They were from the same political party and Hubert served on the City Council. Hubert just
grinned and said, "You have a lot of faith, don't you! I can assure you that the Mayor won't appear for the opening of a Bible school."
An hour before the service was to begin, people began arriving faster than we could direct them to the parking places. Students and staff showed
visitors through the rooms and then guided them into the auditorium. Ten minutes before begin, the Mayor arrived, dressed smartly in a dark suit.
I greeted him warmly and led him to a reserved seat where other "dignitaries" (pastors and mission leaders) were seated, introducing him to
several of them. Hubert was nowhere to be seen, but I found his wife in the kitchen. She said, "Hubert was only wearing an open sport shirt and
when he saw the Mayor come in all dressed up, he went home to get changed."
A modest estimate of the number in attendance was well above three hundred persons. Putting it into perspective, 10% of all 3,000 evangelical
Christians in Austria were present, and many of them drove over a hundred miles to get there! I have often been accused of being an incurable
optimist, but I was dumbfounded! The Mayor gave a warm welcome speech and even offered his support should we ever decide to purchase the property!
MORE THAN JUST A SCHOOL
Good stewardship demanded that our school facilities be used year round, and Ampflwang was an ideal setting for summer camps. Some 50,000
overnight guests were booked annually in the town. Most of them were drawn by 600 riding horses. There were seeming endless miles of trails
through the "Hausruck Forest,“ Austria's equivalent of the Black Forest. The close proximity of the Salzkammergut, the lovely mountain & lake
region of Austria made famous by the Sound of Music film, was another drawing card. A large outdoor swimming pool with three basins was only
a five-minute walk from our school, and if it rained, there were two indoor pools in town.
The summer camps on the Bible Institute campus raised Ampflwang's guest rate a full 10% the first summer. Contrary to the practice of most
tourist operations, we purchased as much as possible from local businesses, which were elated at the extra income.
When school was not in session, that didn't mean teachers and students had vacation. What did Jesus do when "school was out"? In Matthew 11:1
we read: When Jesus had made an end of instructing his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. That sounds
like summer evangelism with the students, wouldn't you say? The summer ministry of students became part of their graduation requirements, which
is why our graduation exercises were held in the Fall rather than Spring. Our students served in churches, with missionaries, in camps and other
Christian ministries. Several served in Africa, Eastern Europe and in other lands.
THE LORD'S BUSINESS
Christ said, "I will build my church." It has been our experience that He also builds His schools. During the first four years, God provided
more than $70,000 for this project, nearly all of which came from our regular supporters! We had to pay for nearly all of the renovations and
repairs in addition to making lease payments. Utilities, especially heat, were extremely high. The buildings were poorly insulated and heated
with propane gas. There was a giant propane tank behind the school that had to be filled at least three times every winter. We may well have
been the gas company's best customer!
Much work and many expenses were incurred getting the campus ready and making needed repairs. It was our goal for the school to become
financially independent from the mission after the third year of operation. Most Austrians said that this goal was utopian and unattainable.
A representative from an American mission society that founded Bible training institutions in several European nations told me that it would
not happen in a hundred years!
Beginning with the fourth year of operation, costs of the school were covered by student tuition, summer camps and donations from Austrian
Christians. The positive response from Austrians was overwhelming!
During the first years of the school, Ronald Reagan was President and the US Dollar attained record highs on the foreign exchange markets.
Our monthly lease payment of 10,000 Austrian Shillings amounted to only $465 in 1983 and even less in 1985! The school became financially
independent in 1987 -- just in time too! The value of the US dollar was sinking rapidly and only worth half as much by 1990.
CUTTING THE UMBILICAL CORD
When we started the Austrian Bible Institute in 1984, we informed the church that our time as shepherd of the flock in Ampflwang would soon
come to a conclusion. We encouraged them to begin looking for a national Pastor. In November, 1985, I officially resigned as Pastor in order
to give undivided attention to the Bible Institute. I was still printing, but the volume had decreased significantly with the proliferation
of computers and photo copiers.
The church said they hoped we would continue living in the pastor's apartment until a pastor could be found and we condescended. We soon
discovered that this was a mistake. We were paying rent and they were in no hurry to find a pastor. Expectations of us remained virtually
We attended our mission’s All Europe Conference in August, 1986 and when we returned, church members had opened six personal letters and
harvested the apples off our tree. When we asked about this, the members said that the tree was on church property, therefore it belonged
to the church. I explained that I planted and nourished it for years and we were still paying rent. We had addressed this matter before
when members harvested our garden and threw personal items into the trash. It was obvious that we needed to move soon, so we began looking
for another place to live.
When we heard of a house on the opposite side of town that was for rent, we checked it out. The owner agreed to rent it to us for a very
reasonable price. Only after signing the contract, did we discover the reason for the low rent. Two years earlier, a man had murdered his
wife there and Austrians are very superstitious. He must have felt fortunate to find anyone willing to live there. Before we moved, we
invited the Bible Institute Director and a visiting professor to come and pray with us. We dedicated the house to the Lord and asked God to
make us a testimony in the neighborhood. God answered our prayers and we lived there for six years.
We moved in October, 1986 and the church began in earnest to seek a pastor. Church members began to make needed repairs and renovations on
the church and pastor's apartment. They installed all new windows and doors, new tile restrooms downstairs and a tile bath upstairs. Separate
oil heating systems and all new electric wiring and plumbing were installed in the church and apartment. All rooms in the apartment were
redecorated with carpeting and a new kitchen was installed.
Bible Institute staff and even students helped to fill the pulpit for two years, but in the Fall of 1988, the church called a pastor. He was
Swiss and agreed to a half-time job as pastor and half time as a teacher in the Bible Institute. Although this seemed like a good arrangement
to some, we were not that excited about the arrangement. We rented the apartment from the church to help them purchase the property from the
mission in England. The rent we paid went a long way towards attaining that goal. Now that this was accomplished, we felt that the church
should have fully supported their pastor and made him available to teach in the Bible Institute. Under the arrangement with the school,
however, the church only provided living quarters and a small part of his salary.
A LATE FAREWELL
Two years after we resigned as pastor of the church in Ampflwang and shortly before the church called a pastor, a teacher in the Bible
Institute asked about our farewell service. I replied that there was none. He said, "They certainly must have given you a nice vacation or
a gift." I was embarrassed to admit that there had been no recognition whatsoever. I said that I could understand, because we didn't move
out of town and were still members of the church. Like the Apostle John, "we had no greater joy than to see and hear that our children were
walking in the truth."
The teacher must have said something to one of the elders, because the following Sunday, they brought a large fruit basket to the church
to present to us. We were speaking in another church that week, so they had to wait until prayer meeting night to present it to us.
It was interesting to note the difference in the church members' attitudes once they were paying at least some of their pastor’s salary.
They were eager to do everything in their power to show appreciation for the paid pastor! When we had served as pastor, we volunteered to
pay rent, but they also expected us to pay utilities, make repairs and keep up the yard. And they didn’t hesitate to harvest our garden and
open our personal mail when we were away for a day or two!
Bible Institute Article, GOSPEL MESSAGE, Volume 93, Nr.2, Spring, 1985
Photo: Franz, Mechthild, Simon and Rebekkah Laschan.
Mechthild is a registered nurse. Franz left his career as an official in the Austrian Department for Alpine Flood and Avalanche Controls to
go into the ministry.
Like many Austrians his age back in the 70's, Franz Laschan spent most of his energy looking for a good time. Then he met a group of
short-term mission workers who led him to Christ. Soon he began digging into the Bible as if he had been starved for it all his life. The
more he realized how much there was to it, the more he wanted to learn.
Later he was married and began working for the government. The pay was great and social benefits would have taken care of the future. But
Franz knew God was calling him to something else. And his thirst for Bible knowledge and desire to serve God had to be satisfied.
So he applied and was accepted at a Bible school in Germany. However, their two children would have had to begin school there, only to be
uprooted again when the family moved back to minister in Austria. Deep down, they didn't want to leave. Besides, funds were short.
But it was the only way. As everyone knew, there were no Bible schools in Austria.
Franz's story sounds all too familiar. Austrian evangelicals, comprising only 0.1 percent of the population, struggle just to maintain
their tiny toehold. According to GMU missionary Ralph Harvey, probably over half who attend Bible school outside the country never return.
Why? Jobs are more plentiful and better paying outside Austria. When students have been away for three to five years, they tend to adapt
to the immediate surroundings and let their national traits and bonds loosen. Especially when an Austrian marries someone from another
country. This, said Harvey, "often causes problems in identity which affect their ministries."
There's another problem connected with the flow of Bible students migrating from Austria for schooling: the evangelism training in other
schools may have been geared toward a different theological mindset. So, after having gone outside Austria to learn how to communicate
their faith to other Europeans and then coming back to Austria, the students still may not be as effective as they could be.
Vocabulary dealing with one's relationship to God, even when correctly and literally translated, means one thing to many Europeans and
quite another to most Austrians. In Germany, for example, almost half have protestant backgrounds. For them, the term, "accepting Christ,"
usually conveys the idea of trusting Christ to forgive sin in order to have a meaningful relationship with God.
On the other hand, in Austria, almost 90 percent have Catholic backgrounds. And most European Catholics think more in terms of rituals
and sacraments than a personal faith in Christ. "Yesterday," Harvey told us during a phone interview, "I was speaking with a man here,
and all he knew about the church was that they baptize and bury you." To men like this, the term "accepting Christ" means participating
Textbooks on working among European Catholics are scarce. "Almost everything comes from the protestant part of Germany. I just printed
500 books on Roman Catholicism and evangelism," Harvey said. "All of them were gone almost overnight. Now I have been asked to print that
many more. There's a real need for this."
The same hunger for this knowledge which produced the rapid book sales also brought the Austrian Bible Institute into realization. Many
prayers got it going, but last October, it all came together.
