Charis Bible College recently celebrated the public Grand Opening of the school's new campus in Woodland Park, Colorado. The community-wide celebration was held on March 22, 2014 at the Barn, the first building erected on the picturesque property named, The Sanctuary. The new campus is a culmination of four-and-a-half-years of hard work, and marks a new beginning for the school, a beginning full of world-changing potential. The Woodland Park campus is the third Colorado location since the school’s inception in 1994, but it is the first that the ministry has constructed from the ground up. The new facility is also a testament to a decision Andrew made twelve years ago to take the limits off God.
Andrew and Jamie warmly welcomed hundreds of students and local residents during the celebratory evening. Through the event, many Woodland Park neighbors were introduced to CBC and its mission, for the first time. Those in attendance were treated to a tour of the facilities and then enjoyed refreshments and fellowship before the evening’s program began.
Daniel Amstutz and CBC's Worship Team played powerful praise and worship music to open the evening's festivities. The selection of music included a brand new song written very early the same morning by Marcia Alverson. Daniel and the team, which included Jamie Wommack, also performed several songs from their recently released CD/DVD album, The Best is Yet to Come. The worship team's adoration of the Lord permeated the Barn's auditorium.
Following praise and worship, Andrew offered welcoming remarks to those in attendance and those watching online. After expressing his gratitude to God, and to all those who helped make the building project a reality, Andrew went on to share some interesting facts about dirt. The entire first phase of construction required the hauling of 350,000 yards of dirt. While that statistic may not mean much to most readers, Andrew did provide an example to illustrate what that amount of dirt would look like. He said that the quantity of dirt that was moved at the Sanctuary was enough to cover an entire football field, end zone to end zone, at a depth of 199 feet. That is an impressive amount of dirt!
Gary Luecke, the Director of CBC Colorado, also addressed the audience. He thanked the community of Woodland Park for being gracious and welcoming. Gary called Woodland Park, the friendliest community in Colorado. After expressing his appreciation for his staff, Gary shared some details about how much growth the school has experienced since 2007. Today, there are 634 students enrolled in classes at the new Woodland Park campus, compared to only 207 in 2007. More than 1200 students participate in CBC’s Correspondence program; in 2007, there were just 290 correspondence students. Seven years ago, there were eight extension schools with a total of 180 students. Today, CBC has 40 extension schools, spanning six continents, with a total of 1579 on-campus students.
Perhaps the most stirring portion of the evening came when Andrew shared a video documenting some of the history of The Sanctuary property. The video introduced former property owner, Gilbert S. Jackson, some of his family and a bit of his testimony. Gilbert, a man of great wealth, purchased the property in 1990. Three years later, on Gilbert’s seventy-fourth birthday, he was in bed suffering from the effects of cancer. While his nighttime nurse's aide, Merline Harrison, did her best to comfort him, she told him that he was only missing one thing in his life—Jesus Christ. Merline ministered to Gilbert, and in the moments that followed he received salvation. Gilbert said he, "saw Jesus," and the experience was so tangible to him that it noticeably changed him. In the days that followed Gilbert could hardly contain his happiness. He told his daughter, Debbie Jackson Littlestar, that he wanted all of his properties to go to Christian endeavors following his death. Gilbert even shared a dream he had for the property where CBC now sits. He imagined a school with glass walls, so that the students could feel like they were outside while learning.
Following the video, Andrew shared some significant details about seeing God bring this project together through multiple people. In June 1993, Gilbert received Jesus and dedicated his properties to God. It was also during June of the same year that God spoke to Andrew about starting a Bible college. “This is a God thing. God ordered this,” Andrew said. He went on to emphasize that it was one person’s faithfulness that began the process of thousands of lives being transformed.
If the video wasn’t enough to stir every heart in the room, Andrew’s next introduction surely was. He announced that Gilbert’s nurse, Merline, was in attendance. Andrew then thanked her and honored Merline with a lovely bouquet of flowers. What a moment is must have been for Merline to realize the fruit of her seemingly small act of faithfulness.
The size and scope of the project, and the fact that it was completed debt-free, is a testimony to God's faithfulness. The joy and enthusiasm expressed by staff and students was infectious, and there is no doubt that many Woodland Park residents left the event happy to have CBC as their new neighbor. It is safe to say that those who came to celebrate the goodness and faithfulness of God, as well as those who came only out of curiosity, truly enjoyed the evening.
Be sure to check out the videos of the evening's events below. The first video is from the praise and worship session and includes the Holy Spirit-inspired song penned early the morning of the grand opening. The second video includes Andrew's remarks and the honoring of Merline Harrison.