This edition of our Newsletter includes the testimonials of a current loan holder, Land O’ Lakes Bible Chapel, and David and Faith Dunlap who have served the Lord for many years both overseas and stateside.
In the last edition, I covered a little of Stewards Foundation’s history and provided some current information on our primary purpose for existing, that of providing loans for New Testament patterned assemblies in the U. S. In this edition, an overview of the other side of the equation, 64 years of giving to the Lord’s servants to assist with health care expense is the focus. We call it HCAP, an acronym for the Health Care Assistance Program.
At the beginning of this year, checks totaling $238,725 were sent to 180 commending assemblies for 312 families, couples and singles in HCAP. Of this amount, $1,550 was given by various parties through the 100% Pass-Thru Fund to support HCAP. Assisting commended workers with health care goes back to the days when Stewards Foundation owned or controlled the operation of six hospitals. One of the hospitals was sold in 1970, but many of the Lord’s servants were provided with free health care from 1953 until the remaining five hospitals were sold in 1982.
Following the sale of the hospitals, Stewards Foundation continued this ministry to the Lord’s servants by paying for commended workers medical expenses. By the mid-1990’s, medical costs had risen so dramatically that the Board of Trustees realized a change was necessary. From 1989 to 1995, funds given for commended worker’s health care expense was over $11,000,000. Continuing in such a fashion was beginning to cast a shadow over Stewards Foundation’s ability to fulfill its primary purpose, providing loans to New Testament patterned assemblies. At the end of 1994, the Board made two critical decisions: first, HCAP was converted into an annual gift program that continues to this day; second, no additional commended workers would be added to HCAP.
These two changes helped control the cost of assisting commended workers with medical expense, but problems still remained. Out of a concern that the new annual gift be meaningful to those in HCAP, the Board adopted a policy of giving beyond Stewards Foundation’s net income. From 1989 through 2016, almost $23,000,000 was given for medical expense and HCAP’s annual gift. If these funds were only net profit, then it might be argued that Stewards Foundation was in the truest sense of the word, a nonprofit. However, of the $23,000,000 given, over $9,500,000 was not net profit, but was in fact from Stewards Foundation’s principal fund; in other words, deficit spending. With the changes in 1995, deficit spending began to ease. Over the next 21 years almost $14,700,000 was given though HCAP with just under $3,800,000 being in excess of net income.
Even with the reduction, this type of spending cannot last if a company, even a nonprofit, wishes to continue to fulfill its mission. In the ten years prior to 2010, an average of $250,000 per year was taken out of Stewards Foundation’s principal fund to supplement the annual HCAP gift; we were still in a deficit spending mode. After several lethargic years, it appeared that loan demand was reawakening. By 2010, the effort to re-energize the loan program appeared to be working; meaning loan dollars would be needed. Understanding that such deficit spending could jeopardize the loan program, the Board established a plan to eliminate this practice. The plan called for a reduction of $50,000 per year in funds taken from the principal fund to supplement the HCAP gift over the next 5 years. So, in 2011, $250,000 was added to our net income for the annual HCAP gift, the supplement was reduced to $200,000 in 2012, and so on until the reduction plan was completed with $50,000 being added to net income in 2015. The plan going forward is no deficit spending, meaning that the annual HCAP gift will only be taken from net cash profit.
The other change made in 1995 was difficult because it meant no additional commended workers were permitted into HCAP. Even though numbers in the program had grown quite large, in excess of 1,300 in the early 1990’s, there were always new workers being commended to the Lord’s work, and they had medical expenses. No doubt there were cost savings achieved taking this measure, but it was hard to say “no” to the many that asked if there was a place for them.
As I was beginning my tenure at Stewards Foundation in August 2010, the Board gave direction that this program was to be reopened to commended workers. There was, however, a condition to being added to HCAP: the worker(s) had to be commended from an assembly with a then current loan from Stewards Foundation. At first, this might appear to have been a very narrow opening, but the Board’s reasoning was sound. Loan proceeds – read interest here – provide the major portion of Stewards Foundation’s profit; in turn, profit is the source of the HCAP gift. Even with this restriction, we have happily added 55 families, couples and singles to HCAP over the past 6 years.
