Thursday, June 16, 2011
When I was 7 years old, my family moved from Illinois to California.
My sisters, Erica and Jenny, were 12 and 10 and my brother,
Chris was 5.
My dad went from being a pastor in a big college town
to being a president of a small Bible college.
We were uprooted from the cornfields of Illinois
and transplanted to a small campus in the middle of the redwoods,
10 miles from the beach.
And we kids hated it. Really.
We missed the sweet corn and the friends we had left behind.
But my parents were coming home. Both were Californians by birth.
And they had met at Bethany in the early 60's, both children of pastors,
embarking on their college adventure at Bethany Bible College.
We grew up on stories of Bethany lore.
How Uncle John had pranked people in the middle of the night,
flipping them out of their dorm bunks screaming, "The devil's gotcha!"
How Uncle Phil played basketball and wooed Aunt Lana.
How Dad traveled summers with the singing group, the Bethanaire's.
About Mom Swanson, who was the women's dean,
told Dad he should date Ruth Blakeley
because she carried herself like a queen.
(Way to go, Mom!)
And gradually, Bethany grew on us.
We became Bethany brats...running amok on the campus.
We played with other faculty and staff kids.
We went to basketball games in the gym cheering on the Bruins.
(I was enamored of the cheerleaders and their short skirts.)
We attended the Christmas concerts. (sweet mercy, they ran long!)
We played in the Redwood Bowl. (The outdoor amphitheater.)
We went to service in Craig Chapel
and played hide and seek in the library,
looking up pictures of our parents in the old yearbooks.
(Mom had sweet ratted hair and Dad actually had hair!)
And as the years slipped by,our view altered,
it wasn't just Mom and Dad's school.
It became our school.
The excitement of campus coming alive in the fall.
The flow of faculty and guest lecturers around our dinner table.
Students in and out of our lives, hearing their stories,
where they came from and where they were going.
Erica was the first to embark on her Bethany adventure.
Jenny was next.
Dad tried to get us to apply to different schools but to no avail.
I went. Chris went. A truckload of our cousins went.
We created our own lore. Pulled our own pranks.
(I was totally lame at pranks...
Chris went down in the annals
of Bethany history for shooting
the most unsuspecting students with a bb gun.)
We made our own life long friendships.
(My bffs, Barbie and Leslie's, were 2nd generation Bethany goers, too.)
We got our hearts broken there. A lot of bad poetry was written and
wept over in the back of the chapel.
We met our true loves there.
Scott kissed me for the first time on the night of JSB
in the half lit hallway near Professor Arnesen's office.
(My favorite Bethany memory)
My friend, Marie France and I became prayer partners there....
I still shoot her e-mails asking for prayer, lo, these many years later.
Countless hours were spent studying in the Stowell Center and even
more spent noshing at the Dining Commons...
or skipping out on questionable meals
at the Dining Commons for bean burritos at Taco Bell.
Bethany was the place that my relationship with Jesus became mine.
The good the bad and the ugly.
Our professors lived out their relationships with Christ in front of us.
Daring us to follow. And we did. Sometimes well. Sometimes not so well.
But in this place of nurture and academia and friendship and young adult angst,
I became me. I grew up to be me.
And this past week, the doors of Bethany University,
in its 93rd year, closed.
Operations ceased. Kaput. Shut down. It is no more.
And I am left collecting my memories.
Trying to remember every nook and cranny
of that place and that time and that girl who grew up there.
It makes me feel undone.
Like my personal history has become un-moored.
Mostly, I have not been able to dwell on it. Because it feels too big.
For the students who are losing their school
and the faculty and staff who have lost their livelihood.
For the alumni
who have lost that place to point to as the place that shaped them
and stretched them, grew them up and gave them a home for four years.
For the memories that used to be pinned to the address
800 Bethany Drive, Scotts Valley, California.
I know that everything has a beginning and an end.
But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
Mostly, I hate that Bethany is gone.
I have strong feelings about it if you haven't noticed.
But I know this.
Bethany University, its mission to reach the world for Jesus,
the rich friendships that it formed,
the dreams that were birthed at Craig Chapel's altar,
the conversations that changed lives and
the goals that were accomplished within it walls live on.
In the thousands of beating hearts
and working hands of those who love it most.
The faculty. The staff. The students. The alumni.
And one girl who will never be the same because of a small school
nestled in the heart of the Santa Cruz mountains.
I love you, BU.