Chapter 25: Raising the Ruins
“[A]Nd I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”
— Amos 9:11
After work on June 29, 2000, I picked up my wife and newborn daughter at home and we drove about seven miles north in Edmond before pulling off the road onto an open field. The sun was setting—we have beautiful sunsets in Oklahoma—and since it was June, it wasn’t too hot yet. We got out of our car and walked across the field. I was holding our baby girl, 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.
We didn’t have that many people show up—there were about 25 of us. And there was no baseball field. In fact, there was nothing! I mean, there was a certain natural beauty to the place—especially because of a small, spring-fed pond surrounded by clusters of trees—but most of it was just an open field with wild grass that had grown up to 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 envisioning the future.
Shortly after we visited that field, my father wrote 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.”1
That was quite an announcement! In our church newspaper, 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, a new college! That’s a lot to squeeze on 38 acres, especially when a small lake and shoreline cover seven or eight of those acres. My father continued,
At our college, we will teach our young people to open their minds to all truth and “prove all things.” … [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.2
He wrote this just two weeks after buying a field. Later in the article, he wrote,
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.3
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 another field of 120 acres!
Without a doubt, our college and new headquarters facility had to begin first as a vision.
Day of Small Things
In the Old Testament, God commissioned his servant Zerubbabel to lead a band of captive Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem in order to build a temple.4 In Zechariah 4:6, God said to Zerubbabel, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit.” In other words, for Zerubbabel to successfully complete his task—even in the face of numerous obstacles and strong enemy resistance—he needed God’s power. Unless God built the house through His human instruments, all their labor would have been in vain.5
So God started His rebuilding work in Jerusalem, which had become a desolate wasteland during its Babylonian captivity, through this small remnant of Jews. “For who hath despised the day of small things?” God asked in Zechariah 4:10. Zerubbabel’s enemies were critical of his work because of how small it started.
Mr. Armstrong’s critics also found fault with the way the Worldwide Church of God began. His God-given commission to preach the gospel to the world started in 1933 on a small 100-watt radio station in Eugene, Oregon. He began publishing the Plain Truth magazine the following year; the inaugural issue, mimeographed by hand, went to 234 recipients. Everything seemed so small and insignificant at the beginning. But it was all by design.
“When the great God, Creator and Ruler of the vast universe, does something by Himself,” Mr. Armstrong wrote,
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!6
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 who provides 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.7
That wasn’t how Ambassador College developed at all. It began as a modest institution, almost comically tiny.
A Man of Vision
On November 27, 1946, Mr. Armstrong located what seemed to be a suitable building for the school, though it was somewhat run-down. Within weeks of the purchase, 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!”8
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! Mr. Armstrong 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.9
No other college like Ambassador? There was no Ambassador at that point. All the church had was a run-down building in Pasadena. And 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 the power of God!
Here is how Mr. Armstrong described this college which, as he wrote, did not yet 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.”10 How clear the concept was in Mr. Armstrong’s mind. He continued,
The vision of this new and different college, and its imperative urgent need, came like a revelation straight from God last spring. 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.11
What an example of faithful reliance on God—and of vision.
In that same article, Mr. Armstrong described the vast difference between an Ambassador education as compared to what any other college had to offer. Instead of teaching students how to make a living, Ambassador’s focus would be on how to live—on developing godly character.
Modern education, he wrote, wastes precious years on “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!”12
Ambassador was to be the solution to the evils of modern education. Its curriculum would be different from all other colleges. He wanted to offer general education courses in science, math, music and physical health. But the spiritual instruction on how to live would underpin all of it.
Mr. Armstrong also had a crystal-clear vision of social life at Ambassador. He said it would be “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.”13
This great visionary was in his 50s when he wrote this, and he had never been to college himself. Even more remarkable is how this 1947 article perfectly describes Ambassador College during the 1980s—more than 30 years later. 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 the smallest of ways—in one man’s mind.
The Remnant and 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 said this scripture was a prophecy that the work built by Herbert W. Armstrong would be turned to ruins—and that we would then raise it back up. God wanted to replicate the way things were done “in the days of old.”
