The decade prior to 1982 was a time of expansion in the conference. There were twenty-seven churches or companies organized; twenty new schools were started; nineteen new school buildings and twenty-eight new church buildings were constructed; the new conference headquarters and the Adventist Book Center were built; a new administration building was erected at Ozark Adventist Academy; and there were baptisms in record numbers. This conference then led the North American Division in per capita baptisms. All this cost money and was a heavy drain on available resources and the conference began to struggle financially. An analysis of the audited statements between 1982 and 1984 reveals that the Conference and Association went behind $1,089,163. Another large factor was losses from an apple orchard (Conference, 1989).
An apple orchard was accepted as a gift annuity, set up and operated as Arlasda Farms near Ozark Adventist Academy in 1980. The annuity provided $38,000 per year for as long as the original owners lived. The orchard was purported to be worth $1.2 million. The Conference Association assumed debts and notes on the orchard and gave the owners an annuity based on the balance of the purported value. It looked like it would bring much needed student labor opportunity and reduce or eliminate the need for conference subsidy to the academy. It turned sour when it was discovered that it suffered large operating losses. Since Arlasda Farms was under the umbrella of the Conference Association, even when parcels of the land were sold in 1984, with the last sale in 1987, the loss became ours. That year we absorbed operating losses of $673,264 and a loss on the sale of the orchard of $211,588 for a total loss of $884,852 (Conference, 1989).
In 1982, president Don C. Schneider laid plans for a $1 million offering to be taken in the churches of the conference. Unfortunately it only brought in about $260,000. A dozen office workers pledged $22,000 and the pastors and teachers pledged and gave up benefits worth nearly $100,000. The new ABC building was mortgaged for $200,000 in order to have operating money. When William Woodruff came as president in 1985, he and the conference executive committee continued these measures by staff cuts. Between 1985-1989, four office positions and four workers in the field were cut (Conference, 1989).
In 1989, the conference set up a Steering Committee comprised almost entirely of lay persons. A program called “Freedom 92” was formulated. To get the program off to a good start the committee hoped to raise $300,000 in large gifts donated by business people, the Southwestern Union, and the General Conference. Then, if each family in the conference gave $25 per month for the next thirty-six months, the conference would be able to experience “Freedom 92” (Conference, 1989). People throughout the conference worked hard to reduce the debt, from children collecting pennies, to donating proceeds from sales and many other methods of raising funds to donate. The “Freedom 92” program turned out to be very successful. November 15, 1992, was set as Victory Day (Minutes, 1992). The Freedom 92 program raised about $1 million and relieved most of the conference indebtedness. At this time, it was voted that the Conference Association department needed to have all actions voted by the Conference Executive Committee.
(1992, Sep. 17). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. (1989). A Message and Appeal to the Members of the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. pp. 3-6.