The story begins in the early 1960’s when Pete Weiss, a successful businessman in the Chicago area, trusted Christ as Savior at the age of 52, thus becoming instantaneously a “completed Jew,’ i.e., a Jew by birth and a Jewish convert to Christianity by the new birth through the Spirit. Pete and his wife began nurturing a burden to honor God by serving missionaries who were traveling on either deputation to raise funds to go to their respective mission fields, or to report in to supporting churches when they returned to the states on furlough.
While they were praying about where, when and how their burden to assist God’s servants could be fulfilled, God led Pete and Marge to a woman in southern Indiana near West Baden Springs who had been wanting to sell 66 acres in this beautiful Orange County country as an investment. When the Weiss’s told the woman that God had laid upon their hearts a desire to provide a haven for missionaries as a place to stay between meetings, the woman said she would sell the 66 acres to them for what she had paid for it 20 years earlier: $4,000! Pete and Marge, both in their early 60’s by then, sold their business and 10 room ranch home that sat on three suburban Chicago acres and moved into a trailer on what would become known as The Shepherd’s Bethel. The woman who sold them the property, pleased that it would be used for the Lord’s work, also donated the first three trailers and paid to have them moved and situated at Shepherd’s Bethel. In the next 10 years those first three trailers would be the beginning of what would become 10 trailers that were made available to missionaries free of charge, along with laundry facilities, a fashion store where they could get at no cost clothing, a playground for their children, storage buildings, a recreation room with ping pong tables and a pool table and a library which would eventually contain 3,000 of the finest of Christian books for study and reading enjoyment. In 1980, Pete, mowing the campus grass, suffered a massive heart attack and, the tractor hitting a guywire, overturned upon him resulting in his death. Marge continued on with the help of staff and volunteers operating the haven for the next 10 years while her Lord was at work, through His Spirit, on their adult alcoholic, drug-addicted son, Mike, who was when sober, holding down a good salaried job as associate food service director at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago. Mike did come to Christ and was delivered from drug addiction and set on his way to becoming addicted to the ministry, God speaking to his heart while attending Marquette Manor Baptist Church and a Sunday School revival meeting led by Leon Kilbreath. Mike surrendered to God’s call and leading and was joined in that decision some days later by his wife Susan. Mike and Susan began to soak up Bible teaching and it was not long after that God directed them to join Mrs. Marge Weiss at the Shepherd’s Bethel as Mike would become the operational manager of the mission, relieving his dear mother of the pursuit she had been engaged in as she tried to find a Christian group to give the mission to.
What God had done to that point was phenomenal and could only be to the praise of His glory. What he has done in the past 30 years under the servant leadership of Mike and Susan would have to include the word miraculous somewhere in the saga! Beginning in1997 a 100’ by 40’ metal framed fellowship hall was built which houses the library, exercise weight room, kitchen, storage and office area. Walk in freezers store ample deer meat and beef which the missionaries are the primary beneficiaries of. Next the existing mobile homes, by then manifesting obvious deterioration due to age and use, were replaced with wood frame, two and three-bedroom homes, a project beginning in 1999. The beautifully built and tastefully furnished duplexes were completed in 2014 with the completion of “Enoch’s Abode,” a two-bedroom duplex with a basement unfinished for use as a furniture storage room. All of the furnishings for these modern duplex dwellings have been donated by individuals or churches and they are not only excellent in their attractiveness but durable, practical and beautiful.
In 2020 God supplied in a totally unexpected way money to construct a new shop and fashion center with an 80 X 40-foot building containing 12-foot garage doors allowing for a vehicle lift that enables maintenance of ministry trucks and missionary vehicles (oil changes and tire repair/replacement). This year, 2021, a new “state of the art” playground will be constructed that will service the missionary children, centrally located for ease of adult supervision. Long range vision includes a three-acre lake on the 30-acre bottom land owned by the Shepherd’s Bethel.
What is the greatest story about all of God’s miraculous work through Pete and Marge Weiss, whose philosophy of serving was “be willing to give to God something that costs you,” is the thousands of missionary servants who have been blessed, physically and spiritually, by being able to resort to this southern Indiana oasis dedicated to God’s active missionary work force—all free of charge for one, two or three years as needed! That part of the story will have to remain untold until we get to heaven and hear missionary after missionary rehearse how God used the fruit of the total surrender of a “completed” Jew, his wife and their son and daughter-in-law to work out their own salvation. Mike and Susan would be the first to quickly and emphatically say that but by the grace of God and without the assistance of hundreds of local churches, talented and sacrificially serving lay folk who gave their time and resources freely and fully, and pastors and church work teams who came at their own expense to serve and give, businesses who gave abundantly building materials, equipment and man-hours, none of what we now know as a 21st century “God thing,” located on the lovely rolling hills of southern Indiana would have been possible. Yours truly has had the privilege and pleasure of serving as a board member of Shepherd’s Bethel for almost 30 years from a “front row” vantage position watching it all take place. Samuel F.B. Morse’s’ first transmitted telegraphic message in 1844 is appropriate: “What Hath God Wrought!” (Numbers 23:23)