Verse 12 continues, “That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this.” As my father has taught, Edom and the heathen refer to those who have forsaken God’s truth in this end time. God says those who raise up the ruins will take possession of the remnant, or surviving portion, of Edom. That remnant, my father wrote in 2001, “must include Mystery of the Ages and Mr. Armstrong’s other books and booklets.”14
That has now happened. God gave us those books and booklets.
In Amos 9, God says possessing those many books and booklets coincides directly with the work of raising the ruins that were built before Mr. Armstrong died! Of course, as with everything God builds through human beings, it started incredibly small. There were no visible manifestations of construction and building when we started printing Mr. Armstrong’s literature in late 1996.
But God did plant a seed in one man’s mind.
We received our first copy of Mystery of the Ages from the printer on December 20, 1996. My father announced the new phase to our members on January 4, 1997. During this same time period, the Worldwide Church of God entered its final phase of destroying Mr. Armstrong’s legacy.
When Mr. Tkach decided to pursue accreditation for Ambassador College in 1988, it set off a chain reaction that had a massive impact on the college and the work of the church. They broke ground on a new administration building in Big Sandy the same day my father was fired—December 7, 1989. The following year, Tkachism closed the campus in Pasadena and consolidated all college resources in Big Sandy. They intended to move all headquarters operations to Big Sandy. They built nine new buildings on the Texas campus in 1990 alone—including the Hall of Administration, Ambassador Hall and student residence halls.
On June 25, 1994, Tkachism finally obtained accreditation for the college. Upon receiving the news, Tkach Sr. decided to change the name of the college to Ambassador University, saying it was a “more appropriate description of the range and diversity of programs” the institution had to offer.15 By 1996, the sprawling campus had become a virtual self-contained city. There were more than 50 buildings encompassing 730,000 square feet—administrative buildings, multi-purpose centers, a gymnasium, classrooms and lecture halls, dormitories, a huge convention center and 25 single-family homes. The campus center was surrounded by 2,000 acres of farmland and timberland. There were two beautiful lakes, a campground, on-site water and waste treatment plants and an airstrip with a hangar to accommodate corporate jets.
Yet, on December 29, 1996, just two and a half years after being accredited—and nine days after we received that first reprinted copy of Mystery of the Ages—Ambassador’s board of regents shocked the surrounding community, as well as its own church membership, by announcing that the college would abruptly and permanently close after the spring semester ended in May 1997. Exactly 50 years after Mr. Armstrong established the school to support the church’s worldwide mission, Ambassador College had been completely ruined.
Yet, even in the midst of this desolation, God planted a seed.
The Vision Expands
Big Sandy’s demise in 1997 set off another chain reaction—one that had a massive impact on our work.
Two months after the college’s final graduation in May, our news bureau chief, Ron Fraser, toured the facilities in Big Sandy on a fact-finding mission for my father. “I was informed,” Mr. Fraser wrote soon after his visit, “that the wcg would seek to sell the whole campus intact.”16 He explained that if the campus didn’t sell after 12 months, the wcg would consider breaking up the property to sell off parcels. This piqued my father’s interest.
In September of 1997, Grubb and Ellis, a real estate agency in Dallas, listed the property with an asking price of $32 million, which was reasonable, considering how much money the wcg had invested into it. At the same time, however, the property was uniquely designed to service the church’s needs during the days of Mr. Armstrong, and it was situated in a remote location in the middle of East Texas. We didn’t think there would be too many interested buyers—not at that price.
Apparently, the wcg didn’t think there would be either. After the property was listed, one of our members in Dallas obtained additional information from a broker who had contacts at Grubb and Ellis. He said that while it was listed at $32 million, the fire-sale figure floating within real estate circles was $6.5 million. That figure really piqued my dad’s interest.
By early 1998, the campus was still on the market. Meanwhile, my father’s vision for our work had expanded. To reach the largest audience possible with Mr. Armstrong’s books and booklets, he believed we needed the same kind of facilities Mr. Armstrong used for his work—we needed to resurrect those desolate ruins. At the time, it seemed like the best way to accomplish this was by breathing life into a dead campus that had been built specifically for the needs we had.
