AR47 March 25, 1991
Dear AR Reader:
Even though the next full issue of Ambassador Report has been written, publication of that issue has been delayed by at least five weeks. As editor of the Report, I am writing to let you know why.
For a number of years now, each new issue of the Report has required more time, more work, and more money to produce. At the same time, it seems, each new issue has generated ever decreasing financial contributions. It has really become almost impossible to continue publishing the Report. In trying to find a way to continue publishing, I contacted an accountant friend and asked him to review our situation and offer suggestions. After reviewing the Report's finances, he wrote me the following:
Fourteen years of having put out Ambassador Report has already cost you over $120,000 of your own money. Let's face it, it's the reason you don't own a home. You need to carefully look over your books again and face up to what your publishing efforts are costing you personally.
To be quite blunt, John, in looking over your records I noticed that you have a lot of deadbeats on your mailing list. Margaret [Zola] mentioned how you've even got some WCG ministers getting ARs for free. At the very least, you need to trim your mailing list....
As much as I hate to admit it, I think my accountant friend is right. Although we do have some very fine people on our mailing list, and although a handful are truly generous, the majority of our readers appear not to have the slightest idea of how much sacrifice on our part goes into turning out an issue. Furthermore, the great majority of our readers do not contribute anywhere near enough to justify our efforts.
A lot of AR readers seem to believe I am a millionaire (I am not) or that we have some wealthy benefactor or foundation backing the Report (we don't). I say this because of the many letters we receive from people who ask for so much, yet give so little. I can only conclude that many are not just misinformed, but are living in a private fantasyland. Let me give you a few examples.
A few days ago I received a letter from an Australian man who plaintively wrote how the WCG had cost him his wife and family, his health, and his job. Nevertheless, he wrote, he had recently rejoined the WCG after begging to be readmitted. This individual had the nerve to ask for free back issues of the Report (at airmail postal rates to Australia, no less) because he could not afford to contribute anything - to the Report that is. To the WCG, of course, he'll be giving 10% or more of everything he earns.
Another reader wrote to me complaining how he hadn't received an issue for some time. He didn't seem to recall that he had never contributed a dime to AR, or that he had moved numerous times without sending us a change of address (thus giving us added postal forwarding fees). His complaint letter was accompanied not by any kind of contribution, but by a list of freebies he expected from us in addition to being put back on the mailing list. He expected free back issues of AR, old
issues of WCG booklets and magazines, a complete list of WCG spinoff groups, a copy of the Systematic Theology Project, etc., etc., etc.
Another individual, unfortunately typical of many WCG members, recently wrote how he'd been reading AR in South Africa for years and wanted to be put on our mailing list. He also sent along a list of 22 lengthy questions for me to answer. It was obviously of no consequence to him that for me to properly answer all his convoluted queries would require eight or nine hours of research and writing. He contributed not a penny toward the issues he had already read or the ones he wanted, nor did he provide anything to cover the high cost of postage to his country ($2.51 per three ounces). Yet, I was expected to drop everything for a day and provide him with answers to all of his problems!
A midwest family who recently lost their aging WCG-member father only to discover he had, over the years, given away the family's entire fortune to the WCG (leaving his wife and children with nothing) recently contacted me asking for help. Through back issues, letters, and long-distance phone calls, I was able to provide insights into the law of wills and WCG policies and was able to suggest how they might find the right attorney to assist them with their legal problems. No contribution was ever sent to AR.
Then there's the reader who wrote me demanding that I provide him with meticulously detailed documentation on the personal life of Joseph Tkack. This fellow, apparently another WCG member, actually wanted me to electronically bug the bedrooms of certain top WCG executives and to set up around-the-clock surveillance of all of Joseph Tkach's movements with all taped evidence to be mailed to him personally! Aside from the fact that what he was suggesting is illegal (and therefore I wouldn't do it), the cost of such an undercover operation (according to industrial espionage experts I talked to) would be well over $30,000 for just a few weeks. Naturally, our skeptical WCG reader has yet to come up with such a contribution. In fact, he has yet to contribute even one cent to AR.
