Next Steps for the Class of 2014

This August, the Bible Institute’s alumni family will grow by about 521, as students from the teaching sites in New York, Florida, Owen Sound, and Jeju graduate and head to their next step. While much of the Victory Journal’s mission is connecting alumni who have been away from Word of Life for a bit, we also want to welcome the newest members of the group and look back on a great year of ministry and growth.

Click here to read or watch what a few of our soon-to-be alumni from the Class of 2014 had to say.


Alumnus of the Year: Dennis D’Augostine

Dennis D’Augostine, Class of 1999 and 2000, has been honored twice with the C. Sumner Wemp Award in Personal Evangelism. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Baptist Bible College and master’s degrees in both ministry and divinity from Baptist Bible Seminary. Dennis and his wife, Kelly, have two sons, Michael and Matthew, and live in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

If you’ve visited Word of Life recently, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed a few changes. The attire at the Bible Institute has gone from the long-ago class coat-and-tie policy to more T-shirts and jeans in free time.The Word of Life Inn is now the Inn & Family Lodge, and rather than a population of primarily young students and older instructors and elders, Word of Life hosts more and more alumni of all generations.

It’s an exciting time to be part of the Word of Life family, as Alumnus of the Year Dennis D’Augostine saw firsthand during Homecoming weekend this spring. His visit was his first chance to return in 14 years, and he welcomed the changes. Dennis says he feels his generation of alumni, from 1995 to 2005, has been disconnected from Word of Life since leaving the Bible Institute, and he’s encouraged to see the efforts to reengage former students.

“When I left, I felt like Word of Life was just for 18- and 19-year-olds, and if I wasn’t lucky enough to stay and work on staff, I wouldn’t have a ministry connection unless I was bringing kids to camp,” he says.

Dennis himself came to know the Lord as a camper at the Island, and after visiting this past Memorial Day weekend, he says he realized even more the immense impact Word of Life has had in his life — from that first meeting with Christ at camp to his life-changing Bible Institute teachers and relationships with fellow alumni still in his life and work today.

“Word of Life has so much light — such excitement and passion,” Dennis says.

He says the depth of faith and fire for evangelism he developed at the Bible Institute, along with his own entrepreneurial spirit, are what fuel his current ministry as a church planter. After leaving Word of Life, Dennis attended Baptist Bible College and later Baptist Bible Seminary. Through the seminary’s Project Jerusalem initiative, he eventually planted Steamtown Church in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He now pastors the church with three of his close friends and fellow Bible Institute alumni Peter Fox, John Wilson, and Matt Miller.

Dennis says his desire to plant churches comes from his “heart for tethering evangelism and faith to a visible thing — to making disciples.” He’s planted several churches and seen much progress in Scranton. Dennis baptized 12 new believers on Good Friday, his church recently purchased a new cathedral, and he’s started a Spanish-speaking ministry through Steamtown Iglesia.

This exciting growth is a testament of Dennis’s faithfulness to his calling — creating a flourishing ministry in Scranton was no easy task. In fact, Dennis says jokingly that anyone looking to plant a church in the Northeast “better have a handwritten note from God.” Steamtown Church ministers to Scranton’s inner city, where addictions, abuse, and alcoholism are rampant. It was difficult for Dennis to convince suburban families to join his congregation, and the diversity of the area made it hard to build a cohesive church community early on. But he, Peter, John, and Matt kept the faith, and their church is thriving. Dennis says the urgent message of grace Steamtown Church shares is worth the hard fight.

“In the inner city, today really is a day of salvation, because there might not be a tomorrow,” he explains.

As Steamtown’s ministry and network continue to grow, Dennis hopes to develop a church planting movement — and with Word of Life’s focus on evangelism, he anticipates Word of Life’s role in church planting will expand with new generations of faith leaders and with Don Lough, Jr. at the helm.

“Homecoming weekend reignited my heart for Word of Life,” Dennis says. “There’s a new vision focused on growing churches, and it will resonate with those of us [alumni] now leading ministries of our own.”

