Today I read Romans 15:13 which says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in Hope.”
Today this is a powerful verse for me. Over three weeks ago an historical building filled with emotional ties for alumni and faculty and staff, burned to the ground. Today as I walked through the grounds where the building stood, I see the site is clear and already we are meeting with architects to rebuild. The new building will resemble the historical building that stood there. We have an architect who works in these kind of buildings in restoring the past.
As I walked by that site this morning and remembered the burned building of January 12 I have hope for the future. Once again God has provided His blessing to the college. We have received some funds from local businesses and donors to help in the process. We are expecting our alumni to assist in the rebuilding process as well. And then the insurance will assist in replacing these buildings.
Today I have peace and joy that the Lord will rebuild this structure. He will use many people and businesses but He will bring hope through people and through His word. By the power of the Holy Spirit I will abound in Hope because Jesus Christ is my source of hope and joy and peace. Even in the worst of times, He is always there and will always provide. I praise the Lord for His blessings.
God bless you as you trust in the Lord and rest in the Hope which He provides.
Early on the Monday morning, January 12, 2009, Gate Cottage, built in 1939 and renovated in 2002, burned to the ground. It housed the gift shop for the Falls, the restaurant, and the School of Counseling. I was in Indiana and upon returning to campus I walked around the building that evening and tears flowed as the memories of my forty plus years of association with this college and this building rushed through my brain.
I received many emails from other college presidents, vice presidents, alumni and friends over the next two days wishing us God’s best and a promise to pray. I praise the Lord that no one was hurt and that the School of Counseling is now in temporary facilities. Already we are discussing rebuilding the gift shop and gate cottage in the original location. We are also discussing building a School of Counseling in a separate location on the main part of campus.
God is good all the time and all the time God is good. I received an email from a student on Monday as I was traveling back to campus from Indiana. I want to share part of that with you. “Dr. Gardner, you and the rest of the Toccoa Falls Staff are help up in continuous prayer! This is indeed a great loss for our campus! As much as we mourn the loss of this building, we also give great praise for the many years Gate Cottage served the students, faculty, and community! Although we stand amidst rubble, our Lord provides a firm foundation! There are some things that don’t burn. What we gained with the walls of the classrooms will never fade. The spirit of our students, the foundation of faith that we are built upon, these things also remain. As in tragedies of the past the Lord hears our cry! The Tree God planted has stood through it all! Our roots are deep and we will not forget God’s hand of mercy.”
We praise the Lord and rest on His promises to us. In Isaiah 43:1 -3 the Lord says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you, when you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Praise the Lord from Whom all blessings flow!
I would like to share the follow letter with you that I published on tfchistory.com. I pray that it will be an encouragement to you as you face the new year. —Wayne
Dear Alumni and Friends,
We have now embarked on another New Year, 2009. I remember the concerns of the decade of the 2000s when the clock struck 12:00 midnight on December 31, 1999. We had planned and prepared for the worst possible scenario because of the computerized world. But nothing major happened. In fact, we went through the next several New Year celebrations forgetting our concerns and living for the moment.
Now, however, we come to 2009 with new concerns and many of these are well founded—the instability of our nation’s economy and the global financial market can tempt us to feel fearful. However, God wants us to remain steady and to prepare for what He has for us in this upcoming year. May the following words help you to become more prepared for this New Year and the future as you walk closely with the Lord.
In I Chronicles 12:32 we read about the sons of Issachar, “Men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.” These men saw the challenges before them but they also understood the faith it would take to get through the times in which they were living. They had wisdom and insight, which come only from God, to know what they needed to do. As we enter this year, we need the same thing: wisdom and insight so that we will know how to respond to our changing world.
We must remain in God’s Word and be committed to prayer consistently. This means we must be spiritually alive. In I Corinthians 2:14–15, Paul wrote, “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually [discerned]. But he who is spiritual appraises [or discerns] all things.” In order to do this, we must have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
We must be awake in our senses to know what is going on around us. We can stay well informed but we also need to run all that we hear and learn through God’s grid, which is His Word. This is certainly not the time for us to have our heads in the sand. The author of Hebrews 5:14 wrote, “Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
We must continue to do God’s business because we know “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it results in death.” Jesus Christ is the Way the Truth and the Life, and we must be so in tune with Him that He can lead and guide us at every turn. If we do this, we will know right from wrong, good from evil, and we also will be able to approach this New Year totally unafraid.
