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.


Amy Bowling said...

I went to Willamette Christian Center in the Steve Savelich days, and being someone who has been pastored by at least 3 pastors (Steve, Van, and Lance if I'm not mistaken) that graduated from Bethany, I am truly sorry to hear this. I also hate change, so I feel ya for having to process these feelings. Keep the sweet memories close.

lyndabyrd said...

I hear you and feel your pain...thank God for memories and relationships.

Debbie Pope said...

Simply beautiful.
Simply perfect.
Simply sad. So, so sad.
Thank you.

jenny said...

So good, Sue. Thanks for sharing your memories and history. I'm so sad Bethany is closing. But so thankful for the way it shaped me and the friendships that were birthed there.

Kimberly said...

Beautifully written Sue, I was only there a year and yet feel such sadness at it's closing...thank you for the legacy your folks left there, what a wonderful tribute to them and the place you called home!

Single Survivor said...

Bethany Brats? I called you kids Fothlings. I recall the passion for music that you had when you came back from Stanford University and it was evident that you were a fan of Take 6. And the fact that they took the time to talk to you guys afterward was a testement of their humility. But what rings true and what I share with you is when your relationship whith Christ became your own. I am 3rd generation AG and the voice of the Lord called me to Him as I drove up Bethany Drive. I felt my pack of burdens filled with religiosity fall of my back and I left them at the guard shack. My journey with Christ started that day and the passion for souls is still alive. It's like an itch that cannot be satisfied by a scratch. And the fuel that was poured upon me came from the relationships that I made at Bethany. The doors of the institution may close but the backdraft of the Holy Spirit will continue in the lives of our legacies.

mighty morfin said...

That was so beautifully written...I'm still in tears over the fact that this college that I fell in love with when I was 18 has shut it's doors for the last time. I was only there for two years, but it was the best 2 years of my life. I have so many memories of friends, the lighthouse in Santa Cruz, chapel, open dorm night, working in the library, movie night in the lobby, intramurals...the list goes on! Bethany will forever be in my heart!!

Tim Inman said...

Great post, Cuz! I identify with the bit about successes and failures and walking it out with Jesus.

Bethany was the most successful dating service ever and a pretty good college, too! I attended a couple of good universities in my undergraduate pursuits, but at Bethany the professors took personal interest in the students. Another place was more professional; Bethany was more family - and that trumps everything.

pamelitarose said...

Thanks, Sue.

Kara said...

Beautifully written Suzie-Q. I know this college meant so much to you and formed your life in so many ways. What a great way to tribute with this post. Hugs!!

Shane said...

Sue, I'm so glad our Bethany experiences crossed paths and those relationships are alive and well today (see you on Sunday, by the way). I'm smiling about how we were up at your house supposed to be planning for the JSB but instead the Oprah Winfrey interview with Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie was on, so we got nothing done for JSB! Oh, and don't think I've forgotten that you "borrowed" my red white blue and gold pants and never intended to give them back. Swiper. You're feeling this loss more than many. Thanks for sharing.

Jodi said...

Sue - you totally made me cry! I feel a bit removed - being in Colorado. Feels like it's not real. Thanks for helping me face it!

Kenny said...

I feel like I know you, because I knew your dad and mom before they were married. Your dad's father and my father were contemporaries in the A/G and friends through many years. My brother Wes and your dad worked together on both the Tidings and the annual yearbook. Oh the stories I could tell about those two. I graduated in the same class as your dad. Your mom was a special lady.

Tracy said...

I hadn't heard of this particular Bethany until I read your post, but it still made me teary-eyed to learn it closed. What a beautiful tribute you wrote. Thanks.

MrsSpragoo said...

Thank you for your writing, and for sharing your parents with us during my years at Bethany... I knew you as the "Foth kids". You nailed it, Bethany is where I became who I am today! Thank you!

shannonalbrecht said...

Speaking from another girl who not only grew up on Bethany campus but whose parents now own the house your parents built, I grieve with you. I too feel a deep sense of loss that I am only starting to scratch the surface of. The first 22 years of my life were built solely around that college (18 years we lived on campus). I am not a fraction of who I am if you take away the college and the memories and relationships from it. I completely empathize with everything you said. The most comforting thing I can say is- I will be praying for you through this process (and the many that it affects on the level it has affected you and I). My biggest comfort source comes from the reality that God has been overwhelmingly faithful in my life. I have watched Him turn horrendously gut wrenching satiations for good. So, in my psyche somewhere I KNOW he will do the same for the people who have been affected by Bethany’s closing.
But, your truth still remains- we have all the right in the world to be angry. To feel hurt. And, to feel undone by something so deep and so real.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

This makes my heart hurt.

My Bethany is here in Minnesota, Northwestern College. It's so much apart of my history, it's like going home when I drive through the school gates. It would kill me to see it close.

You have my sympathy.

BARBIE said...

I was extremely sad to hear this news. My Pastor and his wife met at Bethany. I was praying for a different outcome. I am so sorry.

Laura said...

I read this first with joy, as I compared my own memories of my school, then with sadness when you shared that Bethany has closed. I am sad for you and all the others who feel a hole in their lives. But you are right, that its mission lives on in the lives of all who were touched by that school. And that is certainly a rich heritage.

Erin said...

Your post touched me in many ways. I too came from the corn fields of Illinois to California, though I was much younger. Bethany didn't touch my life until I attended there, but touch my life it did. I also related to many of the comments about your family as I attended church and school for most of my life with them. I know God has a plan, and while we may not understand it he has not forgotten us or the impact Bethany had on our lives. If we let them, the memories will continue to impact us and shape us into the people God wants us to be.