Land O’ Lakes Bible Chapel is located in Lutz, Florida, a fast-growing community in the north Tampa area. For ten years, George Chambers, a respected local brother, prayerfully shared his burden for a new assembly in Land O’ Lakes. In 1999, a Bible study was started in the living room of David and Faith Dunlap in Land O’ Lakes. The numbers of those attending the Bible study, neighbors and Christians from nearby churches and assemblies, began to slowly grow. A 15-week study on the New Testament church commenced and a small group began to have the conviction to begin meeting as a church.
On January 2, 2000, the Land O’ Lakes Bible Chapel (LOLBC) had their first meeting in the living room of David and Faith Dunlap’s home. There were eight adults and three children at the first meeting. Within the first year the numbers grew, and by the end of 2000 there were 30 in fellowship. In 2001, the assembly began meeting in the Land O’ Lakes Community Center.
Over the years the assembly devoted itself to a number of evangelistic efforts in the Land O’ Lakes/Lutz area. Evangelistic home Bible studies saw fruit using “Christianity Explored”. Backyard children’s Bible clubs, tent evangelism at local fairs, door-to-door gospel campaigns, children’s gospel work, vacation Bible schools, and personal evangelism were faithfully conducted. The GNOM gospel team visited the area on two occasions and engaged in personal and open-air evangelism. As a result of this gospel work 18-20 people were saved and baptized.
As time passed, the assembly continued to grow and the Lord added gifted leaders, Bible teachers, and children’s workers. David Cetola moved to the area from Connecticut and was recognized as an elder. In early 2003, the assembly numbered about 40-45 believers plus a few who attended only the Family Bible Hour. The assembly began to think about a more permanent meeting place. It was difficult to find existing buildings that were suitable within a 5-8 mile radius. In time our thoughts turned to buying land and constructing a chapel building.
In May 2003, a 5-acre piece of land was purchased at 1209 Livingston Road in nearby Lutz. After some negotiations with the seller, the amount of $120,000 was offered and accepted. The loan for this property was completely paid off in the latter part of 2008. Then the assembly began to turn its attention to building a chapel facility on the property. A loan was secured from Steward’s Foundation for the construction of the building. Through the sacrifice and hard work of local believers, and those of nearby assemblies, prayer, and many visits to the county permitting office, a 1,880 square-foot building was finally completed in August 2012. Over the next few years the Lord blessed our evangelistic outreach efforts and the number of believers in assembly fellowship grew from 35-40 believers to 70-75 believers. Due to the recent addition of several new families, the assembly is now in the process of expanding the modular chapel building to 4,100 square feet.
A number of ministries have arisen through the labors of the saints at LOLBC. In 2010, eighty young people attended a one day youth event held at the Bishop’s farm in Land O’ Lakes. That small effort has grown into the Walk Worthy Weekend, which is held every October at Camp Horizon. The assembly-sponsored Walk Worthy (discipleship) Weekend draws 140-150 assembly young people from Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina for rigorous Bible study. This weekend retreat is an event that was initiated and organized by young people (20-27 age). The “Iron Sharpens Iron” men’s discipleship group began in 2014 at LOLBC. This Thursday evening study group, led by Jorge Walker, is an important time for men to challenge each other, receive support, and learn from each other. The Bible Explorers children’s gospel ministry meets at the chapel and draws a good group of children, a number of which are from unsaved families. Nathan and Erin Campbell lead this ministry, which consists of a gospel message, games, crafts, and a kid-friendly dinner.
For many years the assembly at LOLBC has been meeting every Sunday for the Lord’s Supper at 9:15AM, then breaking into two groups at 10:15AM for men’s and women’s Bible discussion groups, and then re-gathering for the Family Bible Hour at 11:15AM. The men’s and women’s discussion groups have been a valuable time to learn from each other, but also a time to learn of spiritual needs, doctrinal error, and where correction is needed among those visiting the chapel. On Wednesday evenings we meet for prayer and Bible study. An annual Bible conference, to which area assemblies are invited, is held once a year in April. Over the years, key principles that we have tried to maintain at LOLBC are verse-by-verse Bible teaching, hospitality, mentoring, and personal discipleship. It is our desire to learn as much as we can from the Word of God, to serve our Savior in reaching the unsaved with the gospel, to minister to the saints, and finally to worship the Lord Jesus Christ in spirit and truth.