The role of GMU in the establishment of the Austrian Bible School is unusual, if not a precedent in modern missions. When GMU signed the
lease for the school property, which includes a small campus complete with three dormitories, it was understood that GMU was only to act
as a catalyst.
Usually a mission agency provides the leadership, teachers, staff, property and money for a school then gradually allows nationals to
replace the missionary. However, the Austrian Bible School is a national institution with strong local support from the outset.
How did they manage this in a country almost barren of evangelical leaders? With the cooperation of Austrian pastors, first of all. These
men come from a distance then stay part of the week to teach.
The rest of the instructors and staff come from Switzerland, Germany, and America. Director Jakob Baumgaurtner, a Swiss, worked in Austria
11 years. "There aren't that many Austrians here qualified to be teachers, and there are very few Austrian pastors," Harvey said. "That's
one reason we need the Austrian Bible School!"
Second, there's been support from the mayor himself. At the opening ceremony he said, "I welcome the Bible School to Ampflwang.... If in
the future you want to purchase this property, I will be pleased to vote in your favor and do all I can as mayor to expedite matters."
A third form of local support has been financial. Over one half of the income has come from Europeans. And many have been donating books
for the library.
The school has a scholarship fund. A full scholarship, which applies only in rare cases, is $750 and includes room, board and tuition.
The teachers receive no remuneration for their services and most even pay for their own transportation to and from the school.
Finally, the students have been supportive. The school's training program was designed to prepare students for future ministries. "They
have required practical work every day except Thursday. They're also required to do weekend extension work," Harvey explained. "And, during
the summer, they do one month of practical work in a church somewhere."
For example, they plan to travel to a nearby town with a "tea bus:' They'll invite young people to this specially equipped bus to tell
them about Christ. At night, they'll have evangelistic meetings. In between, they'll visit various homes, giving gospel booklets to people.
At this pace, Austrians will soon know that there is a Bible school in their country. And young people in search of Bible training won't
have to look elsewhere.
But will the school provide the seeds for Austria's churches? During the first semester, there were 20-40 students attending seminars and
evening sessions and six fulltime students. One short-term student from a Bible college in London said "the college he attended had no
teachers who could excel ours," Harvey told us.
Remember Franz? He learned about the Austria Bible Institute before leaving for Germany. Today he's is a top student, satisfying his
thirst for the Word at the Austria Bible Institute.
llse Reinprecht was a summer worker with Open Air Campaigners. When she found even the simple questions from the children challenging,
she decided to attend the Austrian Bible Institute. The studies are preparing her for service in Bavaria.
Klaus Schobesberger is 21 and from near Linz, Upper Austria. He was an electrician for a large company when he met the Lord; soon he
dove into the Bible and became an active witness for Christ. His father was an alcoholic and didn't know the Lord. Then the students
and teachers began praying with Klaus and not long after, his father became a Christian.
In the first school year we had only six students, a married couple, two girls and two boys. Due to uncertainty as to whether we could
open on time, we had not done much serious recruitment. Our son Richard was one of the male students in the first semester, but he later
transferred to Bob Jones University to get a degree in graphic arts. Another young man, Ernst, enrolled in the second semester to take
his place. In the second year, the student body tripled to eighteen.
We had many humorous and unusual experiences working with the Bible Institute. At times, the most trivial of matters would turn out to be
either a three ring circus or a miracle. I am certain that God delights in performing in both arenas.
A STOLEN CAR
Ernst owned a dilapidated rust bucket of a car, which he had decorated according to his own personal tastes. On his way to Ampflwang, Ernst
got caught in a snow storm and skidded off the road, landing in a ditch a few miles from the school. A friendly farmer offered to pull him
out of the ditch with his tractor, so Ernst took one end of the heavy chain and looked for a good place to attach it to his car. The vehicle
had no bumpers and was so rusty that this was not an easy task. Crawling under the rear of the car, he finally found a metal object about
three inches thick. "That should hold," he thought, and motioned to the farmer to start pulling. The farmer eased out the clutch and pulled,
but the car didn't budge. Ernst had hooked the chain to the filler pipe of the gas tank which was now lying in the snow, still hooked to the
chain! The second time, the farmer hooked up the chain himself. The car was soon back on the road, and Ernst was happy to have enough
gasoline in his tank to get him to school.
Three days later, Ernst approached me with a worried look on his face: "My car was stolen!" At first, I suspected a prank by the other
students because I couldn't for the life of me figure out why anyone in their right mind would steal his car. But the car was really missing;
there was no other recourse than to report it to the police.
The officer on duty said that in the five years he had worked on the force, there had never been a stolen car in Ampflwang; nonetheless, he
took a note pad from his desk and began asking the obligatory questions.
"Make and model of the car?" I could hardly believe my ears when Ernst said, "I don't know." "Well, look in the registration papers!"
Sheepishly, Ernst replied, "They are in the car." The officer was stern, but still friendly and asked, "Where is the title?" "Also in
the car." "And I suppose you left your drivers' license in the car too?" Ernst nodded affirmatively. By this time, the officer had put
clipboard and pen aside; he turned his swivel chair to face Ernst and asked point blank, “and the keys?" Ernst just dropped his head and
muttered beneath his breath, "Yes sir." The officer continued, "I don't suppose you know the license number; can you at least tell me
where it is insured?" Ernst could not remember, but there were only two insurance agents in the telephone book of his home town and the
officer was able to obtain the needed information!
The obviously irritated policeman got up and walked across the room, staring out the window. I was so embarrassed that I could have melted
into the floor. After a silence that seemed an eternity, the officer picked up his pen and demanded, "OK, describe your car for me; what
color is it?" Ernst answered, "White..., black..., red..., green..., yellow..." "That should do," the policeman interrupted. "Are there
any special features of this vehicle, which might help to identify it?" I had been questioning Ernst's sanity, but his reply erased all
doubt: "No, my car is just a normal car."
I could no longer contain myself. "Excuse me sir, if you would allow me to give a brief description." I then described a rusty old car with
no bumpers, a large black hand painted on each door and multicolored stripes running down the hood. The policeman thanked me and said that
he would get in touch with us if anything turned up. As we were leaving the room, the officer grumbled to himself in a low, but clearly
audible voice, "Bible student!"
The following day, I received a phone call from the police department. "The car reported stolen has been located in a field. It is about
five kilometers from town, if you want to go get it." Thanks to a missing filler spout on the fuel tank, the car had run out of gas. To
our amazement, the keys were in the ignition, car papers, title and drivers' license still in the glove compartment. Apparently some kids
had taken a short joyride and had to walk home. Ernst got off the hook easy with a fine of 100 Shillings (less than $10) for leaving his
keys in the ignition.
A SECOND STOLEN VEHICLE
About a year later, in 1985, a second vehicle was stolen in Ampflwang. Again, it belonged to a Bible Institute student, but this time it
was not Ernst (he lasted only one semester). It was Klaus's green bike that was missing. Klaus dutifully went to the police station and
reported his loss. As he walked out the door onto the street however, he spotted his bicycle parked in a bike rack at the Post Office. He
returned to share this discovery with the policeman, who proceeded to rip up the report.
In the school prayer meeting that night, Klaus shared how the Lord had wonderfully answered prayer. After explaining where he had found
the bike, one of the students, Leo, spoke up with a guilty look on his face, "Klaus, perhaps I am to blame for your missing bike. You
remember last week, when I borrowed your bike to go to the Post Office..?" Klaus walked over to Leo, put his hand on his shoulder and said,
"That's OK Leo, we all make mistakes. The main thing is, I have my bike again." But Leo was not to be comforted that easily. "If I left
your bike at the Post Office, I wonder whose bike I rode back to school!" Sure enough, there was a strange green bike in the shed.
Now it was Leo's turn to visit the police station. He told his story and asked about the consequences. The officer on duty said that no
other bike theft had been reported. Perhaps, if he put the bike back where he found it, the rightful owner might discover it. This he did,
and several days later the bike was gone. I wondered if it really did get stolen!
A year later, all three of our children spent Christmas vacation in Austria and we had a wonderful time together. Rick's friend, Erik,
also came over to visit and while seated around the table, I told the stories about Ernst's stolen car and the stolen bike. When I was
finished, Erik asked, "Was that a green bike?" We could hardly believe our ears, but then everyone started laughing. It was Erik's bike
that Leo had "borrowed." He didn't bother to report the theft because he didn't know the serial number; but he was happy to find it again
two weeks later!
HOT WATER HEATERS
I already shared one experience we had with a hot water heater. Under the previous tenants, the heating failed on a cold winter night
when no one was around to notice. All the radiators and water pipes froze and burst. After it thawed, the floors flooded, doing quite a
bit of damage. We didn't have money to repair the heating system, so used that dormitory only for summer camps the first year. But even
for camps, we needed water. I set about replacing all the broken water lines. When I was finished, I discovered that the hot water
heater didn't work and was too old to repair. It was Friday and a large camp was to begin on Saturday, so time was precious. I called
a local plumber and asked if he could install a new hot water heater for us. He first said that he could do it the following week, but
I finally persuaded him to send someone over.
The employee had obviously not been working at his job very long and I was glad that I had some experience. When I came to check on his
progress, I noticed that he had installed the intake and outlet pipes reversed. I drew this to his attention and he argued with me, "If
you think you can do it better, why did you call us?" I turned and walked away. While he packed his tools into the truck, I went back
to see if he had changed the pipes around. He hadn't. Rather than start an argument, I let him go and did the job myself.
Plumbers are not electricians however, and the hot water heater was still not hooked up. In Austria, no one works after six on normal
work days and they quit early on Fridays. The plumber had graciously consented to work until six o'clock, but there was probably not
an electrician in the country who would come to hook up that hot water heater on a Friday evening unless he was paid a small fortune.
