Today is the final commencement ceremony at Bethany Bible College. It is closing its’ doors.

My Grandparents, parents, my sister and I all attended this school at some point in our young adult life. I have had months to anticipate the closure. I have always hoped something would happen to prevent it. My years at Bethany impacted, shaped and changed me. It was a large part of forming who I became.

My parents always talked about their years at bible school with fondness. They strongly encouraged us to consider spending at least a year in bible school after high school. One of the greatest parts of studying at Bethany was that it gave me a chance to be near my Grandparents who lived a couple of blocks from the campus. On Wednesday night I would visit Grandma and Grandpa Peters where we would play Skippo and scold my Grandma for her shameless table talk. Then we would laugh as Grandpa purposefully ignored her directions.  Saturdays I would go to my Grandma Rinas’. I would do laundry, help her bake and play Scrabble.  I don’t think I won a single game!! This gave me the chance to know my Grandparents better and learn about their lives. For some classes I could interview them. I got to hear from them what they remembered from Russia. I got to learn about what it was like being immigrants in a new land. I learned a lot about the challenges and victories God brought them through in their lives. I got the chance to build wonderful memories with them that I will cherish for a lifetime.

My parents did not view bible school as an opportunity for only people heading into ministry. They believed in spending time studying the bible. Mom and Dad knew that time at Bible school was worth it. They knew that building a life on the foundation of scripture is the best preparation for living well.  They were right. My time at Bethany was foundational for many reasons. 

  1. Bethany gave me time to wrestle through my faith, away from all that was secure. I could not run to Mom and Dad for answers, I had to fight through my beliefs with teachers who challenged us to think critically and peers who were working through it also.
  2. Bethany gave me a chance to get to know myself better. Opportunities to serve and work with others gave me the chance to test and developed my skill set.
  3. Adults who took the time to know me were able to encourage me, help me discern strengths and weaknesses and speak into my life, giving me direction and a clearer view of myself.
  4. I was able to start healing from some of life’s wounds there and understand God’s place in my pain.
  5. Bethany was a good intermediate step between High School and University. It gave me time to grow up and further develop my foundation.
  6. Bethany gave me the chance to take off my rose coloured glasses and realize we are all on a journey. Everyone is at a different place. Life is messy with people but that with a common goal, unity can be achieved and grace given for one another’s weaknesses.
  7. It was a great community and focus from which to shape my world view. I learned to value and respect the history I came from and how it could form and shape the way I approached the world.
  8. We got to know teachers who became mentors and have offered valuable insight on our life situations through the years.
  9. I grew in my understanding of how to properly read and interpret scripture. How to handle God’s word carefully and accurately.
  10. I grew to understand how scripture fit together from Genesis to Revelations, over arching themes and genres. This gave me a more thorough understanding of it’s message and God’s goals. It also helped me read scripture more accurately.
  11. Basic Theology gives a biblical understanding of who God is, and who we are. Knowing God and Knowing Man were some of my favorite courses. 
  12. I met my husband there. As much as “bridal school” is a joke, being in an environment with others who have similar values and pursuits is a smart place to find a partner for life. Even if you didn’t meet your spouse through Bible school, you may have met them through a Bible school connection, like my sister who married my husbands best friend.
These are a handful of ways Bethany changed me. Bethany has had a huge impact on the local church. They have trained up many Pastors as well as many Missionaries. Many people who operate in highly valuable lay ministry roles were equipped through the efforts and mission of Bethany. They have had a huge impact on educating leaders for the local church. But more than that, they trained people who entered the world. Regular people who could live with integrity and truth. People who spread the light of Jesus and are prepared to answer for the hope that they have. 
The doors are closing on an era where Biblical education in a Bible School setting was affordable and valued. It makes me sad. I had hoped our kids could have had the option of studying at Bethany. Our youngest would have thrived there. It is an environment and setting that has a unique and valuable niche. I hope new options for Biblical education are created. I can barely process all I am feeling about this, grief, nostalgia, concern for future generations. I understand the need to grow and change with the times. I also know we are moving further and further from Bible based living as a culture and even as Christ followers. I am so deeply concerned about this. There is so much richness to be found in the community that happens in a Bible school setting. There was so much that was unique to what Bethany in particular had to offer. 
I guess my biggest dream is that as a people of God we become more and more dedicated to becoming students of the Bible. I hope that we develop ways of teaching our children to become students of the Bible. Now we need to be even more creative as we seek to engage them in building Bible centered lives. We need to become very proactive in developing and promoting opportunities for our children to test their ministry muscles. We need to become intentional in new ways to provide avenues for them to get to know themselves. They need to develop their strengths and weaknesses. We need to reestablish the value that Bible schools offered and stretch our children with  chances to test their leadership and personal skills.
I was hoping this wouldn’t have to happen, I was hoping Bethany wouldn’t have to close its’ doors. We are still encouraging our children to prayerfully consider Bible school as an option after high school. At this point our daughter plans to go to Briercrest. She will spend the year in Biblical Studies and training with the Volleyball team. We desperately pray she will build a firm foundation and will learn more about how to use her love of sport as God designed her to. We are thrilled to see how it will challenge and develop her. We are praying she meets amazing friends and stretches.  We pray she has fun makes great memories. We are praying she finds mentors who will help guide her. Briercrest offers a very different environment than Bethany. I wish it were possible for both to exist.

 We hope there are options for our boys as they approach that time. I hope as a believing community we will dig deeper into the fundamental need to promote Bible based living. I pray desperately that we will use the resources at our disposal to offer that to future generations. I still hope that Bethany can rise from the ashes.

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