The Classroom Goes Digital

By Mark Strout, Bible Institute Executive Dean

“I wonder where all my Bible Institute notes ended up?” Have you ever asked yourself that question? Truth be told, many of us would find that our notes ended up in a box tucked away in some forgotten corner of the house — or worse! Well, we’d like to change that.

This September, Word of Life Bible Institute is taking a bold step to better equip students with 21st-century study tools they can use for years to come: We will be transitioning our first-year classrooms in New York and Florida from paper notes to computer-based note-taking. All incoming freshman students will receive a customized Logos Bible Study software package containing a digital library of more than 450 books, including nearly all their required textbooks. Resources will include multiple Bible versions, commentaries, encyclopedias, devotionals, reference works, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, and dozens of maps, photos, and media resources. The Logos package will be included in school fees, and students will have very minimal additional textbook expenses (paper notes will be an option for one more year at an additional cost). We anticipate making the same transition in the second-year classroom in fall 2015.

In addition to the Logos package, class notes will be delivered in a format that will allow students to fill in blank spaces and add their own notes using laptops or tablets in class. Upon completion of each course, the notes can be imported into Logos. Then, as students use Logos for future Bible study, their Bible Institute notes, including both the content provided to them and the notes they type in themselves, will be a fully searchable resource that is electronically linked to all other resources in their Logos package. For example, if former students search a particular Bible text or topic, relevant material from their class notes will appear alongside all similar material from the hundreds of books in their digital library. Bible references appearing in their course notes will be hyperlinked to their preferred Bible version, allowing them to be opened alongside their notes with a simple click. Other hyperlinks will be possible as well. Students also will be able to purchase hundreds of additional digital resources to add to their collection in the future.

As we transition to a digital classroom, we anticipate taking advantage of other potential benefits, including computerized testing, which would deliver different versions of the same exam to each laptop or tablet. We also could gather questions from students during class without having to interrupt the speaker. Professors could distribute additional notes, articles, or web links.

We are excited about this enhancement to the Bible Institute program and believe it will contribute to the fulfillment of our mission to educate 21st-century students within a rigorous academic and structured discipleship atmosphere, preparing them to live lives of maximum effectiveness for the Lord!


Where Are They Now? Dr. Joseph Stowell

Dr. Joseph Stowell is an internationally recognized conference speaker who has written several books and works with a variety of Christian organizations. His ministry began in the 1970s, though, when he not only pastored churches in the Midwest but also was an early guest lecturer at the newly founded Bible Institute in New York.

Dr. Stowell taught Philippians and Genesis, and he also gave special separate devotions for the guy and girl students on dating and personal relationships.

After 17 years pastoring in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, Dr. Stowell served as the president of Moody Bible Institute from 1987 to 2005. He also preached at churches and conferences and wrote books, booklets, and magazine articles. He’s been the president of Cornerstone University (Grand Rapids, Michigan) since 2008 and also has an Internet ministry with Radio Bible Class Ministries. He and his wife, Martie, have three adult children and 10 grandchildren.

What was your first connection with Word of Life?
As a boy growing up in Hackensack, New Jersey, I would often go to the Word of Life meetings held in Times Square in New York City. Later, I asked my girlfriend to marry me on the beach in Schroon Lake. She was a waitress at the Inn.

What are some of your memories from teaching at the Bible Institute?
I loved the interaction with the students and the teaching atmosphere (in Council Hall).

Whose life has impacted yours the most spiritually, and why?
My father, my wife, Howard Hendricks, and Haddon Robinson. My dad, for his character and faithful service to Christ. My wife Martie’s godly life and wise perspectives. Howard Hendricks, for his love of God’s Word, and Haddon Robinson, for teaching me how to preach. Plus many others who have influenced me along my journey with Christ.

How do you want to be remembered?
As a faithful servant of Christ whose life and ministry reflected well on Jesus and brought glory to His name. As a good husband, loving father, and faithful friend.

What one thing would you like to communicate with our alumni?
Love God! Love others!

Dr. Stowell will be speaking at next spring’s Founder’s Conference (March 27-29).


Refresh: Real change.