I had done some electrical work and attacked the job myself. Before long, however, I ran into an impasse. Normal household power in
Austria is 220 volts and hot water heaters have 380 volts. The new hot water heater had the normal four color-coded wires that I was
familiar with, but there were five black wires protruding from the ancient wall socket. Confused and afraid to experiment for fear of
ruining a brand new water heater, I dropped to my knees and began to pray, "Oh Lord, please help me!" I was still on my knees when a
voice behind me asked, "How's it going?" I turned to see a Christian friend who had "just happened" to stop by. And he was an
electrician! Within minutes, the water was heating.
I got the brilliant idea of making a grass roller out of the old hot water tank. I cut off both ends with a cutting torch and had the
students fill the cylinder with rocks, mixed with cement. I ran a water pipe through the center for an axle. After making a handle out
of pipe, one of the guys tried to roll it, but soon called for help. It took three husky men to get the thing rolling, but when they
reached a slight incline, they discovered that it would take several more to apply the brakes! Fortunately, several of us came to the
rescue in time to keep the grass roller from demolishing a pair of parked cars!
A couple of years later, a second hot water heater ceased to function. After paying so much for the first boiler, I decided to look
for a used one. Nothing was available, but I saw a large new one in the show room of a plumbing store, which was marked down 50%.
The clerk explained that it had been installed in a new house, but the owner said that it leaked. There was a puddle of water under
the water heater every morning. The plumber replaced the hot water heater and sent it back to the factory. The factory put a test on
it and could find no leaks, so the store was offering it for half price. I decided to purchase the hot water heater, wondering if it
might really have a leak which they couldn't find.
While I was paying for it, the phone rang. It was the plumber who had replaced the hot water heater. He told the rest of the story.
There was soon a puddle of water under the replacement hot water heater as well! This time, the plumber found the problem. There was
a leaky pipe in the concrete floor!
It "just happened" that supporter friends, Oskar and Elsa Lehotsky, came to visit us. And Oskar "just happened" to work in the
plumbing department of the Mars Candy Corporation in New Jersey. He volunteered to help install the new heater as a "mission project."
The following morning, one of the girls complained that the new water heater acted strange. Oskar and I went to check it out. If only
one hot water faucet was on, the water was lukewarm, but if you turned on all the faucets, water came out boiling hot! I was reminded
of the New Years Eve when a similar thing happened to our electric!
Oskar discovered that after the factory had tried to find the leak, the heating elements were reinstalled upside down, with the
thermostat on the bottom. The cold water coming into the tank kept the thermostat from shutting off. We turned the unit around and
everything worked fine!
The school building had hot water in the kitchen, but none in the rest rooms. Although a camp was in session, I wanted to install
hot water pipes there too. I decided to cut all the pipes to length and have materials available, so that I could quickly connect
the pipes while the group was meeting in the auditorium. As soon as they closed the door, I shut off the main water valve and went
to work unscrewing the single cold water faucets. When the first faucet was nearly unscrewed, I noticed that not all the water pressure
had been released and water was squirting out. It must have been on the last thread, for when I tried to screw it back in, it came out
like a gunshot and water started spraying all over the ceiling and walls. Thinking that I must have turned off the wrong valve, I ran
outside to find the right one. But I had turned off the right valve. It was obviously defective.
Knowing that there had to be a central valve for all four buildings somewhere, I began a wild search of the property, looking under
floors, in closets and just about anywhere else that a water main might be hiding. I could find none at all, and water had already
flooded the bathroom and hallway several inches deep! In desperation, I ran back into the school building and attempted to screw the
faucet back in while the water was squirting out at terrific pressure. I was of course drenched, but soon realized that there was no
way that I could ever perform that feat. I also knew that there was a limitless city water supply.
Again, I raced around the property looking and praying that somehow I would stumble across the main water valve. After what seemed
like an eternity, I recalled seeing a cement slab in the lawn and went looking for it. Then I had to find a hammer and chisel to work
the dirt out from the edges in order to open it. As I feverishly hammered, I prayed that this was not a false lead. It wasn't! I was
able to turn off the water and get back before people began to exit the auditorium. Soaking wet from the water and just as wet from
sweat, I gathered bricks and laid boards across them in the hallway, so that the campers could exit without getting their feet wet.
One stormy Sunday, I was driving two elderly ladies home from church when just a hundred yards ahead of our car, a tree fell across
the road. Fortunately, I managed to stop the car in time, but the tree was about two feet thick and there was no way to get around it.
Because the road was heavily traveled, there were soon numerous vehicles lined up in both directions.
I got out of the car and tried to decide what to do. As I contemplated, I looked at the first car parked on the other side of the tree
and thought that the driver looked familiar. Then I recognized him as a missionary who was on his way to show slides of his mission
work to the Bible Institute students. I briefly introduced myself and suggested that we exchange cars. With a nod, the deal was made.
He and the four passengers in his car and three of us crawled under the fallen tree and climbed into each other's vehicles. After
making U-turns, we drove our merry ways. It was only after seeing the startled look on the faces of people in the other cars that I
realized how funny this must have looked! Adding to the confusion, our license plates were from different Austrian provinces! I
should have rolled down my window and suggested that the driver of the Mercedes behind me follow suit! After all, there were more
cars on the other side!
MISSIONARY IN THE SEWER
As business manager of the Austrian Bible Institute, I was responsible for keeping up the buildings and grounds of the school. In
1987, the town installed a public sewer system, and we were required to hook into the line at our own expense. Most home owners
opted to hire someone for the job, but I decided that we could save $2,000 by doing it ourselves. After purchasing the pipes, I had
students dig the necessary trenches. I then proceeded to cut a hole in the side of a concrete manhole for hooking into the main sewage
line. I first tried to accomplish the task using a hammer and chisel, but the concrete was too hard. I then tried drilling a circle of
small holes with an electric drill and masonry bits. After burning up three bits, I went and got my grinder and a masonry cutting
blade. Someone from the church had borrowed the grinder and when it was returned, the protective shield was missing. In desperation,
I decided to use it anyway but I soon regretted that decision!
With the grinder, I seemed to be making more headway, but cement dust soon covered me from head to toe; I had to repeatedly wipe dust
from my goggles in order to see. It was the first of July and extremely hot in the trench. I would normally have asked one of the
students to help, but without the protective shield on the grinder, I determined to get the job done myself.
When the hole was nearly finished, the grinding blade jammed and before I could release the trigger, the powerful motor jerked the
machine nearly out of my hand. The blade snapped and the jagged edge of what remained slashed into my left wrist, laying the bone bare.
Holding the wound with my right hand, I climbed from the ditch just as the mailman came to deliver the mail. He at first didn't see
my injury and gave a friendly greeting. Seeing my dust covered body, he jovially asked who this snowman was on the first of July. Then,
he saw my badly gashed wrist and ran into the school to get help. One of the students drove me to the hospital in our car, worried all
the way that I might die. I was more concerned about getting blood on the seats of our car!
If you ever visit Austria, don't ever get injured on July first! That is Orientation Day for the new interns. All morning, freshly
graduated medical students are indoctrinated for their first real-life experience at saving lives and mending the bodies of real human
beings. Right after lunch, they officially begin their medical career, which is precisely when I arrived at the emergency ward.
A veteran doctor of many years examined the wound and turned me over to a chic young nurse, dressed in spotless whites from her head
to her toes. "I want you to clean the wound," he instructed, "Be sure to get all the dirt out."
I really felt sorry for the poor girl; she certainly deserved more appropriate initiation rites than this! She was concerned not to
cause me any pain and while gingerly picking pieces of grinder blade and cement from the wound, kept asking if it hurt. A senior nurse
was overseeing and decided to give her a few tips, at first verbal ones. "You are taking too long;" she said, "get some cotton swabs
and alcohol and wash the dirt out!" Having assured her that my arm was so numb, that I couldn't feel a thing, the young nurse began
the washing procedure with a bit more vigor. The head nurse however, was still not satisfied with the progress she was making. She
took a swab of alcohol-drenched cotton and with rapid, masterful strokes, demonstrated how the job should be done. The intern nurse's
face turned whiter than her clothes had been. I say "had been" for obvious reasons --her dress was splattered from top to bottom with
my blood! After the wound was cleaned to the satisfaction of the head nurse, two intern doctors were instructed to sew me up. One of
the muscles was cut almost through and they wondered if they should also sew this together. The conversation went something like this:
"What is this muscle called?"
"Don't you know?"
"Sure, but I wanted to see if you knew."
"Do you think it needs to be stitched?"
"I don't know; maybe we should ask the Doctor."
"You ask him."
"Well, OK, which muscle was it now?"
Except for the fact that neither the senior nor junior medics thought to give me a tetanus shot, everything went quite well. I got the
shot two weeks later when another doctor took the cast off my arm. "This form gives no indication of you having received a tetanus shot.
You certainly received one, didn't you?" It was actually too late for the shot to have done any good, but it is never too late to put it
on a hospital bill.
Three days later was the 4th of July, America's national holiday. I had planned to go sailing. Verna saw me getting the boat ready with
one arm and asked, "You are not going sailing with one arm, are you?" I replied, "If I have to work with one arm, I can play with one
arm." Since she couldn't convince me, she decided to come along. It was a good idea. I got the boat away from the dock and moving along
in a good breeze, but after a hundred meters, the line that held the main sail came loose and got caught in a pully at the top of the
mast. I had no control over the direction of the boat, which threatened to collide with other boats and even swimmers. A wind surfer saw
my plight and swam over to help. When I got to the beach, Verna began to tell me how foolish I had been not to listen to her. I answered,
"You shouldn't kick a wounded soldier when he is down!"
Male students were required to help shovel snow, mow lawns, make minor repairs and do other tasks around the school. I was always trying
to stress safety with the students, so the above incident was quite an embarrassment. It was not the last time I would be embarrassed
One of the students was an accomplished welder, so I had him weld legs for seven round tables and a dozen folding rectangular tables.
