From Connections, Darlene's column: It's an unhappy day for Church of God folks

By Darlene Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas--In 1964 Ambassador College Big Sandy opened its doors for the first time to a small but dedicated student body.

Let me hasten to add, I wasn't among those privileged few. My first memory of the Big Sandy campus was early in 1967 as my family and I stopped while making a cross-country move from California to Arkansas. I was too young and too road-weary to be impressed.

I don't remember anything about the property that was particularly beautiful or noteworthy. That fall and every fall thereafter for many years we traveled to Big Sandy to observe the Feast of Tabernacles.

Still, in all those years, it held little sway over me. I didn't develop a big love affair with the campus. Our Big Sandy Feast trips consisted of camping in Piney Woods and attending services first in a gigantic tent and then in the huge metal building that still stands on the site. Sure, I knew a few students from our local church area, but they were so different from me. I couldn't see myself attending dances where women wore beautiful formal gowns and the men wore tuxes and bow ties. (We bought The Envoy every year, so I had seen the pictures).

After graduating from high school I was unsure of what to do with the rest of my life. I applied to college, as all local grads were expected to do. Surprisingly, I was accepted. Immediately uncertainty set in as to whether I should really consider going or not. I didn't have the burning desire to attend Ambassador College that so many others had. I really didn't think my life would be without purpose if I didn't go. I almost backed out, but at the urging of my family I promised them I would go to Big Sandy for one semester.

Well, I got through that semester, and I've been here ever since. That was 25 years ago. Life has a way of taking twists and turns in directions we could never have imagined.

Ambassador has its share of bizarre history as well. The Big Sandy campus shared the spotlight with its two sister campuses, in Pasadena, Calif., and Bricket Wood, England. Big Sandy was the tomboy sister. When I arrived on campus in 1974 I soon realized the dances, fancy dresses and tuxedos took a backseat to the more practical student wardrobe of class clothes, work jeans and running attire. (Practically every student was employed, and the two biggest employers were the Landscaping Department and the Custodial Crew).

Big Sandy closed in 1977 and then reopened a few years later. After that, she never felt the security she once had. She was the foster child who constantly felt the threat of being sent back to the orphanage.

Big Sandy was without question the most laid back of the three campuses, especially during the '70s. She was beautiful, but she wasn't the glistening jewel that Pasadena was. She had her pride, but she didn't possess the sophistication of Bricket Wood. You got exactly what you saw. She was pine trees, dogwoods, wildflowers and clear skies. She was sand, snakes, spiders and sandburs. She was home for a short while to an odd mix of people. She housed those already holding degrees from other colleges, the kid straight out of high school, the Vietnam veteran, the nerd, the athlete, the sweet, the snobby, the rich, the poor, the young and the beautiful, the old and the desperate.

Somewhere along the way she stopped being the beautiful oasis that offered security and peace. She became overshadowed by an administration who thought too highly of itself and too little of others. Instead of being satisfied with who and what she was, people tried to turn her into something she was never meant to be. She wasn't pretty enough, she wasn't big enough, she wasn't intellectual enough, she didn't impress the right people. Greed and egotism slowly began rocking the foundation she was built on until the momentum finally brought her crashing down.

Thousands of people from all over the world sacrificed tens of millions of dollars to turn a sandhill into a fine facility that would serve our children for many generations to come. Decades after the college in Big Sandy first opened its doors, she finds herself on the rocks, or, to be more specific, on the auction block. As all of you probably know by now, next month the property formerly known as Ambassador College Big Sandy will be sold to the highest bidder. An unimaginable turn of events has led her from humble beginnings to a final inglorious end. The chapter has closed. Good bye, Ambassador.

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