Nearly six years ago, after I picked up my wife and newborn daughter at the end of the workday, we drove about seven miles north in Edmond and pulled off the road onto an open field. The sun was setting—we have beautiful sunsets in Oklahoma—and it was in June, so it wasn’t too hot yet. We got out of our car and started walking across the field. I was holding our new baby, and everything was calm and peaceful.
Not long after we arrived, a few other cars full of people pulled up and did the same thing—slowly driving through grass before parking and getting out. It reminded me of Field of Dreams—a movie about a farmer who built a beautiful baseball field and people from miles around showed up just to see it.
Well, we didn’t have that many people show up—there were about 25 of us. And there was no baseball field either. In fact, there was nothing! I mean, there was a certain natural beauty to the place—especially because of a small lake that was clothed by clusters of trees—but most of it was just an open field with wild grass that had grown up about knee level.
There were no roads.
No real entrance onto the property.
And yet, there we were—25 of us—wandering around, sipping champagne. We were fellowshiping. We were laughing. We were dreaming.
Shortly after we visited that field, my father wrote this in the Trumpet: “I plan to start a small college in 2001, perhaps 2002. In June, the Philadelphia Church of God purchased 38 acres of land with a beautiful three-acre lake” (August 2000).
That was quite an announcement! In our Church newspaper, the Philadelphia News, it had been mentioned that this 38 acres might also be the site for a future television studio, an office building, an auditorium, and a youth camp. And—on top of that, according to what Mr. Flurry wrote in the Trumpet—a new college! That’s quite a lot to squeeze on 38 acres, especially when a small lake and shoreline cover seven or eight of those acres.
Mr. Flurry continued, “At our college, we will teach our young people to open their minds to all truth and ‘prove all things.’ And I mean proof that anybody should be able to see. We will give them hope—based on proof. …
“[O]ur aim will be to provide students with a well-rounded, liberal arts education. We plan to have strong classes in history, journalism, music, nutrition, computers, television production, speech and leadership.” This is what he wrote just two weeks after buying a field.
He went on to say: “We will have a class on news analysis, where students will be taught the true meaning behind world news. They will see how world news is fulfilling Bible prophecy. Their Bibles will come alive as they never imagined!
“We also have the capacity to teach accounting, agriculture, English, Spanish and some other basic classes.”
Wow! We hadn’t broken ground on a single building. There were no administrators. There were no departments, no teachers and no students. Even more astounding was that just a few weeks after my father wrote that article, the Church purchased an additional 120 acres, on which there was nothing but more grass!
Without a doubt, our college and new headquarters facility had to begin first as a vision.
Raising the Ruins
Amos 9:11 says, “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.” Even in the early days of the pcg, my father showed us how this scripture was a prophecy that the work built by Herbert W. Armstrong would fall into ruin—something we had already seen fulfilled (see page 4)—and that we would raise it back up again. God wanted to replicate the way things were done “in the days of old.”
If you know anything about Mr. Armstrong’s early work, you can see how precisely that prophecy was coming to pass in those open Oklahoman fields.
When Herbert W. Armstrong first began building, the work was like a mustard seed. He wrote in his autobiography, “When the great God, Creator and Ruler of the vast universe, does something by Himself, He demonstrates His supreme power by doing it in a stupendous, awe-inspiring manner. But when it is actually God who is doing something through humans, it must start the smallest. Like the grain of mustard seed, the smallest of herbs, which grows to become the largest, God’s works through humans must start the smallest, but they grow, and grow, and grow, until they become the biggest!”
Though his work started from practically nothing, Mr. Armstrong walked by faith. He had no scholarly training, no corporate funding, and yet, thanks to the blessings of God, over a period of decades he raised up a highly successful, globe-encompassing work.
When God builds something through people He starts small, because He never wants us to forget that He is the one providing the increase!