While he was working on the tables one day, I asked him to pose as though he were welding so I could take a picture of him at work. He
gladly obliged and the slide turned out so well that I used it in our furlough slide presentation. After showing those slides a dozen
times, a welder in the congregation asked how I could allow the students to use an electric welder without protective goggles!
Female students were required to wash and iron all the students' clothes. The finished clothes were then placed in a cabinet with
compartments labeled for each student. A guest student was helping to iron the clothes once, and was not familiar with all the students'
names. She knew there was a girl named Siglinde, but didn't realize that there was also a male student named Leopold Siegl. She decided
that "Siegl" was the abbreviation for Siglinde and placed her pretty silk underwear in Leo's compartment.
Once, a female student said that she was tired of washing and ironing; wasn't there some other job that she could do? I explained that
the walls of the dining room needed painting if she wanted to do that. She changed her clothes while I got out the paint, roller and tray.
I had hardly returned to what I had been doing, when the girl came to complain that the paint needed thinning. I said that the paint was
supposed to be applied full strength, "Painting is not an easy job for a girl."
After fifteen minutes, another girl approached me and said that she too thought that the paint needed thinning. I was not about to give in.
"The paint is supposed to be thick," I said, "It is a special paint that covers with one coat and is not easy to apply."
Ten minutes later, a third girl came and insisted that I come and try to roll paint on the wall myself. In disgust, I complied, prepared to
show those silly girls that they would be better off to stick to washing and ironing. "The wall is only half finished," I exclaimed, "By
this time, I could have done the job myself and even cleaned out the roller!" I took the roller from the exasperated girl's hand and after
dipping it in the paint, tried to roll it out onto the wall. The roller would hardly move! About this time, I also detected a peculiar smell.
I picked up the paint can and read the hardly legible label: "Carpet Cement!"
I will share one more story about ironing clothes. One sunny day three girls were asked to iron clothes. One of them suggested getting an
extension cord and ironing outside. She went to the workshop and retrieved a roll of cable and a three-way adaptor. It was the light-weight
cable we used for an electric grass trimmer and not even suitable for one electric iron. Most of the cable was still on the roll and before
long three 220 volt electric irons were generating a lot of heat. By the time a fuse blew, the cable insulation had melted into a gooey mass.
We had a student who had worked as a plumber, so when one of the girls told me that a toilet was stopped up in their dorm, I assigned him
the job of unplugging it. Instead of grabbing the tools and going, he muttered, "I came here to study the Bible, not unplug toilets. I had
enough of that before!" I called him back and said, "Never mind, I have another job you can do." After he left, I went and unplugged the
toilet myself. When he heard that I had done the messy job, his conscience bothered him and he came to apologize. He said, "From now on I
am responsible for stopped up toilets!"
A UNIQUE SCHOOL
Schools are for learning and this was of course the main thrust of our Bible Institute. It is not enough to have students eager to learn.
Teachers are also necessary, but we had very limited finances.There were always a couple of full-time teachers on staff, but most of our
teachers were pastors or professors from other schools who came to teach for a day or week. This enabled us to engage the best qualified
teachers without having to hire them. Many were happy to teach without pay. We only paid their transportation costs and sometimes they
even refused that.
There were a few problems with this, however. Teachers came from different denominational backgrounds and sometimes espoused minor
opposing theological positions.
We made the best of this situation, in that students were encouraged to prayerfully and respectfully discuss these varying positions with
each other and school staff with open Bibles. The students heard a wide range of opinions, positions and interpretations on various matters
of doctrine and practice and this forced them to study God's Word, pray and think each premise through carefully. We often asked students
what position or interpretation they believed was best and why.
We had teachers and students who were decidedly pacifist and others who had served in the military. We didn't try to "convert" them to a
particular position, but encouraged them to listen and consider arguments from both sides carefully and respectfully. Only in matters of
basic scriptural teaching and doctrine did we remain firm. Many, including teachers, had never been exposed to arguments that were
contradictory to their own beliefs or traditions.
Several students said that three visiting teachers had completely different ideas about Christian counseling (German: "Seelsorge") and
they wondered what they should believe. We discussed the matter in a staff meeting, but realized that we too had different ideas about
counseling. The subject was brought before the Board of Directors in the next Board meeting. Once more, there was no clear consensus. I spoke
up, saying that personal counseling had hardly been mentioned when I was in Bible college. In recent years, however, it had become one of the
most important aspects of Christian ministry. There were many books on the subject, seminars and conferences were held on personal
counselling and some Bible colleges offered a major in that field. I then added that "Seelsorge" (literal meaning: care for souls) was
nowhere mentiond in the Bible and few people bothered to define the word.
The Board members discussed the issue for a while, and then the Chairman spoke up and asked me to prepare a paper and, if possible, to make
a recommendation for our next Board meeting. I agreed, but had no idea where this would eventually lead me!
I spent hours studying books on counseling, requested and received thick folders of material from other Bible training schools in Europe,
and most importantly, I followed our advice to students in such situations, spending much time in Bible study and prayer, seeking the Lord's
guidance and wisdom. My study and research caused me to change my understanding of a number of Biblical passages. In the end, I feared that
I might be accused of apostacy if I shared all my findings with Board members. Anyone interested can read about my study on our website
under "My Documents", but at the time, I just shared my own definition of counseling and proposed guidelines for discussing the matter
PACKAGING THE GOSPEL
I taught many Bible courses and soon recognized what I felt to be a deficit in our curriculum. The students were getting God's Word, but
they struggled to impart what they had learned to others. Our students were required to be involved in local ministires, in a special
evangelistic week and during the summer months as part of their education. Staff members, including ourselves, accompanied them.
I approached the school director, Jack Baumgartner, and suggested teaching a course on what I called “Packaging the Gospel.” The course
would include various methods of presentation, the use of audio visuals, illustrations, object lessons, stories and other means to make
the message clear and interesting. Jack suggested that I work up a two-hour seminar on the use of audio-visuals, but didn't think the
students should receive credits for taking it. I was disappointed in the time allotted me, but was well-prepared the following semester.
When introducing the course to students, I quoted Matthew 13:34, "All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said
nothing to them without a parable." I then explained that most of their courses were Bible classes, but this class would teach them how
to use parables, object lessons, stories and all kinds of audio visuals to present the gospel and Bible truth. I explained that the human
body has important sensory organs and that we must learn to respectfully consider and utilize all of them in our presentations. We are
influenced by what we see, hear, feel, smell and taste. Even peripheral influences are important. Temperature, lighting, and distractions
of all kinds can nullify or diminish our efforts to teach a truth. But they can also enhance or emphasize truth. Most importantly, we want
the student to remember and apply what he or she has learned.
My "Packaging the Gospel" class soon became a favorite among students. About half a dozen graduates later said that it was the most
helpful course they had taken in Bible school.
The students knew that I practised what I taught. I not only used chalk talks, multimedia, and flip charts, but also incorporated
"parables" of all kinds when giving devotions, preaching and even in personal counseling. The Austrian Christian Workers Conference,
which was held a week each year, sponsored many local and regional evangelistic outreaches, camps and other events. I was asked to chair
the Public Relations Committee. One of our last projects was establishing an internet portal and helping local churches to build and
manage their own websites.
Many Austrians are passionate mushroom hunters who can spot a mushroom in the forest while driving by in a car. In a similar way, I
am constantly on the lookout for object lessons, stories and illustrations as a habit. We must make our message interesting and
understandable. There is no excuse for boring people with anything as fascinating as the gospel! [Read my book, Images of the Creator
should also be Creative.]
STUDENTS FROM THE EAST
There were few Bible Schools and seminaries in Eastern Europe and after 1989, the Austrian Bible Institute was soon receiving
applications from Eastern Europeans. These youth had no money to pay for their education, even at $300 per month for room, board and
tuition. We shared these conditions with supporters, asking if anyone would like to sponsor a student.
Arben Kosta was one of the first to apply. He was a gifted young man from Albania, who fled to Austria shortly before his country's
Communist government was overthrown. Albania was the only country in the world that had totally outlawed all religion. Arben could draw just
about anything with charcoal or pencil, making it look like a black and white photo. He could also speak fluent Albanian, Russian and
Italian and while in Austria, he mastered German and English as well.
Arben had been interned in an Austrian refugee camp near Graz, but was soon transferred to another camp in St. Georgen. Our GMU
coworker, Joe Guenther, met him and began regular Bible studies with him. Albania soon became a free country and Arben could have
returned to become a successful businessman or politician. But his desire was to return to Albania and help build the Church of Jesus
Christ in that land. We encouraged him to first get Bible training and promised that we would help with his financial needs.
Arben filed an application nearly in the last minute, and I wrote to one of our supporting churches that had said it would like to
sponsor such a student. Because school was about to begin, I promised that I would personally vouch for Arben's school payments in
order for him to be accepted. Several months passed and I received no response from the church, so I wrote again, explaining that we
had been making his payments, but our own financial situation was not very good. This time, we received a reply.
Every year, several of our supporting churches, including this one, took a special Christmas in July offering for their missionaries.
We usually received several hundred Dollars extra at this time of the year and since our regular support checks barely covered normal
living expenses, we always looked forward to these extra gifts. The church in question wrote that this year's gift was to help with
Arben's school expenses.
Fortunately, a Home Bible Study group in Graz assumed half of Arben's support, but for three years, we struggled to pay the other half.
After graduation, Arben returned to Albania as a missionary and joined with German missionaries who worked with Frontiers to start
a church in the Northern Albanian city of Kukes. Canadian missionaries serving in Austria with Child Evangelism Fellowship had children about the
same age as ours. Their daughter, Sherilyn graduated from a Bible Institute in Germany and went to serve with CEF in Albania. We had
a special place in our hearts for both these young people and as we prayed for them, we wondered…. We decided to write both of them
to let them know that we are praying. We added a PS that we were also praying "for someone else" in Albania, and if they should ever
happen to meet, to give them our greetings.