My father wanted more information before taking such a bold step for a small work that was already entangled in litigation over Mystery of the Ages. So I sifted through all the church writings I could find about Big Sandy. Having attended there for a semester in 1989, I was somewhat familiar with the environs and its facilities. I found a couple of articles I thought my dad would be interested in and then wrote to him on April 18, 1998. I said,
If God should provide us with Big Sandy and all the buildings on that campus, I cannot see Him doing so unless He has huge plans for this work and plans for resurrecting the now-defunct Ambassador College. If you read those articles I included in this packet, you will notice two things that happened quickly after ac started in the 1960s [in Big Sandy]: 1) The work began to grow phenomenally and fast. 2) They began to reap much fruit in the way of qualified personnel and leadership after just two or three years.17
I went on to explain how we needed student labor in order to produce more literature, process more mail, answer more calls and correspond with more prospective members. I drew up a proposed course load for an incoming freshman class of an estimated 24 students. I totaled the number of hours those students could work part-time and explained how this work force would impact the day-to-day operations of the work. “In short,” I concluded, “the opportunities Big Sandy would open up for us, this work and for God’s children are truly limitless.”18
The following month is when we made our anonymous offer of $5 million for the Big Sandy property.
What we didn’t fully realize at the time is that when God begins a work through human beings—even a work of resurrecting what has been ruined—it must start the smallest! God didn’t want us to make a big splash with a ready-made infrastructure like Big Sandy.
He did, however, want us to think big! So He used Big Sandy’s demise to help focus my father’s thoughts on acreage and facilities—administrative buildings, multi-purpose centers, a gymnasium, classrooms, lecture halls, dormitories, a convention center, faculty homes and an airstrip. But God didn’t want us to obtain all those facilities with one single transaction.
We had to start from scratch.
Raising Up the College
By the time we purchased those 38 acres in 2000, my father’s vision had become crystal clear. We had to raise up everything the Tkaches ruined. And so we began in earnest, as soon as the contract was signed, to set up meetings with land developers, building contractors and landscape architects.
Tim Thompson, who negotiated the land purchase for the church, said, “In a couple of years, you won’t recognize this place. Five years and it will be a paradise.”19 We were thinking big.
Ten weeks after the purchase, on September 8, my father officially broke ground on the new property in a ceremony attended by our headquarters staff and their families. My father said the land belonged to God and that He had an intense interest in the building program. He reminded us of the many prophecies in Scripture that describe the worldwide rebuilding to take place after Jesus Christ returns to this Earth. Ours was the first of many ground-breaking ceremonies to occur in the World Tomorrow and beyond, he said.
One week after we broke ground on the 38 acres, we signed the deed on the additional 120 acres adjacent to our original plot. It was mostly pasture land that the previous owner originally wanted to develop into an upscale neighborhood for airplane owners. He had already developed a small, unpaved airstrip on the property. But his development plans changed and he instead decided to sell the property. Commenting on the fact that the 120 acres had an airstrip, my father said later in a sermon, “We know what Mr. Armstrong has done in the past …. And I think maybe that gives you some idea of what God is planning in the future. … [M]aybe God wants me to fly around, and others of the ministers, to get to people more quickly and do the work even faster than we have done it.”20
So as of Friday, September 15, 2000, we had 158 acres ready for developing. “Think about what could happen in a few years,” my father told our members. “I think God is kind of hurling the  acres out there to say, all right, now, here’s the vision. There’s something really wonderful going to happen in the near future. … [A]mazing developments are going to occur right before our eyes.”21
Three days after we acquired the additional property, on Monday, September 18, 2000, the Ninth Circuit filed its opinion on our case, ruling in favor of the Worldwide Church of God. Distribution of Mystery of the Ages would have to stop and yet, here we were about to embark on a huge building and development program so we might reach the largest audience possible with Mr. Armstrong’s literature.