By Hayley J. Miller

Do you believe in change? I mean, beyond a quick “yes.” That one sin, bad habit, tendency you or I havedo you believe it can change? Do people really change?

We can get discouraged at times by the lack of change in ourselves or others. The truth is that most of us are actually resistant to change even though we act like we seek it. We celebrate the face of change but can get defensive when it poses a threat to us or our preferences. Christians see a life changed as something good — as long as we stay distanced from the discomforts of it ourselves.

I like change and seek it. I love to help others change and also enjoy improving programs, redecorating rooms, or celebrating diversity.

I am thankful for changes in my past. While attending the Bible Institute, it seemed that God changing me was rapid and contagious. But, “settling in,” do I now see change as an uncomfortable inconvenience not worth striving for? When the stakes are obviously high, I am desperate for change. When they are not so obvious or not so high, though, my commitment to change is relaxed.

Someone close to me once said they did not think people ever truly change. My jaw dropped and heart sunk as if I had taken a blow. I knew this is not what my Savior died and rose again for. He died so you and I can experience genuine change — not merely behavioral or cultural change, but a deep change that makes us different in substance entirely.

Miles J. Stanford describes it this way in Principles of Spiritual Growth: “As the result of the work of His cross, and as the grand issue of His resurrection, eternal life is received already by those who believe. But while that life is itself victorious, incorruptible, indestructible, the believer has to come by faith to prove it, to live by it, to learn its laws, to be conformed to it. ... The course of spiritual experience, of spiritual life, is to discover, to appropriate, and to live by all that the life represents and means.”

Or, in other words, to change.

If you know Christ, but genuine change is frustrating you right now, would you consider digging deeper? Change is not hopeless, nor should we try to make sin or character flaws beautiful or acceptable.

The source of change must be us experientially tapping into the power and resources that Christ’s death and resurrection have provided. Let’s not excuse sin in our lives, take it lightly, or give in to it. Let’s not be depressed that we are struggling with change. Don’t settle for the thoughts of “I will always be this way” or “It’s just who I am.” Christ died so you can progressively look more and more like Him — one layer at a time, one element at a time, one character flaw or sin at a time.

Change is waiting. Here are a few steps that can help you continue the practical side of this discussion and move toward genuine change:
  • Read and journal Romans 6-8 (additional studying and commentary use might help)
  • Check out either Principles of Spiritual Growth by Miles J. Stanford or consider The Normal Christian Life by Watchmen Nee.

Hayley’s passion is to offer clear communication that will cause genuine change. Her ministry is multifaceted, as she assists the vice president of Local Church Ministries while editing curriculum, speaking at conferences, writing, marketing, and equipping one generation to evangelize and disciple the next.


Investing in the bank of Heaven: A message from the chancellor.

Walking down an airport jetway recently, I noticed a man carelessly dropping money ahead of me. Trying to get his attention, I called after him. His flippant response caught me off-guard. He yelled, “Keep it. Where I am going it has no value!”

While I am not sure if this man was headed to the moon or to the Amazon jungle, his statement reminded me of what should be foundational for every Christian. Philippians 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” You and I are literally just passing through this world on our way to Heaven. As temporary residents, any earthly treasures accumulated have no value where we are ultimately headed. Do not forget Jesus Christ’s challenge to His disciples in Matthew 6:20: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven.”

In other words, make your deposits in the “Bank of Heaven.” Invest in the things that last forever. From chapels and classes at the Bible Institute, you know well that only two things will last for all eternity: the Word of God and the souls of men. Any future studies, your life’s work, and your resources should all be passionately leveraged for Heaven. So while you serve God with everything you have on this planet, remember where you are headed. You are just passing through. The only treasures you can take with you into eternity are the Scriptures and souls.


Q&A: Lyle Hartwell

Director, Word of Life Inn & Family Lodge

Lyle Hartwell, Class of 1995, is in his second year as director of the Word of Life Inn & Family Lodge.