Sherilyn wrote back immediately, saying that we should not divulge the information with her parents yet, but they were "almost engaged."
We visited our supporting churches again in 1994 and I told about Eastern Europeans, who were studying in the Austrian Bible Institute,
some of whom needed financial support. A member of the above mentioned church approached me after the service and asked, "When you were
here before, we said that we would like to sponsor a needy student. Why didn't we hear from you?" I hesitated at first, but then
explained that I had written twice and that the church had designated their annual Christmas gift for Arben's education expenses. The
questioner started to continue, but then changed the subject. The following day, we were notified that the church was giving us a $500
cash gift and increasing our monthly support by $100. Later, I met the man who had questioned me in a restaurant. He said that he was
now Chairman of the Missions Committee and that future correspondence should be directed to his attention.
We also sponsored a young Czech student who became Chaplain of a large, newly constructed rehabilitation center for handicapped
children in Budweis, Czech Republic. A Czech girl we sponsored for a semester also served in that same ministry. We had students from
Hungary, former Yugoslavia, and a Macedonian from Iran. Other students came from Holland, Ireland, Switzerland and Germany. We even
had two American students. They wanted to be missionaries in Austria and saw this as an opportunity to get Bible training and improve
their German at the same time.
In the autumn of 1985, one of the original six students got married in Germany. The entire student body (now 18 persons) and staff
(six of us) were invited to the wedding. Klaus forgot his passport, so we had to leave him at the border near Salzburg. Soon after
that incident, I was to accompany a group of students to that same town for a special outreach. Remembering the plight of poor Klaus,
I demanded to see each student's passport before we left the school. When we reached the border, I discovered that I had left MY
passport at home! I got out of the van at the train station and told the students to drive on without me. Ashamed and dejected, I
sat and waited for a train to take me home.
Meanwhile, the students reached the border and found my wife Verna waiting there with our car and my passport! They told her where
I was and she drove as fast as she could to the train station and found me just in time! After that, it was always the students who
asked if I had MY passport!
STORM CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON
Although we and the Baumgartners had no major theological differences and had good fellowship in the church and school, we soon
recognized that we held differing ideas about organization, finances and personal relationships.
Because we founded the school and GMU was paying most of the bills, the Executive Committee had made me Business Manager, outlining
my duties and competence. Jack, however, believed that a Director was the final authority in all matters relating to the school. He
insisted on making all final decisions, from processing student applications, to purchasing toilet paper. It was tedious, but I
cooperated fully in the first year. Money matters have destroyed many a Christian organization, and I felt that it was important to be
open and cooperative for the sake of our fellowship and for the school's reputation. This worked fairly well in the first year and we
had great times of fellowship.
The number of students and staff tripled in the second year, and the work load increased accordingly. That is when problems began to
surface more frequently. Differences were mostly of a trivial nature and I considered these to be a normal component of teamwork. The
Baumgartners were not so inclined however, and at times, there were long, heated discussions about what they considered a wrong
decision or action. If I made a trivial decision independent of him, I was accused of going behind his back, yet if I brought the
matter to his attention, he complained about being unnecessarily burdened.
During the second year, I took all matters to staff meetings for a decision. Since there were now four couples serving the school,
this helped, but other staff objected to the long detailed discussions of matters that didn't pertain to them. No one took minutes at
our meetings, and Jack sometimes claimed that we had already discussed and decided certain matters although others could not recall
that having happened. I insisted on someone taking minutes at our meetings and everyone getting a copy. That helped, but tensions
The Baumgartners had an aging Renault station wagon and we had an older Ford wagon. Students often joked about which car would be the
first to go to the junkyard. We both carried jumper cables and tool boxes in the back in event of a break down. And they seemed to
occur every month.
We purchased our car second hand in 1981 after it had been damaged and repaired. Before our furlough in 1982, we sold the car to Graham
Lange, and the day he paid us, I drove the car over an embankment, nearly wrecking it. When we returned from furlough, Graham had bought
a Volvo and offered to sell the car back to us. We bought it back and drove it many more miles until 1985. The right side was damaged
when I slid off the road in a snowstorm. The cracked windshield, a broken seatbelt and all four shocks needed replacing before it could
pass inspection. The car owed us nothing, but with the Bible school project, money was tight.
In March, 1985, we set out to pick up Becky from Black Forest Academy for Easter vacation. We had only driven a few miles when the car
started to make strange noises. Fortunately, it happened near the small country Ford dealership where I usually got the car serviced.
The mechanic said that the transmission needed to be replaced. When I asked what that would cost, the owner was called in for consultation.
He knew the car and said that it would be better for us to trade it for a new one. He offered us a great deal on a new 1985 Ford station
wagon, but we just laughed and said, "That will not happen!" He then explained that the new car had a 5-speed transmission that got much
better mileage. With all the miles we traveled and the price of gasoline, our savings would actually pay for the car. We said what we
always told car salesmen. "We will pray about it."
We were about to leave when he saw our suitcases in the back of the car. He said, I hope you aren't going far with that transmission."
When I told him we were driving to Kandern Germany, on the French border, he just shook his head and said, "You will never make it. You
would be lucky to drive a hundred kilometers with that transmission!" I replied that I was a member of the touring club and could get a
free rental car if the car broke down on a trip.
We drove for 10 hours, fully expecting to get a rental car. The noise got much worse and other motorists stared at us, but we arrived.
And we drove another ten hours home again! When we got to the Ford dealership, we had prayed enough and signed a sales contract. Our bank
had okayed a loan and thanks to Ronald Reagan, the Dollar exchange was fantastic. The dealer must have been desperate, for he allowed us
the full blue book price for our old car in spite of the needed repairs!
When we got home, we told nobody about getting a new car. It would be a surprise.
Meanwhile, the Baumgartners also ordered a new car and they too said nothing. It would be a surprise.
Just before Mother's Day, both cars arrived at the respective dealerships. That afternoon, two new cars drove onto the school lot within
an hour of each other. Both cars were red with grey interiors! Verna and I laughed and joked about the coincidence and I am certain that
everyone else was amused, but the Baumgartners were not at all happy. They criticized us for keeping it secret, saying that they would
have waited if they had known. What would people say when they learned that two school leaders had bought new cars at the same time!
In the summer of 1984, I borrowed the church's lawnmower for the Bible Institute lawn, but members were not very happy about that
arrangement. The elders said that the school should get it's own mower. I was very understanding and placed this on my "to-do" list for
the following Spring.
Although our mission was paying nearly all bills and the Board had named me Business Manager, I brought up all needs and proposed projects
in our staff meetings to avoid conflicts. When I suggested buying a lawn mower in May, I expected Jack to agree if funds were available.
Instead, he said that we could use a scythe to cut the grass. I said that I had used one a few times to cut grass for our rabbits, but
people working in the sewing factory once saw my futile efforts from the window and a crowd gathered to watch the spectacle. I was not
willing to repeat that performance. Jack then said that the lawn mower would be a good project for one of the school's supporters. He
would mention the need in the Spring newsletter.
A man who raised sheep as a hobby read about the need for a lawnmower and talked us into boarding two of his sheep. "Hansel and Gretel
will keep the grass mowed and save you the cost of fuel," he said. "You can spend the Lord's money for more important things."
After the arrival of those sheep, I gained a clearer understanding of the many scripture references to sheep, but the critters certainly
didn't save us money or time! And the lawn was worse than before! They ate clover and other tasty varieties of grass, but our campus was
mostly covered with the kind of green that tasted lousy and grew tall! In addition, the sheep left excrement all over and it got tracked
The campus had a fence around it, but few remembered to close the gate. As anyone knows, the grass is always greener on the other side
of the fence, so Hansel and Gretel were always getting out. Our daughter Becky was the only person who knew how to catch them and bring
We resorted to tying the sheep to stakes. This had certain benefits. Without the freedom of choice, the sheep ate more of the weeds and
left their excrement in predictable places. But there were several downsides as well. We had to move the stakes every few hours and
untangle the animals whenever they threatened to strangle themselves with the ropes. The campus took on an interesting, overlapped polka-dot
Spring was very wet and cool, ideal conditions for growth, but not conducive to cheerfulness. It seemed like everyone needed help, but
everyone was too busy to be bothered. In June, about 50 members of the Gideons were to hold their annual conference in the Bible school.
There were also exams and processing of student applications for the fall semester. The summer camp season was almost upon us and I had
to prepare the third dormitory. The wooden floor in a large recreation room was rotted, so I ordered a load of concrete and poured a new
floor. The sun came out in all its glory right afterward, so I worked feverishly with a couple of students to pull it down and trowel it
before it got too hard. I was barely finished when the Director of the school said that the weeds next to the parking lot were too high
and had to be cut. I reminded him that we had no mower. A farmer had been cutting it, but said he didn't have time. Jack said that I
should use a scythe and I repeated my earlier reasons for declining. That obviously irritated him and he responded by saying, "Okay, I
will do it myself! I know how to use a scythe."
Before long, he complained of chest pains and a doctor was called. The doctor ordered an ambulance to get him to the hospital. Even
before the ambulance arrived, the telephone rang. His mother in Switzerland had been hit by a car and was not expected to live! She
died three days later. Jack had suffered a massive heart attack! All of us at the school were in a state of shock and we immediately
notified our praying constuency, urging them to pray for his recovery. After 18 days in the ICU and several weeks in a convalescent
home, he was able to return home, but the doctor ordered him to avoid all stress.
I purchased a Lawn-Boy mower and told the owner of the sheep that we no longer needed his animals. He could come get them at his
The first time I used the new mower, I had to keep adjusting the carburetor to prevent it from stalling. I finally took the carburetor
apart and found the problem. It was made of hard plastic and the small brass seat for the adjustment valve had been screwed in too tight
at the factory, stripping the threads. Our Lawn-Boy was under warranty, so I took it back for repairs. The carburetor had to be sent
back to the factory in America. Now we had no sheep and no lawnmower!