My father knew God had opened the door for us to build, so he wasn’t about to let the Ninth Circuit discourage us. The same week we received the bad news from the Ninth Circuit, we broke ground on a 22,400-square-foot multipurpose center complete with a gymnasium, a raised stage at one end for church services and musical performances, a second-floor sound booth overlooking the gym, locker rooms for men and women, a commercial kitchen, dining hall and several offices scattered throughout the facility. For a church as small as ours, having dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into a court case we just lost, as well as land we just bought, this was a huge undertaking.
As we pressed forward with construction through the winter months, we waited for the judge’s injunction that would prevent us from mailing out Mr. Armstrong’s literature. At the same time, my father waited as long as possible before deciding on whether to start the college in the fall of 2001 or to wait until 2002. I wrote to my dad in January of 2001,
In reading from Mr. Armstrong’s experiences, you do immediately think about starting things smaller—the mustard seed beginning, just like the Trumpet and The Key of David started. Do you suppose starting the college this fall, with a smaller class and fewer courses offered, would be better than waiting until 2002? It seems like by fall of 2002 that the land would be much better developed, more buildings would be in place and we’d be able to accept more students—all of that would kind of go against the “mustard seed” beginning.22
My father was leaning toward the smaller start in 2001. But even with a small beginning, it had to be done right. He wondered if our headquarters staff would have enough time to develop the highest quality courses in theology and the liberal arts, and if the time commitment to do so could be justified for such a small freshman class.
By the end of January 2001, the court-ordered injunction was filed and we stopped mailing Mr. Armstrong’s literature. Two weeks later, my dad gave the school, named Imperial College, a green light for fall classes later that year. We announced it to the membership on February 17. After he made the decision, my father admonished those of us who would be teaching at the school, saying that “if the college is done right, it can stir and motivate the entire church to get more and more behind the work.”23 He reminded us that we’re not here just to start a college, but that the college would be established to support the work’s worldwide mission and to facilitate faster growth.
On February 24, my father then told the church membership that there is “no money in the budget for the college,” but that we are in a time of “no more delay” and must move forward.24
On April 2, more bad news on the lawsuit front—the Supreme Court rejected our petition. As we prepared for the damages trial in court, out on the land we rushed to complete the field house before the start of classes in August. That summer, we moved two mobile homes on campus to temporarily serve as student residences. We accepted 10 full-time students, including two married students, who would live just off campus.
At orientation on Thursday, August 30, my father kicked off our first school year by explaining why God raised up Imperial College. Though off to a mustard-seed beginning, he said, the college would eventually grow to be the biggest, until finally established worldwide after Christ’s return. On Tuesday, September 4, a full slate of classes began. The field house was not yet complete, so the students had to commute to our Waterwood offices each day for the first three weeks of classes. After classes and work at headquarters, they returned to the two trailers on the 158 acres.
What an exciting time that was for us. It was all so reminiscent of the way Ambassador started. “Would you really say it was a college that finally swung open its door to students the eighth of October, 1947?” Mr. Armstrong asked in his autobiography.
There were only four students! There were no dormitories—no place for students to be in residence on the original little “campus” of one and three-quarter acres. We had some books and encyclopedias on shelves in the one room that served as music room, assembly room, library, study room and lounge—but no real college library. There was no gymnasium, no track or athletic field.25
Few people would have considered Imperial a legitimate college in 2001. But it has since enjoyed abundant growth—and at a much faster rate than Ambassador experienced in its early years. In 2002, we constructed two duplexes for use as student residences, one of which had a classroom built in between. The two structures, big enough to house 24 students, enabled us to accept 14 more students in 2002. With all the students moving into the duplexes that year, we converted both mobile homes into faculty housing, including one for my family. We also added an outdoor sports complex that summer—including a fenced-in softball diamond, a soccer field and a small two-story structure providing storage for athletic equipment and a classroom on the second floor.
