Saturday, August 12, 2006

412 Commission, Randy Smith Announce Upcoming Changes

From Randy Smith: "This letter was released today for publication to the FGBC Pastors, etc. Please pray with us!"

“Nearly four years ago, I began asking God why He ordered me back from my home in Jerusalem and I sought God about a new vision. We maintained our mission to that region of the world, but I knew God brought us back to the US. Trying to understand that move and deal with cultural re-entry to the US, we kept moving ahead in ministry. Ed Lewis from CE National and I met in Philadelphia at Urban Hope, and he shared with me a burden he felt the Lord gave him about the upcoming generation and their lack of understanding of the Word of God. That one conversation changed my direction. I recognized the hand of God was sculpting my heart and answering the question, “What is my family doing here?”

When we parted, I committed in my heart to build a low cost “Disciple making factory” in Sebring, where God planted us. It was to offer an entire trip through the Bible in a year. It was to focus on the Bible, not books about the Bible. Within months God had given us an old hotel to transform for our new dream, the “Great Commission Bible Institute”, placed in our hands by a generous couple in Sebring, Steve and Cyndi Swan. It required thousands of hours of effort to tear apart and rebuild, and God again provided for every dollar necessary, and dozens of volunteer workers under the supervision of Pat and Marilyn Michaud, a couple God moved to Sebring to accomplish this specific vision.

As the Lord assembled the team and the resources, I saw a dream birthed into reality. There are few things more exciting in ministry! When we were set to open, Ed Lewis and Jeff Bogue (National Director of 412) asked if we were interested in joining forces with them to offer a 412 Commission (a brand new ministry of CE National) at our Sebring site. We were delighted, as we recognized their abilities in reaching youth of this generation. What an exciting year we had. We graduated our first eleven students and had an incredible experience.

In the process of marrying the Great Commission Bible Institute to the 412 Commission, we set aside our name, our website, our handbook and any identity that would conflict with the CE National identity. We do not regret any of it, because God blessed in the whole effort. Sebring Grace Brethren Church felt the impact of the discipleship program, and we saw the hand of God at work in the lives of these choice youth.

In an effort to grow the program, the National Director of 412 (Pastor Jeff Bogue) proposed to the establishing committee a partnership with Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, a fine organization with deep roots of history in this kind of instruction. MBI offered transfer credits to us and began to take over the classroom instruction parameters as agreed, while CE worked tirelessly to direct the assembly of the program. As a result of the objectives of CE and of Moody, the price for the program grew significantly. The original vision of the program was maintained, but many other features added to enhance the vision, and each of these cost money. As the cost climbed, some of our leadership in Sebring expressed a discomfort at the level of the price, and felt the vision was going to be hindered if we couldn’t offer the program to students that were coming simply to learn the Bible and be discipled. Some students didn’t care about credit, and the costs of the credit was very significant. Sebring began raising money to help the students on our campus. The Lord raised over $13,000.00 in six weeks through our people.

This year, 412 Commission attempted to offer four sites: Lititz, PA, Goshen, IN, Akron, OH and Sebring, FL. Because of the high cost and the inability to offer financing from our sites, students expressed much interest, but couldn’t afford to come. We watched countless youth get excited until they found out about the price. It became clear there was a problem. The national director pushed to get financing, but was unable to find a way. In the end, the 412 Commission simply could not get more than the current 16 students, some or which are tentative. Jeff Bogue made the difficult decision, in consultation with Ed Lewis, to shut down all the sites except the one located in Akron. The 412 National Director asked us to wait a year in a holding pattern until the systemic issues could be addressed, having done everything they could think of to salvage the program.

With three weeks before we were to receive our students, we were unable to stop the release of Ben and Christina Ogden (who had left other jobs to be a part of this) and find some way to meet the needs of funding the building, the van purchased a year ago for this program, insurances, etc. With none of the anticipated income and with our vision put on hold, we had to fall to our knees and ask God what we were to do. Could we justify releasing staff and paying significant monthly bills without a ministry while we awaited the efforts of 412 Commission to raise a group of students for next year?

Our team concluded that God had given us a vision, and we should not abandon it. We could not justify losing people that knew God’s call was to work in this ministry! We needed to return to Great Commission Bible Institute’s original plan. Of course the first problem was a resource one. How could we afford to stay open? Within 72 hours of our decision to resurrect the vision, God began to pour in the money needed. First, a gift of $10,000.00 was promised. Then, additional monthly support for Ogden’s was committed. We were just getting started, and yet God was smiling on us, telling us to go forward.

What does that mean for this year? GCBI opens its door again to the vision, and we are bringing in some students already this fall. The handbook will be rolling off the printing press next week, advertising is underway, and students will be coming in a few weeks. Where are we getting them from? Stay tuned! God’s work, done God’s way, will not lack God’s supply. We are excited to watch the events unfold.

We are thankful for the partnership with 412 last year. Their team in Akron is led by Ryan and Lori Rodeman, who truly are some of the most gifted and loving leaders of youth anywhere in the country. Jeff Bogue continues in the role of National Director, and is a man who truly has been blessed by the Lord with incredible gifts. We feel privileged to have worked on their team. We will carry the lessons they gave us as we move forward, and we wish them every success. Sometimes the Lord’s direction is painful. This is not. We have the joy of praying for their success as we get excited about God’s obvious provision for us!

GCBI will release in a few days a program with a price and program unmatched anywhere in the US. We want the program to cost no more than necessary for students to take it seriously. We are very serious about what God has called us to do. Ben and Christina Ogden will continue to recruit students and be here for the mentoring and discipleship. They are still seeking the balance of their needed support, but it now exceeds 50% of the needed amount. Several teachers have been lined up for the incoming students, each who agree to teach at no cost.

Our program is set to open the dorm to new students on September 16, with classes beginning on the 19th. The annual cost of the new program is $6500.00 including room, board, instruction and a number of ministry trips (one overseas mission experience). Obviously, we are doing this with substantial gifts from dear friends of the ministry. The Israel trip will be an additional option of $2800 per student (conditions in Israel permitting).

We are not seeking students that desire college credit. We want participants to consider one question in relation to coming to GCBI. Do you know the Scriptures well enough to take on life? Can you open God’s Word when someone comes to you with a problem and really know where God addresses that issue? Do you know how to use the Word powerfully to answer life’s tough questions. If you do, you don’t need to come.

You see, we won’t teach Shakespeare. You won’t get Music Appreciation 101 or a math class. What you will get, from Genesis to Revelation, is a clear understanding of the ONLY collection of writings that God promised will make you completely equipped to serve Him (2 Timothy 3:16). If you want that, we have a place that you can get it. Invest nine months of your life and we will show you how to use the Bible in ministry and daily life – all of It! You’ll read every page, and you’ll know what you are looking at! Sound interesting? You have no idea how it will change your direction!

Excited to be serving a Big God!”

Rev. Randall D. Smith,



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