“Had Ambassador College started big,” Mr. Armstrong continued, “with several hundred or a few thousand students, a great campus filled with large college buildings—an administration building, classroom buildings, laboratories, music conservatory, large ornate auditorium, gymnasium, a fine quarter-mile track and football field, a large library building with 500,000 volumes, dormitories, dining halls—everything complete, then I could certainly have no faith in accepting it as God’s college.” But, that wasn’t how Ambassador College developed at all. It began just the opposite: as a modest institution, almost comically tiny.
A Man of Faith
In the spring of 1946, only 12 years after God’s work in the Philadelphia era of His Church started, Mr. Armstrong saw that for the work to really grow into a worldwide work, there needed to be a college. As he prayed about it and collected his thoughts, he began looking for a place to build around Pasadena, California.
On November 27 of that year, Mr. Armstrong located what seemed to be a suitable building, though it was somewhat run-down. He made a deal that appeared would enable him to take possession the following July.
Upon signing the dotted line on the place, Mr. Armstrong produced a special edition of the Plain Truth magazine, January-February 1947, announcing the exciting news: “This year, September 22, our own new school, Ambassador College, will swing open its doors to students.”
Think about that! If something like this seemed unlikely in 2000 after we bought those 38 acres, how much more so in 1947, considering the limited help and experience Mr. Armstrong had at his disposal? He wasn’t raising ruins that had been built before—he was starting from scratch!
The Plain Truth continued, “Ambassador is to be a general liberal arts institution—not a Bible school, ministers’ college, or theological seminary. It will fit students for all walks of life, offering a general and practical basic education, with unusual advantages for special technical courses, as well as a thorough, sound, complete Bible course ….
“There is no other college like Ambassador.”
No other college like Ambassador? At the time Mr. Armstrong wrote that, the Church had just bought a run-down building in Pasadena. There was no Ambassador College—at least not visibly. Besides Mr. Armstrong, there was no faculty. No students had even applied.
But why was Mr. Armstrong so confident his vision of Ambassador College would turn into reality? Because he had faith in God!
Here is how Mr. Armstrong described this college which, as he wrote, did not exist: “It is, in a sense, a revolutionary new-type college—different from those of today’s world—a forward-looking, progressive institution built on soundest principles, having highest goals and objectives, yet employing the best of proved methods of administration, and maintaining highest academic standards” (ibid.).
Revolutionary? Forward-looking? Progressive? The highest academic standards? How clear the concept was in Mr. Armstrong’s mind.
“The vision of this new and different college, and its imperative urgent need, came like a revelation straight from God last spring,” he wrote. “At first the idea seemed impossible, for us—almost fantastic.
“But the Eternal our God is a miracle-working God who promises to supply every need. And literally, God has performed a miracle! When one knows the facts and circumstances, that cannot be doubted. Events have happened swiftly! Amazing developments occurred unexpectedly. The vision has become a definite reality. The opening of Ambassador College next September is assured.”
What an example of faithful reliance on God—and of vision.
Salvation Is Education
Mr. Armstrong continued to write in the same Plain Truth about the difference in education a student would receive at Ambassador versus any other college. The AC student, Mr. Armstrong said, would receive true education:
“In other words, though we perhaps never have thought of it in this light, real conversion is education! Not the purely mental, materialistic, largely erroneous education of this world—no, not that kind at all!—but realtrue education, which is the renewing and enlightening of the mind, the feeding of the soul, the development of self-discipline and character in true spiritual values! That is true education!
“That is the type of education to be taught at Ambassador College! Truly, it is something different in a materialistic world that has forgotten God!
“Man is the highest mortal being God has created on Earth. The mind is the highest part of man—the faculty which, above all else, elevates man above dumb animals. Did not God intend our minds then, to be developed, trained, used to His honor and glory?
“Can’t we see that none glorifies God by ignorance, by neglecting this most precious heritage God has entrusted to man—the mind? To fulfill God’s purpose in our existence, our minds need enlightening through the revelation of God’s Word; they need to be trained, developed, cultivated, used!”