We also must stay alert. In Ezekiel 33: 7-9, God instructs His watchman to watch and then to warn others. As God’s servants when we discern the dangers and pitfalls that are sure to come in this New Year, we need to warn others. We can see with spiritual eyes what the unsaved world is missing. In order to do this, we need to remember to be alert and faithful because God has promised that one day Jesus Christ is coming again.
As Christians we are the “watchmen on the wall” giving warnings but also giving a blessing by reminding all who draw near that Jesus Christ is alive and is still in control. And no matter what happens in the future, He holds all things within His omnipotent hands. It is my prayer that you will glorify and honor our Lord and Savior in this New Year in all that you do and say.
Serving alongside you,
Dr. W. Wayne Gardner
Toccoa Falls College
I remember back in high school running on the track team. I was the distance runner, the two-miler. From time to time I was also able to run on our second team entry in the 440 yard relay and the mile relay. I can remember that after I had practiced running the distances I would go over with the second team and practice the passing of the baton. I was tired especially after running the longer distances and sometimes practicing the passing of the baton hurt. The runner passing it to me would jam the baton up and into my hand and then it was my responsibility to take it and not drop it. I can say we never dropped the baton but it was because we practiced and practiced and practiced.
As we continue to prepare Christain Servant Leaders who will impact their world with the love and message of Jesus Christ we learn to live within the rules and live within a caring Christian community. Each of us have a responsibility. Each of us have a job to do. And sometimes, like passing that baton, it isn’t as pleasant as we would like it to be. But we must enforce the rules and we must keep the faith and be very sure that the institution that has been around for 100 years will continue to produce Christian Servant Leaders for another 100 years or until the Lord returns. We must live the holy life that Jesus calls us to live. Sometimes we are misunderstood. Sometimes people try to hold us hostage by their desires or wishes, sometimes the decisions that are made are not initially appreciated. But we must continue to stay in a blessable position so that the Lord can fulfill His call on our lives and be sure we continue to build on the foundation He provides. And when we pass the baton we can praise the Lord for all that He has done.
May you bravely take the baton of Christian leadership each day and pass it on through a growing faith in Jesus Christ to those with whom you work and minister.
May God give each of us the ability to run the race and pass the baton so that we can be a blessing to others.
Today I sit at my desk and I remember walking through military cemeteries in the Philippines, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, and Arlington. There is such peace and solitude in these hallowed resting places. I remember the ultimate sacrifice that each of these gave to ensure our freedom and the peace of the world. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.” On this day and every day may God bless you and all the family members who have made the sacrifice for the citizens of the United States of America. May you feel the presence of the Lord today as never before and know that your loved one’s sacrifice was not in vain. May God bless you and may God bless America.
Giants! There are giants in the land, said the children of Israel, and we are not able to move ahead and possess that which God has promised us. Then in Numbers 12:30 Caleb rose up and “quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” What a man of vision and faith in the Lord. Caleb was ready to take on the giants in the land for God had promised him victory. But the people said no, it can’t be done. They are too big and too many.
It reminds me of Dr. R.A. Forrest as well as other leaders at Toccoa Falls College. When financial concerns rose, he prayed and trusted God. When facilities burned, he prayed and trusted God. And then when the dam break happened, the campus prayed and trusted God. They didn’t give up, they didn’t give in, they kept on believing. God provided because God is in Control. And you know, when there are times when we don’t understand why things happen as they do, but God is Able and He will provide His blessing in spite of the circumstances and situations.
And you know, when the Lord spoke to Moses He said this of his servant Caleb, “but my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring him into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” His life was different and his faith shined about the testimony and fears of the rest of the people of Israel. God blessed Him even though he had detours, God kept Caleb alive for the next 45 years. We too can have that different spirit as we believe in God’s faithfulness to His people.
We read in Joshua 14:9 – 12 when asked what he wanted for his inheritance. He said, give me this mountain, and on that mountain or hill country, lived the giants. He said I am as strong today as I was when God promised me this land. He received what the Lord had promised as he was faithful thorugh delays and detours and didn’t give up. He and his descendants defeated the giants and possessed the land.
And you know, it may take some time to have our prayers answered, but remember, God is faithful and He will answer. Because of Caleb’s faithfulness he began a legacy of faithfulness for his family. May we also leave a heritage of faithfulness to God’s word for our descendants. Great is the Lord’s faithfulness to His children.