In 2003, we completed construction on two faculty homes. We also finished work on a new swimming pool and bath house, located behind the field house. During our youth camp that summer, we received news from U.S. Immigration that the college had been certified and could begin accepting international applicants. Within weeks, after being accepted at the last minute, we had five new international students on campus. That September, in the tradition of Mr. Armstrong’s world-renowned concert series, the Philadelphia Foundation hosted the internationally acclaimed Canadian Brass in the field house. Later that year, in November, the church purchased an additional 10 acres, adjacent to the western edge of the campus. The acreage included a home, which was immediately purchased by another headquarters ministerial family, and a steel barn and fenced corral.
The following year, in 2004, we finished two more faculty homes, which meant five headquarters families were now living on campus—a total of 22 people, counting children. We also completed work on a new 5,000-square-foot men’s dormitory, with enough living space to house 22 students. The additional space enabled us to accept our biggest freshman class yet—23 students coming from five countries. It doubled the size of our student body to 46—14 of whom were from nations outside the United States. We were just beginning our fourth year and we had 46 students representing eight countries.
In July of that year, we purchased two items auctioned off by the Worldwide Church of God in Pasadena. With one of our representatives on hand at the auction, and several of us listening in on speakerphone in Edmond, we purchased a 9-foot Steinway concert grand piano and two 7-foot-tall candelabra, all from Ambassador Auditorium. The piano was one of three Steinways the wcg used for its concert series. The candelabra were made of crystal used by the late Shah of Iran for the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire in 1971, then later acquired by the wcg and placed in the lobby of the auditorium.
In 2005, the college’s Choral Union gave its first-ever public performance, together with members of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra and professional soloists. On April 10, the 49-member chorus, 28-piece Baroque orchestra and four soloists packed the field house stage to perform Handel’s Messiah.
In the fall, we began our fifth year at the college—our first with a full four-year load of courses offered. We accepted 18 students, upping the student body size to 54. And with every student working for the church part-time, student labor was beginning to really flex its muscle. As our chief financial officer, Andrew Locher, explained,
Part of each student’s education comes through the work-study program, which places them in responsible positions in nearly all departments of church operations. The church in turn benefits from quality labor at a very reasonable cost. Altogether, the students combine to equal 25 full-time employees—at a fraction of the cost! The students are rewarded by earning their way through college and graduating without financial obligation to the church. This is truly a win-win situation conceived by Mr. Armstrong for Ambassador College.26
Yet another program we had raised from the ruins.
Later in 2005, we changed the name of our school to “Herbert W. Armstrong College.” Imperial College of London had wanted us to make the change years earlier, so as to avoid any confusion over the name. So we proposed various ways to use “Imperial,” but in a way that would make the name distinctly different, like “Imperial College of Edmond.” After our litigation ended with the wcg, however, we considered going in a completely different direction. Herbert W. Armstrong College was a name we almost used when we started the college in 2001, but since we were then embroiled in a lawsuit over Mr. Armstrong’s literature, we didn’t think it would be wise to use his name for our college as well. But by the end of 2005, after winning all that literature, and with our first crop of seniors months away from graduating—changing the name to Herbert W. Armstrong College seemed like a perfect ending to the story of our legal struggle—and what a fitting tribute to Mr. Armstrong’s legacy.
Growth of the Work
In his autobiography, Mr. Armstrong repeatedly said the growth of the work “directly paralleled” the development of the college. He said, “Without the college, the work of thundering Christ’s gospel around the whole world could not have been possible. It could never have gone around the world. It was the development of the college in Pasadena that made possible the growth of the whole gospel work!”27 The same has been true with our work as we raise up the ruins.
After obtaining all the literature in March of 2003, we saw an immediate need for a multi-purpose facility where we could store huge quantities of literature and process mail. We also wanted to update and expand our tv studio in anticipation of offering Mr. Armstrong’s literature on The Key of David. In a matter of months, we completed plans for a 17,400 square-foot Mail Processing Center. Today, the building anchors the northeast corner of the church’s property and can be seen from nearly anywhere on campus. Two thirds of the structure is an enclosed warehouse for all our literature, stored on double-pallet storage racks. Adjacent to the warehouse, under the same roof, are the centers for processing mail and answering calls for the tv program. There are also six offices for mpc employees. Above the offices, there is a 2,400 square-foot mezzanine, soundproofed and enclosed for our state-of-the-art television studio and editing equipment.
