A passion for the poor
Margaret Wieland chats with Roland Beard
R oland, an unbeliever all the way through college, was looking for answers to life’s big questions. So he looked into the philosophy of religion and of science—as well as history, which convinced him mankind was not getting better.
With a passion for outdoor camping, he wondered about all the world’s beauty and complexity—along with the suffering. The late 1960s were tumultuous times for a young American, with the upheavals of the Vietnam war protests and more. He says:
I even lived in a sort of ‘commune’ for a year. I was in naval officer training at the time—probably why I was described as a ‘straight hippy’.
The commune was run by a mainstream, generally liberal, Protestant denomination, but Roland did not find answers there. Instead, he saw some rather loose living.
So I studied Eastern religions, especially Zen Buddhism, but the only ‘answers’ I was getting didn’t make sense. About the only thing I hadn’t tried was drugs, but I’d already figured out I wasn’t going to get answers there.
In 1972, he was speaking to a minister from that same denomination who “happened to be born again”. Hearing about Roland’s fruitless search, he asked, “What about Jesus Christ?” Roland says:
He led me to the Lord that day. It was not some fleeting emotional experience; it was rational, and solid. Over the next three weeks I knew a real change had taken place as things began happening to me on the inside.
From then on, Roland was a committed, enthusiastic believer, involved in Bible studies and teaching God’s Word. He now knew God had created the world, but at that time had no other insights into the creation/evolution issue.
He and his late first wife Linda were drawn to minister to the poor and needy, especially children. He says:
By 1990, we became involved in person-to-person ministry. For seven of our first ten years of marriage, we opened our home, having needy people living with us.
They were involved in several small-scale ministries in Virginia, including Christian schooling. Roland says, “All we wanted to do was help people, especially needy kids.”
Loving the poor and the not-so-fragrant
At one point they opened a school in the basement of a church:
Most of the kids were poor, smelly, and—well, rough—and the parents not much different. We soon noticed real changes in them, but the problems became too much for the church. So we set up a non-profit organization to establish schools and do food ministry. We turned most of our home into a school—more of a home-school support base, ministering to between five and 12 children at a time.
The couple’s inability to have children of their own freed up time for all this. The finances came mostly from Roland’s job, with the occasional help of one or two donors via their non-profit.
Observing God’s heavens
One day Linda surprised Roland, saying she needed a telescope to show ‘their’ children the glories of space. Being an aerospace engineer, he bought a more advanced one than she had envisaged. He was soon involved in teaching biblical creation through observing the heavens.
Around that time, a nearby Chinese church was working with some Chinese young people—many not believers. The church had seen a great impact on the life of one of their children from contact with the Beards’ ministry. So they asked Roland to conduct English Bible studies for them. He says:
It became obvious where some of the problems were; the questions that kept coming up were on the one issue the church in general was not addressing—creation/evolution. Answers were needed.
So, Roland added some astronomy observing sessions to teach about biblical creation.
Soon, he and Linda had produced a downloadable free course on ‘Astronomical Observing from a Biblical View’. By then, their focus had expanded to helping the young in poorer, developing countries overseas. He ministered several times in Uganda, and once in Haiti.
Through working with a large California ministry to the poor, the Beards had become friends with one staffer, Pat Capwell, who later founded a ministry in the Philippines. Seeing the urgent need for solid, Bible-based Christian education, she established the Institute for Foundational Learning (IFL). Starting with one Christian school, in 30 years it has expanded to some 250, mostly among the provincial poor—most self-sufficient. Pat does not appeal to overseas donors for support. Though welcoming the occasional ‘foreign’ gift, the IFL tries to support itself from Philippine donors and ministry enterprises including farming. Its home base also takes in orphaned or abandoned children, some disabled. They also assist some, if they graduate successfully from the IFL school, with higher education(unaffordable for many Filipinos).
IFL need for a creation curriculum
Pat knew evolution was spreading rapidly through the Philippines education system, undermining trust in the Bible and accelerating social decline. She invited Roland to speak on biblical creation to a 2012 regional conference of all the IFL network’s teachers, and train them in creation through astronomical observing. Roland says:
By then I had come to realize the incredible resource provided by Creation Ministries International , and had been corresponding with then Australian CEO, Dr Carl Wieland. Given this opportunity to teach several hundred teachers, I suggested Pat ask him to be the primary speaker on creation while I covered observing the created heavens. I knew that IFL could not afford any airfares, but Carl unhesitatingly came. CMI also compressed three of its top teaching DVDs onto one disc for the teachers at an ultra-low cost.
Seeing the teachers’ enthusiastic response to these speakers, Pat asked Roland to write a curriculum on biblical creation, since IFL lacked the expertise and finances required. After some hesitation, Roland knew he needed to write a high-school-level Bible study on creation, from which IFL could develop a classroom curriculum.
Of the big creation ministries, both CMI and Institute for Creation Research were sympathetic, but had nothing at the time that met the IFL criteria. Roland says,
I knew that in a developing nation, you need to use practical, everyday illustrations to help them understand biblical creation—not some abstract theological thing.
After some struggles he had a draft but knew that the style which worked in the West would not ‘fly’ in a country like the Philippines where English, though widely spoken, was not the first language of fluency.
I knew I needed not just more experienced creationist input, but local eyes to look over it.
In early 2013, Roland asked Pat to assemble several local teachers and pastors to review his first draft; Carl again came to help. The group spent five intensive days ‘brainstorming’ the draft. Then, at CMI’s suggestion, Roland had creation geology researcher Michael Oard review the Flood chapters, and a professional editor went through all. In under six months, this Bible study on creation was finished—also translated into Spanish.1
Suffering while serving
For years, while active in ministry, Linda endured multiple separate bouts of advanced cancer, each time a different type—i.e. a different primary tumour. Astonishingly, following aggressive treatment, the first three of these each ended with a cure—but then came a fourth. After several years and many treatment efforts including major surgery, she finally succumbed to it.
A few months after her death, Roland returned to minister in the Philippines. Around that time, Pat, chatting with college students at IFL, realized how little they knew about Genesis history—God’s context for the Gospel. Their textbooks were soaked in evolutionary naturalism in many subjects; it was clearly affecting their spiritual life. She affirmed to Roland: the Bible study needed transforming into a high school curriculum. Knowing IFL did not have the funds or people needed, he had already begun the work.
Roland and his late wife had long been close friends with an American couple, who shared their practical ministry emphasis, before the husband, Gene, died. His widow, Faylene, and Roland married in 2017, continuing the mission. They ‘hit the ground running’, spending half of their first two years of marriage at IFL working with the children and advancing the creation curriculum.
The curriculum is royalty-free for IFL—as was CMI’s permission to print the Creation Answers Book locally as a supporting text, keeping the cost of each minimal. It was ‘field tested’ through teachers and students at selected IFL schools during 2018–2019. Training sessions were held in several provinces to orient teachers and a few pastors to the materials.
Work, for the night is coming
The road ahead doesn’t look any less busy for Roland and Faylene. The fundamentals of evolution and naturalism appear in Philippines schoolbooks from fourth grade; they see an urgent need for an elementary version of the curriculum also, to reach students before evolutionary influences are too deeply ingrained. Roland says:
Where finances are lacking, biblical creation materials are very rare. Our first batch of free cell-phone-compatible material has just gone onto Google Play (creation study). We don’t know how to begin to meet the needs, but we know One who does.
References and notes
- Advertised on creation.com as free from the website of the Beards’ non-profit Christworks Ministries: cwm4him.org/course-downloads. Return to text.