Mr. Armstrong went on to explain what is wrong with modern education. He wrote, “It wastes precious hours and years in the minute study of nonconsequential details and impractical and untrue theories, instead of teaching young men and women the basic knowledge of life—what life is, why we are here, where we are going, and how to live successfully, usefully, happily, joyfully! Its proponents look wise and dignified, and speak learnedly of unimportant nothings. And they fill students’ minds with much chaff, while their souls starve for the true educational food!
“Yes, something’s wrong with this world’s education, as well as with its religions, its politics, its economics, and its society! And wrong education is a basic cause of all the world’s wrongs today!”
Ambassador was to be the solution to the evils of modern education. Its curriculum would be different from all other colleges as well.
Mr. Armstrong the Visionary
Mr. Armstrong wrote that Ambassador would offer a wide gamut of classes. He wanted classes in science and physical health, and classes on how to have a successful family life.
Mr. Armstrong even went so far as to describe the social life at this yet-to-be-established college: “We believe in bringing out and developing all the personality God has endowed one with. Ambassador will seek to offer inducements excelling the recreational and social and athletic activities of large universities by a very special program of our own. We realize that life at Ambassador must be made attractive to the student! We shall strive to make it enjoyable, interesting, literally thrilling! The buildings and grounds offer the ideal set-up for this purpose. We shall devote considerable intelligent attention to the social life—directed not toward just ‘fun’ alone, or worldly pleasures, but toward personality and character-development, the acquisition of that portion of culture which includes the graces of politeness, courtesy, kindness, gentleness, self-restraint, selflessness. We shall avoid the evils of the ordinary life—such as snobbishness and a feeling of class distinction” (ibid.).
This great visionary was in his 50s when he wrote this, and he had never been to college himself. But what is even more remarkable about this 1947 article is that you can read it years later, and it remains a perfect description of Ambassador College in the 1960s, or even the 1980s! The Ambassador College that existed at the time of Mr. Armstrong’s death in 1986 truly was the product of a vision that started in one man’s mind.
What’s more, on Feb. 14, 1947, Mr. Armstrong actually left for Europe to, of all things, pursue plans for a second campus, in Switzerland! And although the Switzerland campus did not work out, Mr. Armstrong did go on to build two other college campuses, one in England and one in Texas.
The college model Mr. Armstrong established was a true success for as long as people remained faithful to it. And today, we are diligently raising up its ruins. Formerly Imperial College, the institution we are building is now named after the man whose vision we are seeking to replicate, as we “build it as in the days of old.”
Education With Vision
That plot of land we purchased in 2000 now supports a multipurpose building with a dining hall, gymnasium, exercise room, classrooms, offices and a stage area. The 53 students who attend college here live in three on-campus dormitories, as well as homes for two married students and their families. Many of them work in our mail processing center, which houses our television studio and related offices, a call center, our mailing offices, and a warehouse storing over a million pieces of literature. The field we once stood in, smiling and sipping champagne, has been replaced by our beautiful new Hall of Administration, pictured on the front of this magazine. The vision we celebrated that peaceful June evening has become reality—and it continues to grow.
Notice what my father wrote in the August 2000 issue of the Trumpet about Herbert W. Armstrong College—before it was anything but an open field with knee-level wild grass: “Physically, our small college will be a vision of hope. The Earth will still become a Garden of Eden. Our plot of land will help make that magnificent potential clear.
“And that’s not all. One day, the whole universe will be made to look like the Garden of Eden.
“God is calling us to change the Earth and the universe. And it starts here and now!
“What we are starting is not an easy undertaking. But oh, how rewarding it will be! Without vision, our 38 acres would be just another plot of land. With vision, it will help people see what God is about to do in this world. Our students will see God’s master plan for the universe! What a mind-galvanizing vision! And it is no fantasy. There is a reason that universe is out there! We must expand our thinking beyond Earth. We were created to be in the God Family. You can’t confine God to this Earth.”