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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Bethany: The Vision Lives

By Dick Foth
Dec. 11, 2011

Kids Kamp in 1952 was my introduction to Bethany. It was a campground, and I was 10 years old attending my first-ever camp. I had fun, a profound spiritual experience, and met the speaker — a 38-year-old pastor from Portland, Ore., who followed Jesus with his whole heart and loved kids. Eleven years later, he became my father-in-law.

As a teen, I came back to Bethany Park two summers in a row to work in the cafeteria and the snack shack, called “The Spot.” Our work crew, when done serving customers on most camp meeting evenings, would pile in a car and drive seven miles to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to eat cotton candy, ride the roller coaster, and spend most of our $20 in weekly earnings!

As a teen, I felt an urge to ministry, but didn’t pursue it because I was a stutterer. Upon graduation from high school, I chose the University of California-Berkeley. My reasoning? Being a doctor, I would not have to speak much.

That all changed one night at a missions convention in February of that year, when the Lord touched my heart through Matthew 5:13, which says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again?” (NASB). I decided to transfer to another school in the fall to prepare for ministry. I chose Bethany Bible College.

When I walked on campus, there were 300 students — a cross-section of Assemblies of God kids, mostly from California, Oregon and Nevada, but some from as far away as Hawaii and New York. Dr. Cordas Burnett was our president; L. Thomas Holdcroft was academic dean; Everett Wilson was the dean of men; and May Swanson, affectionately called “Mom,” was the dean of women. Mom, like many strong women in that traditional role, was a blend of Betty Crocker, Mother Teresa and the CIA.

The school was a close-knit family. The atmosphere was rich with learning, fun and spiritual intensity.

I soon met a tall, sandy haired, green-eyed girl by the name of Ruth Blakeley. I knew her dad from the Bethany Park Kids Camp, eight years before. She was quiet, smart, winsome and a challenge. Six weeks after graduation, we married on a 105-degree Modesto, Calif., day. Most of Ruth’s bridesmaids and all of my groomsmen were Bethany classmates.

Bethany had a culture of opportunity. During my three years, I had been able to serve as a class officer, yearbook editor and student body president. I had been taught to learn, to dream, to desire the presence of the Holy Spirit, and to take a risk. Many teachers and classmates left their fingerprints on my soul. I loved them. On graduation day, I wept.

Bethany was not regionally accredited at that time, so Wheaton Graduate School in Illinois accepted me provisionally. At the end of that year, I was granted full status and became teaching assistant to Dr. Merrill Tenney, dean of the graduate school. I think that happened, in part, because Bethany had given me a solid grounding in biblical studies.

From 1966 until 1978, we had the privilege of pastoring near the University of Illinois in Urbana. Then, in June of 1978, I accepted the presidency of Bethany. The challenges and opportunities were great. Indeed, two physical events had huge impact — the storm of 1982 that dropped 9 inches of rain in one day on the campus and the Loma Prieta 7.1 earthquake of 1989, its epicenter five miles from campus. The response from the Bethany family to those events was strong and creative, and spoke of the relationships they shared.

Throughout those 14 years, many wonderful people dreamed the dream and gave their time and money. Faculty and staff labored sacrificially. Many churches and individuals supported the school month after month. Some people gave property, one family gave a million dollars, and one couple moved to Bethany and volunteered on campus for three years. Despite difficult fiscal times, that’s the spirit I remember.

Bethany was a place infused with real dreams and moments with God. Often, when walking the campus, I would step into Craig Chapel for a moment of reflection. On a number of occasions I found older individuals or couples just sitting quietly. When I asked them if I could help, most often they would say, “No thanks. Just passing through. We left here years ago, but it was in this very pew during a Thursday night missions service that our lives were changed forever. Some of our dreams have been realized, but we’ve also had real struggles. We just wanted to spend a few minutes one more time in the place where we knew God met us.” A place dedicated to God has value.

Since graduating in 1963, I have been privileged to travel the world. Bethany people are everywhere. All over North America and Europe, Africa and Asia, Latin America and the islands of the sea. They are leaders in the Assemblies of God, pastors, missionaries, musicians, educators, graphic artists, city administrators, media specialists, scholars, seminary presidents, homemakers, entrepreneurs and the list goes on.

Of course, that’s what they do. What they are is salt and light.

In 1919, when Robert and Mary Craig founded Glad Tidings Bible Institute, the precursor of Bethany, they dreamed of 100,000 souls for Christ. That vision lives in the hearts of so many thousands who walked the halls of Glad Tidings and Bethany throughout its 92 years. It lives in the hearts of so many who wandered among the redwoods and took long walks on the beach in Santa Cruz thinking of lost peoples and faraway lands.

And, the 100,000? I believe we’re good on that.

So, we grieve for the loss of a place and an institution, but not the loss of the vision.

The vision lives. Thank you, Bethany. I love you.


DICK FOTH was president of Bethany University (then Bethany College) from 1978 to 1992. He is currently on the pastoral preaching team at Timberline Church (Assemblies of God), Fort Collins, Colo.

 

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