I am writing this note from the Lehman Strauss cabin perched high on a hillside on the campus of New Brunswick Bible Institute, affectionately called NBBI by students and faculty. Marlene and I arrived here late Wednesday night after a day-long trip that started in Tupelo and passed through Atlanta and Boston on our way to Bangor, Maine, where we were met by Barry Beebe, the president of the school. During our two-hour drive to the Canadian border, we passed through some of the most beautiful forests in America. Once you leave Bangor, you quickly enter a region with few exits, no billboards, very few towns, and none of the usual signs of civilization. As you venture farther north, traffic eventually disappears. I know this for a fact because when we were about ten miles from the border, Mr. Beebe suddenly stopped the car on the interstate highway and said, “There’s a moose.” I looked to the left and saw a young moose that Mr. Beebe identified as a yearling. We drove another hundred yards and saw a much larger moose standing in the grass on the right side of the highway. ”That’s the mother,” he explained. Somehow the yearling had gotten separated from his mother and would be in danger of being hit by a car when he crossed the road. So Mr. Beebe backed up his car along the interstate and started honking his horn. I should add that we were so far north that there were no cars in sight coming or going. When a truck finally passed us, the driver saw the moose on the left and stopped. People in this part of the world get used stopping for moose on the highway. It’s partly conservation and partly self-preservation. Hitting a full-grown moose would do serious damage to a car or truck. Eventually the yearling crossed the road and was reunited with his mother. Mr. Beebe then got out of the car. I thought he was going to shoo the moose away, but instead he put his hands to his mouth and made a moose call. It must have worked because the two moose trotted into the forest. When I told the students about this encounter, they roared with laughter.
We are here for the Spring Bible Conference that wraps up the school year. I am speaking seven times on the parables of Jesus. Marlene is speaking to the women four times on Designed by God: The Shaping of a Woman’s Heart. We are joined by the Hyssongs, a very talented Southern gospel trio based in Maine. We’ve enjoyed getting to know them this week.
NBBI started over sixty years ago to provide Bible training for young people in eastern Canada and New England. The school is located in a rather unlikely place. You drive down a country road that follows a winding river, and then you turn a corner and there it is, built on a hillside. This is a truly rural setting. Many of the greatest Bible teachers have visited the school over the years. Mr. Beebe showed me a Quonset hut built in 1950 when Harry Ironside came to NBBI for a series of meetings. I mentioned that we are staying in the Lehman Strauss cabin. A frequent visiting Bible teacher, he provided money for a cabin set aside for speakers and visiting missionaries.
We have been very impressed by the spirit we sense. NBBI is unpretentious in the good sense of the word. As one of their leaders told me, “What you see is what you get.” I noticed immediately that the people listen intently as I am preaching. And they love to sing. It’s very clear that the students and the faculty have a close relationship. The school isn’t large–only 130 students this year–and that allows for a lot of personal interaction and mentoring from the faculty. Each service has been building during the weekend. I know we throw about the term “family spirit” a lot, but at NBBI, they really are a family. We’ve had graduates from thirty and forty and fifty years ago with us this weekend. Last night Mr. Beebe asked where the alumni came from. The largest group came from New Brunswick, then Maine, but there were folks from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and even someone from Cape Breton Island. Exactly where that is, I couldn’t say. And someone came all the way from the Northwest Territories. When I asked Mr. Beebe later why he didn’t ask if anyone had come from Mississippi, he said it was just an oversight. He volunteered to name us honorary alumni, which would make us, I suppose, the only folks from Mississippi ever to come to NBBI.
Good things are happening here. Tomorrow I will speak during the afternoon graduation ceremonies. Nearly all of the graduates go into Christian service, many of them serving churches in the Maritime provinces, in New England, and some in Quebec and Ontario. Others serve as missionaries around the world.
After the service last night, we had banana splits in the dining hall as part of a fundraising event sponsored by the Student Council. At our table I met a young NBBI grad who pastors a church somewhere in Maine who came back for the weekend. On every hand you meet generations of former students who love this school, including some who were here sixty years ago.
NBBI is an amazing place, an undiscovered jewel among the Bible institutes in North America. From this rural hillside in New Brunswick, they are training the next generation of Christian leaders.