After Jack's heart attack, I was more resolved than ever not to touch that scythe! I prayed and asked God to please help! I reminded
him that he had sent rain to make things grow and now we needed to cut the grass. The Lord answered that prayer in short order. The
father of one of our students came to the school to visit his son. He pulled a brand new Honda lawnmower from his car and gave it to
me. He explained that it didn't cut properly. I asked why he didn't take it back to the store and get his money returned. He looked
at me and said, "I remembered reading in the newsletter that you needed a lawnmower. I figured you could get it fixed. My grass was
too high to wait, so I bought another mower."
After he went into the school, I pulled the starter cord and the mower sprang to life on the first pull. The self-propulsion also
worked great, but I noticed that instead of cutting the grass, it was just bending it over. I shut the mower down and checked the
cutting blade. Sure enough, it was on upside down! When the student's father came back out, I had mowed half the lawn. He looked
surprised and wanted to know how I got it to cut. I explained and asked if he wanted it back. He said, "Absolutely not! God told me
to give it to you."
When the new Lawn-Boy carburetor finally arrived, summer was long gone. We now had two good mowers and no more grass to cut!
Seven Good Years and Seven Lean Years
We opened the Austrian Bible Institute in the Fall of 1984 and experienced steady growth for seven years. After only three years of
operation, the Bible Institute had become financially independent of the mission. I believed that it was time to consider purchasing
and other members of our School Board agreed, but I was more concerned about relationships that threatened to disrupt the school.
Students were beginning to sense that there were tensions and although I had prayed much about the situation and tried several times
to seek resolution, there seemed to be no relief.
In early December, 1989, I began to pray seriously about tendering my resignation as Business Manager of the Bible Institute.
Constant differences about simple things like the purchase of a telephone answering machine, putting a tile ceiling in the kitchen,
purchasing mattresses and use of a photo copier were stressful and used much energy that could be better invested in important matters.
Such tensions were increasing and becoming more obvious to students.
In early January, 1990, I resolved to "lay out the fleece." I determined to speak with the Director of the mining company about a
possible purchase of our property. If the response was positive and the price reasonable, I would remain as Business Manager. If
I got a red light, I would tender my resignation. By mid January, I received a triple positive response! The mining company agreed
to sell us the property for the value of the land alone, approximately $120,000. The Mayor heard about this and approached me with
two more options. He said that he would help us to find a choice property where we could build, or we could consider buying the
"Stefan Demuth Property," a large modern hotel-like building used for camps, retreats and conferences. The Mayor said that we could
likely get it for about half a million Dollars (6 million AS).
I resolved to share this information with the Executive Committee on January 27, 1990.
Four members of the Bible Institute staff, including the Director were present in the church prayer meeting that week. Hubert,
head deacon and member of the city council, asked about the Bible Institute possibly purchasing the Stefan Demuth property. The
Pastor, Franz and Jack listened in disbelief. Jack said that there was no such plan in the works. I then spoke up and said matter
of factly, "I spoke with the Mayor about a possible purchase of the present facilities and he suggested we look into the Demuth
House. He said that it would be better suited for our purposes." I added, "I have arranged for the Executive Committee to look
at the property when they come for our meeting on Saturday."
After the tour on Saturday, all were impressed and the consensus was that we should seriously consider buying it if we could get
it for 4 to 5 million Schillings ($350,000 – 440,000). I repeated what the Mayor had said, that we could probably get it for 6
million ($520,000). The treasurer spoke up and said, "They would never sell for that!" He then mentioned a property near Linz,
that we could get for 3 1/2 million, but it needed work. I said that I believed the school should stay in Ampflwang. The discussion
was recorded in the minutes.
I was asked to find out what the owners were asking and the answer was seven million. An "asking price" is always where one begins
negotiations, but you can't start bargaining until you can back up an offer with money!
During the Annual Board Meeting on March 10, 1990, we were on a short three-month furlough in America. The purchase possibilities
were discussed and members received my detailed plans of the Demuth property and proposals for purchasing either the campus we had
been leasing or the Demuth House. Two men on the Board with business experience were appointed to check into the Demuth property
and obtain more details from the owners, but no further decision was made.
We had a busy summer in 1990 with camps and another All-Euope Conference of GMU from August 27 to September 1.
At the Executive Committee Meeting on October 13th, it became clear that very few Board members felt we could afford the Demuth
property. They said that we could never raise six million Shillings. Reluctantly, I proposed another talk with the Mining Company
about purchasing the present facilities. On October 18th, I approached Dr. Kores (Director of the Mining Company), who again
stated that they would sell for the value of the land alone. No definite price was given, but he said that it would be the normal
selling price in our area. Dr. Eisner, Chairman of our School Board proposed offering them the equivalent of $150,000 for the
property. I communicated the offer in writing a few days later.
In late November, one of the Board members told Baumgartners about an available property in Wallsee, Lower Austria which might
be suitable for a school. On November 29th, the Baumgartners went to look at it and came back all excited. They exclaimed, "We
can buy this lovely property for just six million Shillings!" I walked home in a daze, unable to believe what I had just heard! I
had not seen the building, but the price they deemed impossible to raise a month ago for the Demuth property was suddenly within
reach! The Pastor of the Ampflwang church also served on the Board, so he and another church leader joined us to inspect the
The house in Wallsee was at least 500 years old, and built much like a castle, with walls that were three feet thick! It had a
lovely view of the Danube River and had once served as a toll house for ship traffic. For many years, it also served as a small
monestery, but most recently as a bed & breakfast for bicyclists who biked the Danube River Trail from Vienna to Bavaria. There
was a wine cellar and underground passageway that once led to a nearby castle belonging to a member of the Habsburg family, but
it had been sealed off at some point.
The ground floor had a modest kitchen, a dining room, library and an office. A lovely banquet hall with wood paneled ceiling
seating about 50 persons, a room that could be used as a classroom and five bedrooms were located on the second floor. Another
ten bedrooms were on the third floor. There was a community bathroom on the second and third floors and toilets on the ground
floor. All students, male and female would live in the same building but there was no room for married students or staff. Very
little land was included with the building, but the Baumgartners said it would be possible to purchase adjoining land, including
a modern bungalow next door. Nearby apartments could be rented or purchased for married students and staff. All this would make
the Wallsee building more expensive than the asking price for the Demuth property, but I was convinced that the owners would
accept any reasonable offer.
Our next committee meeting was January 26, 1991, so there would be time to think and pray about the matter. I felt that the
Baumgartners would lose their original infatuation with the Wallsee property by that date.
In our staff meeting on January 11, Jack said that each of the four couples on full-time staff should write statements expressing
their feelings and opinions in advance of the Executive Committee meeting, which would take place on January 27th. We met again
on the 25th to share these with each other prior to the Executive Committee meeting. The general consensus was that remaining in
Ampflwang would be preferable. Even the Baumgartners expressed this opinion and I breathed a sigh of relief.
I drew scaled floor plans and sketches of the three properties in question, listing advantages and disadvantages of each property.
I also made careful calculations of cost and other factors illustrated with graphs. I presented these to the Board in our January
27 meeting. I gave my opinion that if our offer of $150,000 for the present property was accepted, we should grab it. We could pay
cash and build as funds became Available. I showed that the Demuth property would cost no more than the one in Wallsee. It was
located in Ampflwang, was more suitable for our purposes, and there was enough property to sell parcels if we needed money. In
Wallsee, we would have to buy property for expansion.
The Demuth property had been on the market for two years already. Both the Mayor and the owners had indicated that they would
accept a lesser offer. I said that if we offered 6 million, they would definitely accept. A Board member, who had been Business
Manager of a large Austrian firm for many years agreed with that assessment.
I made it clear that we could not move to Lower Austria because I was the Field Director for our mission and we had selected Upper
Austria as our target area. If the school moved, they would have to find another Business Manager.
When we wrote our January 1991 newsletter (below), We described all the "IF"s in life but emphasized the importance of recognizing
that "He" is ultimately in control. The difficult issue of purchasing property was on my mind, but I felt confident that God was
about to do something big in Austria.
Following is a copy of our Alpine Echo newsletter of January 20, 1991 (without photos), written and sent six days prior to the
January 26 Executive Committee meeting.
What a difference a two-letter word can make! Take that little word "IF" for example.
Locate the "letters "I" and "F" in the alphabet. Now, move from the "I" one position to the left and you have an "H".
Next, move from the "F" one position to the left and you get "E".
There is little difference between "IF" and "HE", is there not?
"IF only that person was not so impossible!
"HE delights in doing the impossible! (Luke 1:37)
"IF only the Dollar exchange would go up instead of down all the time!"
"HE shall supply all our needs." (Phil 4:19)
"IF we could only… "
"We can do all things through Christ; HE strengthens us!" (Phil. 4:13)
"IF we just had..."
"HE owns the cattle on a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10); "All things are ours; we are Christ's; Christ is God's." (I Corinthians 3:21-23)
IF we had known back in 1964, what we would be facing as missionaries, would we have made the same decision? IF we had known of
all the difficulties, heartaches, separations, trials and Problems?
What IF we had known about all the blessings, fruit, answered prayers, joyful experiences and victories that awaited us before we
entered those times of difficulties and problems?
Our decision to follow the Lord's leading to Austria was not a step in the dark, but a walk in the light. It is not OUR light, but
HIS. Many times it appears dark to us, but the Lord sees very well and tells us to walk in faith. Like the infrared light that helps
cameras focus and changes TV channels, we don't need to see it to understand how it works. We knew and still know the LORD in whom all power,
knowledge, grace and comfort subsists. IF we know HIM, that is sufficient!