Lyle has been involved in ministry ever since his Bible Institute year. He spent his summers on Word of Life Island while attending Tennessee Temple University then returned to the Bible Institute to serve as the director of athletics (1999-2003) and assistant dean of men (2003-2005). Lyle and his wife, Becky (Chambers, Class of 2003), then served in local churches. Lyle was the ministry leader, college pastor, and ministries pastor at Eliot Baptist Church in Eliot, Maine, from 2005 to 2010, then served as the pastor of families and worship at Sonrise Bible Church in Rotterdam, New York, from 2010 to 2013.

Lyle was then asked to consider returning to Word of Life with his family as the Inn continued its transition to the Inn & Family Lodge, with a renewed focus on serving and strengthening families. Lyle and his family (including Austin, 7, and Olivia, 5), moved to Schroon Lake and are also involved in their local church, Mountainside Bible Chapel, where Lyle is a worship leader and helps with children’s ministry.

We caught up with Lyle to hear about his journey and vision for this new arena of ministry.

Whose life has impacted yours the most spiritually?
My parents truly were the greatest influencers in my life. Our journey with God is a faith walk, and no one has ever modeled that with more clarity than my parents.

My parents were church planters from the early 1970s until 1993, when my dad resigned from his last church. They were always bi-vocational (working jobs as well as being involved in ministry) and earnestly trusted in the gracious provision of God to meet our needs. My father was one of the most faithful laborers for Christ right until his death in 2002. As a widow, my mother continues to seek the Lord’s will in every area of her life despite the difficulty, trials, and circumstances that are out of her control. I strive each day to be as faithful as the example set before me by my parents, who truly loved God and loved others.

How did your year at the Bible Institute affect your life?
My year at the Bible Institute was a tremendous year of growth, as it is for most. I spent most of the year running from the Holy Spirit, Who was challenging me to surrender my life to full-time ministry. Trying to run from an omnipresent God is a foolish quest.

It was during the first week of summer ministry that I finally gave up the internal struggle of my will and surrendered to give “all that I am and all that I ever hope to be” to God for His glory. I was a counselor on the Island, and through the power of the Word of God, I watched seven of my nine campers put their faith in only Christ for their salvation. That was Week 1 of my new life, which has an unquenchable desire to come alongside people who need Jesus or need a clearer image of Who He is to see their lives changed.

What’s unique about the Word of Life Inn & Family Lodge?
Statistics show that a majority of families are unhealthy, struggling, and giving up at a staggering rate. At the same time, there is a significant trend in our culture toward families vacationing together. The Inn & Family Lodge must make the most of this opportunity to impact multiple generations of families.

We are a unique vacation destination that provides an exciting environment where kids, parents, and grandparents are challenged to grow closer to God and each other. Come and stay for a week in the summer or enjoy a weekend retreat in the fall or spring. No matter when you visit, you will be greeted by a wonderful staff eager to make your stay a refreshing one, complete with Adirondack adventures and world-renowned speakers. You also can schedule your own retreat for a church group or family reunion, and we’d be glad to work on tailoring the perfect retreat to meet your needs.

What’s new for 2014?
This summer, every week had a special “artist of the week.” These artists ministered through music and as part of our worship team throughout the week.

One of the other changes for 2014 is the location of check-in and customer service. You will now be welcomed in the lobby of the conference center to enjoy arrival refreshments. Customer service representatives will be in the lobby to assist you with anything you need during your stay.

What unique conferences are planned?
We have several. Answers in Genesis, with both Ken and Steve Ham speaking together for the first time at Word of Life, was at the Inn & Family Lodge for Week 1 this summer.

This fall, Linda Dillow and Julie Slattery will be at the Women’s Retreat for the entire weekend. Special music guest Shannon Wexelberg will be leading worship. The speaker at our Fall Marriage Retreat will be Pastor Jerrod Jones, the lead pastor of Grace Community Church, a multicampus church in Washingtonville, New York.

How can we pray for your ministry?
Please pray for wisdom and discernment as we seek to only bring glory to God in meeting the needs of multiple generations of guests. It’s not an easy task, but the need for life change is so great that we must be excellent in all that God has called us to here at the Inn & Family Lodge.

Please pray for people to come as they are and have their needs met exactly where they are.