In the spring of 2004, a year after the victory, we began the piecemeal process of moving our headquarters staff from the Waterwood complex out to the 168 acres, beginning with those assigned to work at the mpc. We also unveiled plans for a two-story, 22,825 square-foot Hall of Administration to serve as our new headquarters.
Later that year, after we acquired the piano and candelabra from the wcg auction, my father took the purchase as God’s signal for us to begin thinking about building an auditorium in the tradition of Ambassador. It would be smaller and less expensive than Ambassador Auditorium, but a beautiful centerpiece on the campus landscape nonetheless. “I do believe … that with God giving us these beautiful furnishings right out of the house of God [Ambassador Auditorium], that He does want us to build an auditorium,” he said just three months before we were scheduled to begin construction on the $3.7 million Hall of Administration.28 My dad said that because of the urgency of time, we might have to consider building our facilities, not successively, but perhaps concurrently.
In October 2004, during the same week we broke ground on the Hall of Administration, the Pasadena Star-News revealed the wcg’s plan to move its headquarters operations off the Ambassador College campus in Pasadena and onto the “smaller, less expensive trappings of an industrial building” in Glendora, California.29 Even as Tkachism prepared for its last ruinous act, selling off the formerly great Pasadena headquarters, God showed His mighty hand by raising the ruins in Edmond—and during the very same week.
In the summer of 2005, with construction on the Hall of Administration in full swing, we broke ground on a $2 million college building that would provide housing for 34 more students downstairs and serve as an academic center upstairs. Thus, we had two huge structures going up concurrently on campus in 2005, just as my father had indicated might happen.
Meanwhile, the work of the church was experiencing explosive growth. The year the lawsuit ended, The Key of David aired weekly on just one station: wgn. In March of 2005, two years later, we were on 92 television stations around the world. And with all of Mr. Armstrong’s works printed except his autobiography, we were churning out an average of 45,000 pieces of mail per month (not counting any of our magazines). Perhaps the biggest step forward in 2005, as far as literature is concerned, came in January when we started updating and revising Mr. Armstrong’s Bible correspondence course. By the time 2005 ended, we had sent out twice as much mail as in 2004 and had received 50 percent more phone calls from the tv program than we had the year before.
In January 2006, exactly 20 years after Mr. Armstrong’s death, all that was left from the pcg operations at the old Waterwood complex moved into the new Hall of Administration. Herbert W. Armstrong College and the church’s headquarters were now completely joined together.
The new administration building—rising 41 feet above the mostly residential countryside—instantly doubled the pcg’s executive office space and made for a tremendous upgrade in quality. Ron Fraser said, “Mr. Armstrong knew that by lifting the tone and quality of environment to the highest possible standard, humans would be inspired to lift themselves to meet that standard.”30
The 40-office building has several open spaces for numerous cubicles as well as an elegant and spacious library on the ground floor which wraps around the central staircase. Commenting on the building’s breathtaking beauty, my father told members, “Shouldn’t the most wonderful message people could ever hear … come out of a building like that—something that is worthy of God?”31 As with every other structure on campus, the building itself is a message—a testament to our work of raising Mr. Armstrong’s ruins. God has raised the ruins so we might give a powerful warning to this dying world.
Our First Graduates
Of course, we will always have our critics. Mr. Armstrong certainly had his share. In 1951, after Mr. Armstrong had labored for four years to get the college off and running, there were some, even in the Worldwide Church of God, who could not see the vision Mr. Armstrong had for the college and the work. Mr. Armstrong wrote,
When God first started Ambassador College, many brethren and co-workers lacked faith. They couldn’t see God’s hand in it. Some felt your pastor’s duty was solely to preach the gospel to the world—not realizing that one man alone can’t do it all!
They had forgotten that Jesus, Peter and Paul surrounded themselves with specially God-called men whom they trained to assist them in their great mission.
