Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Losing Bethany

     When I was still a student at Bethany College, I would go into the library and pick up a periodical or two and read them by the fireplace. One magazine I browsed through on a regular basis always had several ads for other Christian Colleges. Sometimes I would wonder what would have had happened if I had gone somewhere besides Bethany. Thinking about all the great friends I had made on campus would always put a stop to the wondering. "If I had gone to Northwest, I never would have met ______________ and I can't imagine my life without them." I know had I enrolled elsewhere, I wouldn't have known any better. I would have been oblivious to Josh and Marlon and Trent and Justin and Eric and... but since I knew them, I didn't want to think about not knowing them. And I never would have known these great friends were it not for a little college called Bethany.
     After 92 years of equipping, training, and sending people into all the world in the Name of our Lord, my alma mater is closing it's doors. I knew it might happen,  but when the official word came that Bethany would be ceasing operations, I was surprised by the emotion I felt about it. It is like a death in my family. I am mourning the loss of this great institution along with thousands of others. If you don't believe me, check out the Bethany Alumni group page on facebook. A funeral is taking place; people expressing their grief, some their anger and denial, but mostly a lot of memories and smiles are being shared. The only thing missing at this memorial service is the physical hugs and the spread. Otherwise, we've all pretty much gathered to say goodbye.
     But how? How do I say goodbye to this place that I called home for four years? That time shaped me, challenged me, stretched me, and prepared me for the real world beyond the classrooms. There's too much to say, too much to thank her for in one setting.
     My Bethany experience was redemptive for me. I hated Junior High. I was picked on and nerdy and loathed that place with every fibre of my being. High school was a little better, but I still kind of blended in, got lost in the crowd. Bethany was different. It was as if God was saying, "Let Me redeem those lousy teen years, and have a good time." And that good time started immediately my Freshmen year.
     For all the social experiences I had (including being socials director my Sr. year), the most impacting times were spent one on one with God. I loved walking down to the Redwood Bowl amphitheater and gazing up at the majestic redwood trees convinced that it was God's handiwork. I loved the little prayer room under Craig Memorial Chapel where I could sing my brains out in worship. And I loved that chapel, late in the evening when no one else was around. I would cry out to God for unsaved loved ones and ask for God's forgiveness and direction for my life. And He met me there time and again. I "built" many altars in that holy place, and I will mourn not being able to go back to revisit them.
     So, I'm losing Bethany. Yet no one can close down my memories, my friendships, the milestones, and the lasting impact that college had on my life. She was 92 when she passed, but her impact will touch generations beyond. Goodbye, ol' girl. You served us well and will be sorely missed.

The Bethany Ambassadors singing at Glad Tidings Temple in San Francisco, where it all began in 1919.


mighty morfin said...

Shane, you brought me to tears. I felt the same way, as if losing a loved one. I know I was only there for two years, but believe me when I say it was the most awesome two years of my life!! I shall never, ever forget the friends, the family that I had gotten to know and love at Bethany. It will forever be in my heart!

Shane said...

Sara, we are a special breed, us Bethany folk. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Laura said...

A bit incredulous really, I can't believe it will be gone. I still love visiting there. Thanks for sharing Shane!

Shane said...

I agree Laura. I'm going to have to make a trip up there for a goodbye tour of the campus. Soooo many memories. We were fortunate to share it with such a great group of people.

wethree100 said...

I was married in the Redwood Bowl 20 years ago. My daddy who attended Bethany preformed the ceremony. I didn't spend 4 years as a student, but I felt it too.