Still, it bothers us sometimes that the Lord sheds his light so "sparingly" upon our path! IF only we could see what lies at the end
of the road, or at least a few steps ahead! But there are times when only HE sees the path on which we trod. Because we are human and
cannot see things through God's eyes, we are prone to doubt. Time and again, we catch that little word "IF" trying to sneak into our
thinking and vocabulary. "IF" would gladly usurp the position of authority in our hearts that only "HE" should occupy. "IF" is a
child of doubt; HE is author and finisher of faith! "IF" tries to seduce us into questioning God's love, his wisdom, his knowledge,
his authority, his very existence! What a world -- no, what an eternity of difference there is between these two small words!
Often, after going through times of discouragement, stress, financial difficulty, poor health or spiritual adversity; we thanked the
Lord that all these problems didn't hit us at once! Certainly, we could not take that!
During 1990, the Lord seemed to allow that to happen! Like the ruthless fury of the hurricane that hit Austria in late February,
storms of life have been battering us all year. Verna was already in America helping Becky move when the hurricane came through.
Electric was out a total of 13 hours. High winds ripped the siding off the back of the school building. After working feverishly to
repair the damage, complete the Bible Institute bookkeeping, pack suitcases and put together two slide presentations, Ralph set the
alarm for 3:00 a.m. and crawled into bed. When he set out for the airport at 3:30, all major roads from Ampflwang were blocked by
fallen timber. One resident was killed when a tree fell on his car. Ralph managed to get to the airport, using back roads. Winds began
to subside however, and the plane was cleared for takeoff.
Our short two-month furlough brought more turbulence, including expensive car repairs and the death of Verna's mother. All year, the
exchange rate for the Dollar continued to fall. In June, Verna underwent a complete hysterectomy. We could go on and on, but don't
want to bore you with "our" First Corinthians eleven!
Although we have received a few battle scars, we are amazed at how the Lord brought us through 1990! It was no more difficult than
in other years with God's grace.
In Numbers 11, Moses complained that the entire burden of responsibility for Israel rested upon his shoulders. "IF I only had a few
helpers…" he must have grumbled. So God told him to select 70 men. HE then took of the spirit that was upon Moses and distributed
it among the seventy! (verse 25). The Bible is full of such illustrations of God's sufficiency under adverse circumstances.
We have often found ourselves frustrated that the owners of the leased Bible Institute property refused to consider our offers to
buy. "IF" they would only agree to sell….
Suddenly, the owners have agreed to sell -- on our terms! At the same time, two other suited properties have been offered to us for
reasonable prices. What IF we make a wrong decision? IF we sign a contract, can we raise the money? IF we opt to buy one of the other
properties, what should we do with the complex we are presently leasing? IF we only knew! IF we just had the money… Say, haven't we
been here before?
As a teenager, I owned a noisy pink convertible that must have annoyed the neighbor's dog, because it would chase my car until all of
its energy was expended. One day, I decided to see what the dog would do IF I allowed him to catch my car just once. I applied the
brakes, bringing the car to an abrupt halt. The dog at first looked puzzled, but then tucked its tail between its legs and ran for
We have asked you to pray, and God has answered. Should we run away now? ...or ask you to stop praying? Absolutely not! Answered
Prayer and attained goals are often the greatest tests of faith. A servant who is faithful in little, is entrusted with much. But
it is the all sufficient grace of God which gives victory in any case. We call upon you again to pray for us. Even IF it means more
work, more responsibility or more problems. It also means that HE gives us more of His grace!
You belong to the "seventy" whom the Lord has chosen to help us in our work. He has endowed each of us with his Spirit according to
our involvement in his work. Some of us are sent while others give and pray. Lets place all those IFs behind us and discover what
great things HE can do with and through us in 1991!
Ralph and Verna Harvey
The January 26, 1991 Executive Committee meeting took place just five days after we sent the above newsletter. The three couples
working full time with the school had written their opinions and positions regarding a property purchase to share in this meeting.
I only have our own paper, in which we stated that we felt the school should remain in Ampflwang, and that we could endorse purchasing
either of the two properties offered in Ampflwang. Ampflwang had proved itself to be a very good host for the school. By remaining
in town, the move would be simple and there would be no need to change the name ("Bibelschule Ampflwang").
Summer camps conducted in the Bible School facilities had become quite popular in all Austria. A large public pool was located within
5 minutes walking distance and Ampflwang was known as the largest riding town in Europe with over 600 riding horses and miles of
forest trails. The lovely mountain and lake section of Austria made famous by The Sound of Music, is only a half hour drive from
Ampflwang. If the Bible Institute purchased the Demuth property in Ampflwang, I would be in a good position to acquire the former
campus for camps, retreats and conferences. The lease for the property was still in my name and the owners had already agreed to
sell. I shared this possibility with the Director of the bank that we had been dealing with for years and asked about possible
financing. He surprised me by saying that they would finance the entire amount if we wanted!
This purchase could of course be realized even if the school moved elsewhere. But having both a Bible School and a Camp & Conference
Center in the same town would have many advantages, especially for the school.
In the January meeting, the Board decided to write a letter to all friends and supporters of the Bible School, explaining our
situation and the present options, asking for their input and also if they could foresee contributing towards a purchase or offering
an interest-free loan. I must confess that I was not happy with this decision. I felt that we needed to demonstrate our faith in God
by determining what we believed He wants instead of us responding to their faith.
The letter to friends of the school was mailed in early February in hopes of getting replies in time for our annual Board Meeting on
March 9th, 1991. In spite of my doubts, the response to the letter was overwhelming! Some sent large gifts immediately for whatever
we decided! Others made pledges and offered interest-free loans (some of which were later changed to outright gifts!).
This amazingly generous response from friends of the school gave me new hopes and we prayed much for the March Board Meeting.
The Annual Board meeting was on our wedding anniversary, March 9, 1991. When the subject of purchasing the property in Wallsee came
up, I objected for a number of reasons. I argued that the facility was too small, not suited for a school and too expensive for what
we were getting. I also felt strongly that the school should remain in Ampflwang, where we had two purchase options and wouldn't need
to change our name. In my opinion, both of these options would be a wiser investment and also allow for growth.
Fifteen of eighteen Board members were present. Nine voted to purchase the house in Wallsee and five voted for Ampflwang. Those opting
for Ampflwang included the Chairman, Treasurer, and Business Manager (me). There was one abstention.
It was no secret to Board Members that the Director and I had occasional differences, a few of which had been brought before the Board.
It hurt me that a majority of the Board members supported the preference of the School Director, but the latter's response to the vote
was even more painful. In most Christian organizations, a 9-5-1 vote would have been cause for a moratorium and new vote attempting to
reach unamity, but there was no discussion. Jack simply asked if the decision would cause problems for anyone other than the Harveys
(I had made it clear that we would not be moving with the school). No one responded.
The church in Ampflwang had been praying much about our decision and the following day was Sunday. I didn't have the heart to inform
the church and suggested to Jack that he break the news. After announcing the outcome of the meeting, Jack added a sentence that left
me dumbfounded. He said that he and Elisabeth could not move to Wallsee within the next two years due to their children's schooling!
Following the service, I reminded him of his question in the previous day's meeting and asked for an explanation. He replied that he
and his wife had not considered many aspects of such a move until after the meeting!
Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. (Deuteronomy 25:13)
I was deeply disturbed that Board members made the most important decision since founding the school giving it seemingly little thought.
I sat down and made a long list of the "diverse weights" which had played a part in the decision process.
The School Director had given a number of objections to purchasing our present facilities and/or the Demuth property, which were recorded
in the minutes. Exactly a year later, when the Board was discussing the Wallsee property, Jack argued quite differently.
1990: "The Demuth House is smaller than our present facilities and would only provide room for 50 students."
1991: "We can be happy if we keep the number of students we now have." "29 beds are more than sufficient; the Demuth House is much too
The facts: The facilities we were presently using had 70 beds and the Demuth house had 120. The building in Wallsee had only 29. Wallsee
had a little more than half the usable floor space as the buildings we were presently leasing. The Demuth property offered double the
Furthermore, two thirds of the rooms in Wallsee were on one floor, meaning an uneven distribution of students and guests. In the annual
Board meeting, I asked where we could put up visitors and guests who attended seminars. The Director replied that they could stay in
surrounding hotels and guest houses. In spite of this, he wrote in a newsletter promoting the purchase, "Seminar participants and guests
will enjoy sleeping in our lovely rooms."
1990: "The Demuth House has a stairway which would create too much noise for a school... There is no cellar or attic... I am against
any option that would require much renovation or construction."
1991: "The Wallsee house has a stairway, which would be ideal should we decide to build an addition." "The garage could be made into a
library and we could possibly build out the attic for additional space."
The facts: The Demuth house had both attic and cellar, but these had already been finished out and were totally usable. The attic and
cellar of the Wallsee property could not have been altered for anything other than storage space. Because of its historical significance,
no major alterations would have been permitted.
1990: "Both male and female students would be living in the same building... The apartment [in the Demuth building] would have to be
reserved for a member of staff to watch over the students." "Where could married students live?"
1991: I argued that in Wallsee, male and female students would be living in close proximity with no place for staff, Jack saw no problem
The facts: The Demuth House was four stories high. Female students and male students could have lived on two separate floors with staff
apartments in between.
1990: "The Demuth House is too expensive at 6 million Shillings."
1991: "The Wallsee property is a bargain for only 6 million Shillings."
Although I argued that we could get the Demuth House for 6 million Shillings or even less, the Board didn't even bother to make an offer.
I also argued that there was enough land with the house (10,700 square meters), that we could sell some to help pay for it if needed.
Instead, the Board voted to buy the house in Wallsee. And because it had only 1,500 sq. meters of land, they purchased 400 sq. meters
from a neighbor for an additional 300,000 Shillings and the Director's house for over a million Shillings. Still, Jack wrote friends of
the school that we had made the "optimum choice.“
1990: Franz said that we should only consider moving to an urban area, preferably Vienna, where there are many churches in which
students can get involved in ministry.