Some said, “Why, there isn’t time! It will be four years before the first students graduate, and even then they will still be just youths without maturity or actual experience.” …
But there was, and still is, enough time—though there is not a day to lose. The end of this age can’t come until this very gospel of the kingdom has been preached and published in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matt. 24:3, 14).32
This had been his lifelong approach: preach God’s message to the largest audience possible while surrounding himself with specially called individuals he could train in order for the work to expand further. Mr. Armstrong went on to explain how Ambassador’s first graduates were already having a strong impact on the work after only four years.
The same has been true of our work. We had 13 seniors graduate from Herbert W. Armstrong College in May 2006. And from that group, nine were hired by the church. Three of them were given positions in Editorial, two in Mail Processing, and one each in the business office, Information Technology, the call center and college administration. With only 66 full-time employees working at headquarters, that nine of them are ac graduates is remarkable when you consider that we have only had one senior class to this point.
And even as the college facilitates a more expansive work, we continue upgrading and expanding the college itself. With the completion of the new dormitory/academic center in July 2006, we doubled our classroom space and have enough accommodations on campus for about 90 students. So we have room for growth—and we will certainly need it.
Viewer response to The Key of David in 2006 increased by 45 percent over 2005. And with more people being exposed to our literature, it follows that more have requested contact with our ministers. In 2006, ministerial visit requests jumped 80 percent over the previous year.
We also re-launched the public appearance campaigns in 2006 (our first series occurred in the late 1990s). Public lectures, radio and television broadcasts and printed matter were all part of Mr. Armstrong’s “three-point” plan—the strategy he employed for preaching the gospel message to the largest audience possible. It was yet another of the ruins we have been able to raise up. In describing the initiative to our members on May 6, 2006, my father called it a “new phase” for our work. He explained how Christ’s commission in Matthew 10:23 was actually intended for the Philadelphia Church of God and that we wouldn’t be able to cover all the “cities of Israel” before the return of Jesus Christ. In the first phase of the campaign, from July to September, my father visited Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, New York and Portland.
During this same time period, our architects put the finishing touches on the drawings for the $15 million, 800-seat auditorium we intend to build and dedicate to our great God. We hope to break ground on God’s house in 2007.
The Road Ahead
As I look out my window across campus from my second-floor office in the Hall of Administration, I sit here in absolute awe of what God has done. To think that all of this started 16 years ago with a Worldwide Church of God minister who was fired and excommunicated, offered no severance pay or pension and then laughed to scorn within the circle of Tkachism for simply believing and teaching what he had always been taught.
That’s what God had to work with at the start of raising these ruins—that, and faith.
Even today, in viewing what God has raised up already through a relatively small church with a modest annual income of $14 million or so, the numbers just don’t add up. Yet the work keeps growing and prospering as more doors swing open for us to finish our commission.
Mr. Armstrong introduced one of his books by writing, “No story of fiction ever was so strange, so fascinating, so absorbing, so packed with interest and suspense, as this gripping story ….”33 That’s the way I feel about our story. It’s so strange it seems almost unbelievable. And yet, what a fascinating and incredible ride this has been. But we still have a long way to go.
Herbert W. Armstrong died with his mind on reaching the largest audience possible with a message—a commission the Tkaches were dead-set against. They stopped the work and ruined everything God had given Mr. Armstrong for the work.
Then God raised it right back up. He began with a small, faith-filled ministry intent on delivering the exact same message Mr. Armstrong did. A few people responded to that message and devoted their lives to support that work. Later, God amplified the message with many of the same tools Mr. Armstrong had used so effectively—radio and television programs, magazines, books and booklets. And when the fledgling work of the Philadelphia Church of God plateaued, God raised up a college to train additional personnel for service in the work—to make it possible for the work to have a worldwide impact. At the same time, God dramatically increased the size of our facilities for doing the work.
Now God has granted us ownership of all that literature.
It’s as if everything to this point has happened to prepare us for what’s ahead—to make reaching the “largest audience possible,” possible. In many ways, to paraphrase the conclusion in Mystery of the Ages, it feels like the story is just beginning.