A final example is one that, unfortunately, is all too common. I was contacted by an Ohio wife whose husband had been in Worldwide for a number of years giving $6,000 annually to the Tkach organization. (Incidenatally, my accountant friend pointed out to me how it is not uncommon for people to stay in the WCG for twenty years. And that $6,000 times 20 years at 8% interest equals a future value of $275,000.) The wife's marriage was rapidly disintegrating because of the church and she wanted to know if there was any way AR could help. As I usually do in such cases, I immediately mailed off a few key back issues of the Report and phoned her. Within hours we were able to work out a marriage-saving strategy. A month later she wrote me:
Dear Mr. Trechak:
Our deepest thanks to you and the others at Ambassador Report. As a result of reading your wonderful newsletter and taking your advice, my husband has decided to leave the WCG for good. Doing so has saved his job and our marriage. With $6,000 a year more than we had before, it looks like we'll finally be able to give our three children some of the things we never thought we could ever afford. May God bless you! Enclosed is $10 for the five back issues you sent us.
That letter and the $10 (which didn't even cover the photocopying and postage costs of sending the back issues) was the last I ever heard from those folks. I guess they really didn't feel any need to help others gain the freedom that they had gained. And maybe what we gave was really worth only $10 to them.
Frankly, letters such as the one last quoted remind me of a memorable scene in George Steven's 1940 movie Vigil in the Night. The heroine in that film, a 19th century English nurse played by Carol Lombard, risks her career by forcefully speaking up during a surgical operation and telling a domineering surgeon he had just made a terrible mistake. The outraged surgeon finally realizes the nurse is correct just barely in time to correct his error and save the life of his patient, a wealthy industrialist. Later, when the convalescing industrialist discovers that the nurse's courage had saved his life, he presents her with a wrapped gift. After she exits the room, an understanding physician suggests that she open the package. And when she does, she discovers a handbag worth but a few pounds. The silence as the two stare at the bag is broken only when the physician cynically quips, "I just wanted to see how much he thinks his life is worth."
Perhaps after 14 years of AR I, too, am getting a bit cynical. But I really should not be surprised about the ingratitude of most people. A Bible-student friend recently reminded me of the incident described in Luke 17:11-19. It's the story of the ten lepers who approached Jesus, asking to be healed. The Lord told them they would get their wish if they simply presented themselves before the priest. They did so and all ten were miraculously healed. Yet, in spite of the magnitude of the blessing bestowed upon the ten, only one was appreciative enough to return to Jesus to offer his thanks. With what may be viewed as a bit of righteous cynicism, Jesus asked his disciples, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the other nine?"
I used to think that the story of the ten lepers was indicative only of the cold-hearted spirit of the times in which Jesus lived. Sadly, however, that kind of blind, unimaginative, self-centered ingratitude is just as much - if not more - with us today. Author David Robinson, whose own personal sacrifices in publishing Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web have been appreciated by all too few, recently commented to me how he had come to see ingratitute as one of the worst and most prevalent sins of our times. I am beginning to believe his observation is quite correct.
I have never asked our readers to show their appreciation for the Report by truly sacrificing for its continuance. And I don't intend to now. I know there are many worthy churches, charities, and movements all vying for the public's limited discretionary income. And I am fully aware of today's high cost of living and the fact that we are in a recession.
Nevertheless, it does truly amaze and disappoint me that so many who were once in the WCG giving thousands of dollars yearly to an organization that held them in absolute bondage, will not give even a tenth of that amount to an organization that has helped them gain their freedom. It is even more disappointing when I think how many of those same people will write me, or even tell me to my face, how informative, helpful, well-written, and even entertaining they find each issue of Ambassador Report.
AR's meager finances are such that some changes - like thinning our mailing list - will have to be made if it is to survive. Some of our more enthusiastic subscribers have encouraged me to put a stiff subscription price on the Report. To those readers I have sent a two-page letter that explains why implementing such a policy would actually kill the Report. One suggestion that has been made, however, will be implemented. I will be compiling a list of the contents of all back issues of AR (along with a realistic suggested donation amount for each) for those wishing to obtain back issues.
On my book shelf sits the completed 80-page hand-written manuscript for the next Report. Beside it is a large box of filed research for the issue following. Those two issues will provide more insights into the real WCG than anything I have ever written. I am eager to publish those two issues, but the funds necessary for typesetting, printing, and postage are just not there. And, I refuse to go further into debt to provide information to many who don't seem to care to get it.
I will eventually get the next issue of the Report into print, but exactly when I cannot say. When it is printed, however, it will be sent only to those who are financially contributing to our efforts. If you've sent a contribution to AR during the last six months you are on our mailing list to receive the next issue when it comes out. If you haven't contributed, I'm sorry, but I simply cannot promise you any more issues.
My own philosophy is such that I would prefer to be generous. But there simply are limits to how much I personally can give.
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