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” Philippians 1:27 (NIV)
I (David) was raised in a small town in New Jersey not far from New York City. My parents were committed Christians and were very active in a New Testament assembly that met in our home. Although I was taught the Scriptures and understood the gospel from a young age, I did not trust Christ as my Savior until I was in college. It was through the testimony of a college friend that I trusted Christ as my personal Savior at the age of 22. In a short period of time, I became involved in literature distribution, evangelism, and leading Inter-Varsity Bible studies in the college dorms.
After graduation, I served for a summer with Operation Mobilization in Belgium. Thereafter, I worked at Merrill Lynch in New York City for a number of years, before I was commended in 1983 by Bethel Bible Chapel in River Plaza, New Jersey, to serve the Lord as a missionary in Belgium. While in Belgium, I worked together with Canadian missionaries Richard Haverkamp and Hank Gelling in church planting and evangelism among the Flemish people. In 1989, I returned to the U.S. and began helping a newly formed assembly in Oxford, Pennsylvania.
Faith (Gessner) was raised near Allentown, Pennsylvania. Her father and mother were very active in the assembly in Allentown. She trusted Christ as her personal Savior at the age of 7. After high school and two years at a community college, she completed a one-year certificate program at Emmaus Bible College in 1983. Following her studies at Emmaus she spent a year on the mission field helping John and Eleanor Sims, in Harare, Zimbabwe. In 1989, we met at a mission’s conference in eastern Pennsylvania, and were married in May of 1990. Grace Gospel Chapel in Allentown commended Faith to the Lord’s work in 1991.
After our marriage, we first served the Lord in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania working with Grace Chapel. While in Gilbertsville, we opened the Bible & Life Christian Bookstore on Route 100 and I began writing and publishing the Bible & Life Newsletter. During that time I began to minister the Word of God itinerantly in assemblies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and on two occasions we traveled to Florida to minister in assemblies. In 1995, we moved with our three children, Laura, Allan and Sarah to Tampa, Florida, to serve the Lord. Soon we were engaged in evangelism, itinerant Bible teaching, conference speaking, youth work and Bible camps in Florida and the southeastern states.
While in Tampa, an opportunity arose to help establish an assembly in Odessa, Florida. Faith and I threw ourselves into children’s work, vacation Bible school, Bible studies and preaching the Word of God. Soon a small assembly of 35 people was meeting in a modest metal building on Gunn Highway. A year later a Tampa assembly merged with the new work and soon over 100 people were meeting together. In 1997, we moved from Tampa to Land O’ Lakes, Florida, with the goal of starting an assembly in that town.
On January 2, 2000, the Land O’ Lakes Bible Chapel had their first meeting in the living room of our home. There were eight adults and three children at the first meeting. Within the first year the numbers grew, and by the end of 2000, there were 30 in fellowship. In 2001, the assembly began meeting in the Land O’ Lakes Community Center. In May 2003, a 5-acre piece of land was purchased in nearby Lutz. In 2012, a small chapel was built on that property. Today, after 15 years, about 75 believers meet together at Land O’ Lakes Bible Chapel.
Early in 2000, I began volunteering at the Land O’ Lakes County Jail in assisting the chaplain. Initially, I graded correspondence courses, distributed Bibles, and helped in the chaplain’s office. Soon I was acting as an associate chaplain in leading Bible studies with inmates, preaching at chapel services, one-to-one counseling, and resolving spiritual needs of male and female inmates. Occasionally, I “sat in” as acting chaplain while the chaplain was out of town on official prison business. In 2008, I was awarded the “volunteer of the year” award by the chaplain’s office at the annual banquet.
Early in our ministry, the Lord opened the door to be engaged in a writing ministry. In 1992, I began writing the Bible & Life newsletter that, at the time, was sent out to only a handful of people. Today about 1,600 people receive the newsletter. The newsletter led to an opportunity to write a small book in 2006 on the Lord’s Supper entitled His Dying Request. This title has been our most popular book, having distributed over 14,000 copies. Subsequently, other books and booklets have been published. This year our book Limiting Omnipotence has gone into a second printing and recently was translated into French by assemblies in Quebec, Canada.
Looking back over the past thirty-two years, we can clearly see the providence of God leading us from one stage of life to another, and filling our hands with opportunities to serve the Savior who loved us and gave Himself for us. What a privilege we have had to serve the best of Masters!