As I work each day I ascribe to the following “guiding principles” in all I do and say. I feel the overarching motivation for my life and ministry is the Glory of God. The following four Guiding Principles help me to continue to walk in that path which Jesus shows me.
1. TOTAL DEPENDENCE ON GOD – We are prayerfully dependent of God to guide and direct us, trusting that He knows the future. We recognize that He is all sufficient and trust Him to supply our needs. We recognize that apart from Him we can do nothing. All I am and hope to be is subject to being intimately related to Jesus.
2. WORKING TOGETHER AND VALUING ONE ANOTHER – We will carry out Christ’s Great Commandment by demonstrating His love to one another and to a lost world. We put the needs of others before our own. (Phil. 2:3 -4). There are no unimportant people. We speak the truth to one another, but always in the spirit of love. When there are disagreements or differences of opinions, we strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
3. SERVANT LEADERSHIP – Following Christ’s example of a servant leader, we are to be servants to those who serve so that they will be equipped and encouraged in life and ministry. We treat each other with humility and discipline in life. We strive to encourage others to serve at their best. We work to achieve the goals of the organization by empowering all its members to contribute significantly to its collective accomplishments.
4. MAINTAINING A POSITION WHERE WE CAN LIVE IN GOD’S BLESSING – We are biblically focused and obedient to the authority of Scripture, seeking always for His leading. We are wise stewards with the resources God has entrusted to us and acknowledge our accountability for what we are given. This is His ministry, not ours. We remain true to God’s Mission and Purpose for the College. We correct injustices whenever we become aware of them. We embrace best practice policies and procedures to minimize risk and optimize ministry.
Each morning when I arise I promise the Lord to serve in this manner which are my Guiding Principles, as well as those of my church and this college.
Just before the Board of Trustees meeting this past Thursday, October 9 a friend who is a professor of theology and also teaches leadership at a seminary called me. He said, “Wayne, the Lord laid you on my heart to pray for you in the Spring. I didn’t know why but I prayed for you every week. This past month the Lord said to me, “tell Wayne to have the courage to lead. He should do what he knows to do.” The Lord is on your side.”
You can imagine my thoughts at that time. Decisions had been questioned, the focus of the institution was being questioned by some, and the Lord says “have the courage to lead.” I came away from that phone call more determined than ever to seek the Lord in all things and follow closely to Him and fulfill His calling on my life.
When things get though, remember, Jesus is Able and He will provide victory and the timely words from a friend.
I served as a youth minister in a church from 1973 – 75. During that time I had input into the lives of more than 100 youth. I left the church and began my career with World Vision and then Toccoa Falls College.
There are times in your life when you reflect on the past and wonder where people are now. I also wonder “did I really make an impact in those lives.” Today, I received an email from a name I didn’t recognize. I opened the email and began to read it and my question about making an impact was answered. The email began this way, “A long time ago you came to the north to lead a youth ministry program. I was one of the youth you helped guide during your tenure. I want to thank you for the time and the effort. You graciously took the abuse we handed out and always came back for more. You brought us values greater than book learning.” “What you left behind for us, whether intentional or accidental, was a determination to succeed. From our small group you will see lawyers, doctors, a lowly engineer and a minister.”
The email continued, “I have worked with my children to instill those values that are so much a part of my being and have been frequently asked who (outside of my parents) is to ‘blame’.” “Quite often I can look back and say I was acquainted with a preacher from Georgia, who enforced the 12 inch rule, had no tolerance for alcohol, and got me through confirmation.” “I have had many opportunities and challenges in my career to date. I have visited places plagued with poverty from war or revolution. We have always tried to leave them a little better off than when we arrived. You helped plant that seed in myself and others.” “I do not mean to bother you but thought I would say thank you on behalf of those of us who benefitted from your time and faith.”
What an unexpected email, sent by God to me at a time when I was needing to be encouraged. And you know what, it wasn’t money, it wasn’t cars, or things of this world that this man remembered. It was that someone took the time to build into his life and the others around him that Jesus Christ cares for and loves them and as they live for Him he will always lead them in the right path. That was worth more to me today than this man will ever imagine. God is so good and He is in control. May you be encouraged today by someone whose life you have touched in the past. Remember, it is all about Jesus and not about us.