Ambassador Bible College coordinator Frank Dunkle stops by the studio to discuss the start of the 2016-2017 ABC school year.
[Victor Kubik] This is Victor Kubik, president of the United Church of God. With me today is Dr. Frank Dunkle, Ambassador Bible College coordinator who is in the second year of holding this position. Welcome to Inside United.
[Frank Dunkle] Thank you, Mr. Kubik. I’m glad to be here.
[Victor] Tell us about this year’s class. What’s the make up of the ABC class this year?
[Frank] Well, we have a pretty good group. It’s smaller than some other years. We have 23 students right now, and they are relatively young and energetic. Some of them are just out of high school, we have some who have college degrees already, and they are very energetic and enthusiastic. Most of them have some college. They come from all over.
[Victor] Well, I found them to be extremely energetic and enthusiastic. They sure make noise downstairs in our place, and I appreciate that. It gets very, very quiet here towards the end of August. And when the class rolls in, it’s always very, very nice to have them and to have them visit with us. Can you tell us where some of them are from?
[Frank] Yeah, they are from across the country. We have several from the northwest of the United States, which seems to happen year after year. I tell the pastors in that area, “Thank you for sending us your young people.” We have, I think, three from Michigan this year, one from Ohio, one from Missouri, one from Florida, I’m sure I’m missing some, but interestingly we have three from Australia, which is something we haven’t had in quite a while, but they are also very exciting to have. And a young lady from Chile, who…she’s the lone representative from that part of the country, and we are thrilled to have her here.
[Victor] Dr. Frank, tell us why would someone want to come to ABC and take a year out of their life to do an intensive study of the Bible?
[Frank] That’s a good question. Because people weigh that very carefully and for years, we’ve told them, “Thank you for taking a year out of your life.” In some ways, it’s quite a sacrifice. But in other ways, it’s the only way you can really get out of it what we hope they can. That you’re focused on that without some of the distractions. It’s not like you’re also studying physics, and geometry, and other things. You’re focused on the study of the Bible and somewhat immersed in it here. And there are benefits that come out of it. We like to talk of it as an experience. I’d like to use the term “an authentic experience.” Because you are not just reading about it, you are not looking at a video or hearing something, you are in the middle of it. And it expands your minds, so to speak, with God’s word.
I say studying God’s word is studying God. One of the points I like to bring out of my classes on the prophets, is that you’re not just studying prophecy, but you are studying the one who gave the prophecy. You are getting to know some of God’s personality. And devoting a whole year to that type of study of God’s word draws you closer to Him.
I would add also that the friendships built while people are here is like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Of course, I developed very close friendships when I was an Ambassador College student, and I’m thrilled to still see some of them. It’s always an excitement when someone you haven’t seen for a long time, walks in the door and you say, “Oh, I remember when we were in college together.” I see that among the young alumni in this area and others. So they are going through an experience together that really bonds them.
[Victor] Right. I remember when I, too, went to Ambassador College. You know, we were instructed, really, to bond socially. That’s a very important part of the whole learning process, because there is application of the things that you have learned, discussion, an exchange of ideas, and further information about what you’ve been learning.
[Frank] Yes, I agree. And that’s one thing I noted earlier today. Towards the end of the lunch hour, I walked from the dining hall into the classroom and I saw a couple of students, they are comparing notes and talking to each other. So that’s something you couldn’t do if you were at a distance sitting in front of a computer. They are able to talk about their ideas. It’s something you share and you really benefit from talking about those things together.
[Victor] One thing I found, too, is that this class is not shy at all. At orientation, I spoke about, “Well, when we have lunch downstairs, you know, in our dining room, feel free if there is an empty seat next to us to kind of join us.” And today we had two young ladies who joined us, and started talking and talked about themselves, where they were from, and asked us questions and so forth, so hope this is a precursor of just how the whole year will be.
[Frank] I think it might be if individual classes develop sort of personalities for the class. I think this year’s class is going to have that outgoing friendly personality that we’re seeing.
[Victor] Are there any new classes being taught this year? Is there anything different from the years before?
[Frank] There are some things different, and we’ve reshaped some things. We had a class called “The Writings” that covered an enormous part of the Bible and didn’t really have enough time. So we’ve divided that up. Now instead we have one class called “Wisdom Literature,” which I believe was on the curriculum when I was an Ambassador student. That’ll cover, Job, Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, which is still plenty. But we separated out Chronicles, which is now added to the “Former Prophets” class. And we have a class called “Post-Exilic Writings” with Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther that I am happy to teach.
We also have Gary Petty coming in for a week of module where he is going to cover early church history.
[Victor] There’s one more thing about Ambassador Bible College that I believe has been a shift in the last couple of years. I know that our mission statement has changed some to being a place of just learning things, to being a place to prepare one for future service. Could you comment about that?
[Frank] Well, I agree. I think also telling the students that we have that expectation helps them be in that mindset. And it’s a subtle thing. We don’t have a class necessarily on how to become a leader in the church, but we stress that throughout. It’s interesting, I know in some of my classes I’ll cover a particular point and I’ll say, “Fellows, keep in mind, this would make a good sermonette for when you are giving sermonettes.” And of course, that’s not a guarantee that any of them will definitely be giving sermonettes. But we hope that they will serve in the church in that way. And we stress the things that they are doing now. Joining the choir is a way for them to serve right away in the sense that they visit congregations and they serve in providing that uplifting music, but also in visiting the church members.
[Victor] I heard that this year’s class is particularly musical.
[Frank] It seems to be. We have a number of musicians coming in and several noted on their applications that they were excited about the choir. So I’m looking forward to hearing what we get, but I’m sure it will be great.
[Victor] What I understand is that most of the class is the choir.
[Frank] I think that’s the case, yes. And Ken Shoemaker has a wonderful talent at taking the students that come in and melding them into a unified group. And it’s fabulous.
[Victor] I’m amazed. Every year is a totally different group of students and he makes a choir that sounds professional.
[Frank] Yes, we owe a lot to him and to their effort. And they are seeing it as a chance to serve. We really want to encourage that in them.
[Victor] Speaking of service, does Ambassador Bible College…tell us a little bit about some of the service projects that it has, or what it’s doing for things like charity and so forth.
[Frank] Well, we’ve done some things. I’d say our main thing that we’ve done over the years and continue to do is the annual charity auction. And that’s a major event. The students plan an auction where they’ll gather donations from area businesses of items that will go into a silent auction. But they also encourage members of the congregation to bring in food items, often baked goods that members from the region come together and will bid on. And part of the reason they come is because we put up elaborate decorations and we prepare an entertainment section that’s…it could be humorous, it can be beautiful music, and the students have to work very hard to put it together. But I tell the student, “You are gonna benefit.” And I’ve seen that they do. They bond as a class in a way that nothing else can do but going through that trial. And we’ve supported like the orphanage and the Ukraine and in Guatemala, in good works projects. We supported several bore holes and…
[Victor] Brazil last year.
[Frank] Brazil, yes. The summer camp there. So that’s one of the things we do. The students sometimes will spontaneously be called on to go and serve in a member. Say someone needs some furniture moved, or some cleaning done. Last year, we had a parenting class here in the Cincinnati area, and we called on students to volunteer to babysit, so the parents of young children could be in the class. And it was a big service. It could be easily overlooked how much time and effort they put into it.
[Victor] Well, thank you so much for telling us about Ambassador Bible College. We hope to have future classes and to be able to encourage more people in the future to take advantage of what Ambassador Bible College offers.
[Frank] Thank you very much. I sure hope they will.
[Victor] Well, thank you for joining us today on Inside United. Come back soon for another edition.