1991: Franz urged the Board to vote for the Wallsee option, although the town is far from any urban area and there were no nearby
evangelical churches. When I asked him about his previous position, he said, "Oh that was just a momentary idea I had."
1990: When the Board talked about making the Mining Company an offer (October), our Treasurer said that we should offer 3 million
Shillings. I said we should not offer more than 1.5 million, which would give us some leeway to bargain.
1991: I made an offer of only 1.4 million, but four months later, the Treasurer claimed that I had offered them far too much! He then
said that I should do some calculations and come up with a comparison of the properties. I replied that I had already done this and
sent copies to every Board member several weeks earlier. He found the papers in his file - unread! He then voted for Wallsee.
In our school staff meetings, Jack and Franz said that they didn't want to continue having summer camps in the Wallsee school facilities.
I offered to take responsibility for camps, but they remained adamant.
Shortly thereafter, Jack wrote in our quarterly school paper that the new school would be ideally suited for summer camps.
An architect who served on the Board estimated that the Wallsee property was worth double the asking price of 12,000 Shillings per square
meter. I argued that the owners would be fortunate to unload the property for 8,000/ m². Jack said that the owners were being very gracious
to wait for our decision.
I was deeply disappointed and frustrated with all this and seriously entertained the prospect of resigning from the Board. Others often
asked me for advice when they found themselves in similar circumstances. I told them, "If by sitting on a block of ice, it continues to
melt, stay put! If you are beginning to freeze, move!" "If your bailing is keeping the ship afloat, keep bailing! If it is sinking,
I have seen spiritual men and women leave churches and Christian organizations simply because there were faults or areas of disagreement.
Had they stayed on board a bit longer, they might have been successful in keeping the long term investment of God's people from being
"tossed before the swine."
The purchase was finalized soon after the decision was made. In spite of my reservations, I continued to support the school publicly and
never once did I share me reservations with anyone not involved in the purchase process. As Business Manager, I worked to raise $300,000
in gifts and pledges in just four months! Nearly all that money came from Austrians who had supported the school from the beginning and
had full confidence in the Board's decision.
When the Bible Institute Was founded, it was a highlight of our missionary carreer. When it moved to Wallsee, our hearts were nearly broken.
We felt strongly that decisions of the Board and school leaders had not been properly bathed in prayer. Certainly little consideration was
to possible consequences for the school. If we had thought that a move to Wallsee would be beneficial to the school spiritually, numerically,
financially or in some other tangible way, we would have continued to give it our full support in any way possible. But proponents of the
move could not provide one reason for optimism.
"Should we stay and keep trying to melt the ice, or is it time to move?" "Should we keep bailing, or leave the sinking ship?" That matter
had been decided for us. The school that had been so much a part of our lives for 25 years (17 years praying for it to materialize and seven
years of labor) had departed and left us behind.
After much prayer and soul-searching, I opted to continue serving on the Board and agreed to teach Bible and other subjects. We would
continue our committment of personal financial support to two students from the Czech Republic and one from Albania. But our future ministry
in Austria would now become a serious matter of prayer.
The weather on October 2, 1991 was mixed with a little sun, some rain and mostly cloudy skies. A huge tractor trailer truck with two trailers
rolled onto the campus of the Bible Institute in Ampflwang. It was a sad day for us. The school was leaving Ampflwang for ever. The name
would change and much more.
I paused from the task of loading boxes and articles of furniture long enough to take a few pictures. The sky was black and a light rain
was falling, but the sun came out briefly. I thought, "God is crying, but he is at least there!" I picked up my camera to photograph the
truck and heard Verna gasp, "A rainbow!" There, covering the entire campus was a lovely rainbow, sent by God --just for us! Only after the
film was developed, did I realize that there was a toilet in the center of the picture, waiting to be loaded onto the truck! That picture
has a special significance to me and relates an important message. God promises both blessings and curses. There are conditional and
unconditional promises. We had experienced many blessings during these past seven years and God had kept his promises. Some of those
blessings would be transported to Wallsee, but there was other baggage that could and should have been left behind. No sin dies a natural
death but we must deal with it according to scripture.
On October 19, 1991, hundreds of people converged on the former campus of the Bible Institute for a large flea market and auction. Because
the new campus was smaller, many items could not be used and were sold at bargain prices.
The most difficult part of the move to Wallsee for us, was the fact that we would no longer be working with the students. We both really
missed the close fellowship, interaction and prayer times with students and staff. After the school moved, our days suddenly felt empty
and our future became totally out of focus.
ANOTHER HOPE DASHED
We had always sensed the need for a camp and conference center in Austria and the campus in Ampflwang was ideally suited for this purpose.
The bank that we had dealt with for many years, offered to finance a purchase at a reasonable interest rate. The church, mission, print
shop, summer camps and Bible school ministries had found a hospitable climate and also funneled a lot of money into local businesses. I was
confident that we could pay for the buildings from camp and conference revenue.
After the decision was made to move the Bible Institute to Wallsee, the Directors of the mining company decided to move their offices from
the present headquarters in Ottnang to the buildings we were vacating. When I learned this, I approached the Mine Director and reminded him
that the lease contract was in my name and still valid. There was a clause which required 12 months notification to cancel the contract. We
had invested a lot of money in renovations and improvements and I intended to continue using the facilities for camps and conferences. I then
said that I would like to purchase the property.
The mining company had not expected my reaction and was forced to negotiate a deal with me. I said that I would agree to a cancelation only if
they paid $50,000 by the first of November to cover our investments. They agreed, and even though there was no legal obligation on my part,
I applied that money towards the purchase of the new campus.
FROM OPTIMISM TO DESPONDENCY
I always told people that the Austrian Bible Institute was a "miracle school". At a meeting of the Board in 1989, I said that, in God's eyes,
the school was probably the most important institution in all Austria, even more important than the Austrian Parliament or United Nations City
The other Board members looked at me like I was crazy and asked how I could make such an assertion. I explained that God was more concerned about his
church than anything else in Austria. Our school was the only Bible School and was important for the future of the Austrian church.
Toward the end of 1991, however, I grew increasingly depressed and asked God repeatedly why he had permitted the move. As I prayed, God began
to admonish me. Had I not committed my life to him? Had I not been telling everyone that the Bible Institute was God's work and not mine? Had
he not given me a special promise back in the early days of the Bible Institute? God reminded me that his work is eternal and not just composed
of material things and buildings. "Now therefore let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may be before thee forever;
for thou blessest o Lord, and it shall be blessed forever." (I Chronicles 17:27). As I began to assess the new situation in which I found
myself, I began to pray more earnestly for God's wisdom in seeking his leading for our remaining years (or perhaps days) of service in Austria.
A NEW LOCATION WITH OLD AND NEW PROBLEMS
I hoped and prayed that the spiritual climate among staff members would improve without our presence. This was unfortunately not the case.
After the school moved, tensions persisted. A gifted full-time teacher resigned and requested the Board to deal with internal staff
relationships. I supported his request, but the Director argued that there were no serious problems and the Board accepted his explanation.
Prior to the purchase, those in favor of purchasing the Wallsee property argued that it was in excellent condition. I showed them from
careful calculations and official assessments that the heating and electric would need to be replaced and the plumbing was minimally
sufficient for our needs. Because the building was historically registered and protected, modernization and even minor alterations would
be difficult if not impossible to get past authorities. The purchase price was in my opinion much too high, but there was little attempt
to negotiate. Instead, additional land and a house for the Director were also purchased. A long list of needed repairs never got done in
the next seven years for lack of money.
Student enrollments decreased steadily and good students dropped out for no given reason. The school had seen healthy growth in Ampflwang,
but three years after the move, there were only eight students in all three levels, half of whom were foreigners.
I was asked to give a speech for the tenth anniversary celebration of the Bible Institute on October 16, 1994. I read an unusual news
item from the previous day's newspaper. A woman in California had given birth to two healthy babies, but they were born several weeks apart!
The mother had two separate wombs! I then drew an analogy between this incident and the birth of triplet schools in Austria:
"Ten years ago, there was no Bible training institution in Austria. But God planted the desire and burden for this in the heart of his church.
There were three differing views of what such a school should be like. Some Christians felt that the school should be under the umbrella of
the Lutheran State Church. Another group believed that Austria needed to train leaders in the churches rather than take them out of their
environment. We and others were convinced that a resident training program was needed. Little did any of us realize at that time, that the
Church of Jesus Christ in Austria had three separate and healthy wombs! Now, in 1994, three Austrian Bible training schools are alive and
well, all celebrating their tenth birthdays!"
Several in attendance said that my words were encouraging, but inwardly, I was miserable. At least one of those three schools was perhaps
alive, but not doing well.
Jack Baumgartner resigned as school director in the Spring of 1996, and the Board called a German missionary, Rudolf Borchert, as the new
Director. Rudolf had good pastoral gifts and abilities, but his lack of organizational skills caused additional problems. I was asked by the
Board to spend one day a week helping him with organization.
By 1998, there was only one student living in the school. The rest were married and living off campus. The last graduation was held on
July 4th, 1999. In America, people were celebrating Independence Day, but I was in mourning. The Bible School closed its doors as a
dormitory type school and the campus was placed on the market.
The Board spent a lot of time working on a new school concept that would hopefully appeal to churches and attract more Austrian students.
The basic idea was as follows:
* The Bible school (teachers) will be brought to the students.
* Classes will be held in existing churches and buildings in several major cities.
* Most courses would take place on weekends or evenings.
* Students would not have to leave their homes, churches or jobs to study.
There are dozens of graduates serving the Lord in Austria and in other lands. Some of them have begun ministries that are being
greatly blessed of God. Among our graduates are pastors, missionaries, a mission director, a Christian publisher, the founder of an
international youth organization and others.
As you will see in this History of Bible Training Institutions in Austria, God had special plans that none of us could ever have imagined.