Next month, Alaska Bible Institute marks its 50th year of training and equipping Christians for life and ministry. In a three-day celebration, an expected 300 alumni and friends will gather from around the world to honor the school’s rich history, equip for its present and envision for its future.
ABI, which is located on 14.5 acres of wooded slopes off Mission Road, offers a two-year diploma in biblical studies with an optional third-year diploma in ministry. It has a 50-student capacity, as well as full and part-time staff and teachers.
In half a century, the school has had hundreds of people come and go. One couple in particular has been there for all 50 years. Ray Arno and his wife, Trea, are the founders of ABI and Alaska Village Missions, ABI’s parent organization.
Arno arrived in Homer in December of 1960 after driving up the Alaska Highway in a Volkswagen bus with Trea and their two children. He had been hired to pastor Christian Community Church, where he would spend a total of 37 years. He also spent time pastoring in King Cove and Port Graham.
Within a few years, Arno saw the need for a Bible school. Originally call the Alaska Native Bible Institute, the school was to be a place where people from villages could come to learn about the Bible. That format quickly changed. Not just Alaska Natives, but people from all walks of life expressed a desire to join in. The word “Native” was dropped and the school simply became “Alaska Bible Institute.”
“We just couldn’t turn them away,” said Arno, of those who wanted to attend the school.
Now, with 50 years to look back on, Arno says that there have been many rewards for his efforts — like seeing the effect the school has had in the lives of individuals.
“I chose to do what God called me to do…and I’m so thankful I did,” he said.
For the celebration in November, the Arnos will begin the weekend by sharing a little of the school’s rich history. The following day, a number of ABI alumni will speak on core values that currently define the school. The Friday lineup includes Scott Brown, a Jewish believer in Jesus who is the national director of Celebrate Messiah New Zealand; Sarah Bultman, a writer for the Brinkman Adventures, an audio drama telling current day missionary stories; and Jonathan Walker, lead pastor of Church on the Rock, a multi-site church in the Mat-Su Valley.
The weekend finishes up with a banquet prepared by ABI’s chef, Brian Mann, and talk of the future.
That future will include the introduction of Randy Weisser, a former ABI student and father of 13, as the incoming executive director of Alaska Village Missions.
Weisser moved from Kodiak to Homer in 1972 to attend ABI — where he met his wife, Marla. Together they worked at the school until 1985. In 1989 they moved to the Philippines, where Weisser became the executive director for Resources for the Blind, a non-government organization helping blind people.
Arno says that knowing the Weissers and that they are familiar with ABI will make the transition easier for him.
“I think he’s going to step into my shoes and continue with the same convictions,” he said of their changing roles.
Eric Rozeboom, president of ABI, says that the ceremonial welcome for the Weissers will be one of the highlights of the weekend. The Weissers are currently in the process of moving from the Philippines, and will have just arrived in Homer in time for the event.
The search for the next director has been ongoing for several years. Rozeboom says that one of the things that impressed him about Weisser was that everyone who spoke of him, spoke with admiration. The Weissers also have a number of children who live in Homer, and their youngest daughter is a first-year student at ABI.
When Weisser took over directorship of Resources for the Blind, Rozeboom says that it was a similar situation to ABI — where the founder was also running the organization, but ready to hand it off.
“He successfully walked through this same transition that we’re about to walk through,” said Rozeboom, adding that everyone is excited about the future of the ministry, and what it will look like under Weisser’s leadership.
“He knows the passion of the ministry and he knows why we’re here,” said Rozeboom.
Want to save a seat for the celebration? RSVP by calling the ABI office, 235-8648, or visit the website, www.AlaskaBible.org/50-years.
There is no charge for any of the events, including the Saturday night banquet.
Toni Ross is a Homer freelance writer.
Alaska Village Missions, Alaska Bible Institute’s 50th Anniversary Celebration
Honoring the Past
Thursday, Nov. 5
ABI campus, 1295 Mission Road
4 p.m. Registration
7 p.m. Welcome and Worship
7:30 p.m. Honoring the Past — Ray and Trea Arno
8 p.m. The Mission of ABI — Pastor Skip Bowersox (’98)
Equipping for the Present: Fri., Nov. 6
10 a.m. Welcome
10:15 a.m. The Vision and Core Values of ABI – President Eric Rozeboom
10:35 a.m. Core Value #1: The Centrality of Scripture – Pastor Jonathan Walker (’97)
11:10 a.m. Core Value #2: Total Dependence – Pastor Aaron Weisser (’98)
1:30 p.m. Core Value #3: Continual Growth – Sarah Bultman (’07)
1:55 p.m. Core Value #4: Loving Community – Scott Brown (’87)
2:20 p.m. Core Value #5: Making Disciples – Mark Halpin (’89)
7 p.m. Bonfire at Bishop’s Beach
Envisioning for the Future: Sat., Nov. 7
10 a.m. – noon, Campus Tours and Open House
6 p.m. Banquet at Homer High School featuring speakers Randy Weisser (’75), Ian Bultman (’94), Paul Wigg (’86) and President Eric Rozeboom