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Baptist college in Vermont looks toward new campus

BENNINGTON, Vt. (BP) — Northeastern Baptist College has signed an agreement to purchase a former elementary school campus as its future home in Bennington, Vt., where the college opened four years ago.

NEBC President Mark Ballard signed the agreement Aug. 1. Several weeks earlier, “the Lord put it on the heart of some of our NEBC friends to give the initial gift commitment of $100,000,” he noted in an email announcement.

An additional $5 million will be needed by year’s end to complete the purchase, Ballard stated. The facility’s current owner has made a significant donation, he reported, quoting the owner as saying, “God wants this deal to happen.”

The $5 million goal is the first of a three-phase campaign named “Forming the Foundation for the Future” progressing to the theme “Forming the Framework for the Future.”

“Phase One of this campaign includes purchasing and preparing this property the Lord is providing,” Ballard said.

Phase Two “requires another $5,000,000 to place NEBC on a strong financial footing and carry us into the next steps of our accreditation process,” Ballard said. Phase Three “requires an additional $20,000,000 over the next seven years to bring us to a place where all our milestones for ‘Forming the Framework for the Future’ are met.”

The new campus, with 65,000 square feet, would encompass a four-story brick school building that opened in 1899 along with a three-story brick building and a single-story fieldhouse, both completed in 1959.

In addition to classrooms and faculty-staff offices, the college would utilize the buildings for a chapel, dining hall and kitchen, a gymnasium, dormitory and student lounge space. The administration anticipates the buildings would provide dormitory space for at least 180 and classroom space for up to 500.

The two newer buildings have operated as a soccer camp in recent years, with the former encompassing an artificial-turfed indoor soccer field, offices, dormitory rooms, dining hall and kitchen. The fieldhouse encompasses two locker rooms.

Northeastern Baptist College currently has nearly 60 students and 30 faculty and staff. Two students comprised the college’s first graduating class in 2016.

Phil Waldrep, an Alabama evangelist who chairs NEBC’s seven-member trustee board, said the new campus would allow the college “to continue growing and becoming a presence in New England. Greater still, it allows us to impact the Northeast by equipping workers for the churches.”

Board member Stephen Rummage, senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., noted in a statement, “Since its founding, many remarkable things have already happened at Northeastern Baptist College. As a trustee, I’ve been inspired by the high-caliber faculty and staff President Ballard has assembled and the students the Lord keeps sending to the school.”

Rummage, president of the Florida Baptist State Convention and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, said the new campus can give Northeastern “the opportunity to grow and expand for years to come. I’m praying for God to provide miraculously the funds we need for the campus as churches and individuals give. These buildings and grounds will be a tool in the hand of the Lord to help Northeastern College transform New England with the message of Jesus.”

The college has been meeting in the remodeled top two floors of a former Ramada Inn in Bennington. The first two floors are occupied by Grace Christian School, the owner of the building. NEBC’s present dormitory, projected to be at full occupancy this fall, is another former motel purchased through donations and remodeled by volunteers from across the country. The Hogue Library, meanwhile, is located in a former restaurant near the dormitory. The current dormitory and library would be a short walk to the new campus.

Northeastern Baptist College, online at nebcvt.org, has established a partnership with the Baptist Convention of New England and the Green Mountain Baptist Association in Vermont. It achieved Vermont accreditation and degree-granting authority in a unanimous vote by the State Board of Education in September 2014.

The college, which defines its mission as preparing students with “the mind of a scholar, the heart of a shepherd and the perseverance of a soldier,” offers four bachelor’s degrees — in biblical studies, music, Christian counseling and business — and two associate’s degrees.

Four tracks are offered in biblical studies: church planting/entrepreneurial leadership, pastoral ministries, Christian education and an interdisciplinary emphasis. In music: vocal, keyboard and guitar. And in business: entrepreneurial leadership, project management and nonprofit management.

“God is at work in and through NEBC,” Ballard said in the Aug. 1 announcement of the purchase. “Just this last week we heard of more than a dozen individuals who trusted Jesus as a result of the ministry of people within the NEBC family. Nearly every week we get reports like this. Imagine what will happen when instead of nearly 70 people serving the Lord each week through the ministry of NEBC, it is 150, 200, 300 or 500.”