What can I say that would add to the thousands of posts about my alma mater, Bethany Bible College? Its Alumni site on Facebook has been inundated since last Friday (June 10, 2011), with every manner of lament, reminiscence, epithet, query, and joke. Its origins and problems have been scrubbed over a washboard and re-examined like a soot-covered shirt, and then vigorously cleansed a second time. Emotions run the scale from laughing, angry, crying, and hurt. It’s like a block party, with 1600 people, only nobody’s serving potato salad and barbecue ribs.
I don’t mean to make light. Dozens of fine people will be losing their jobs in the next few months: current students are faced with the chore of finding a new academic home. Everyone has a perspective, a conjecture, an opinion, an attitude, and I feel exhausted. My mind can’t take any more in.
Judi and I left Bethany five years ago, when it became impossible to survive any longer at the institution. Our hearts were torn out then, and we moved haltingly onward with our lives.
We lurched into Virginia. Bethany changed presidents. I took a job at Starbucks. The cafeteria burnt to the ground. we moved to a new Virginia city. Key administration members quit. I joined the USGS. It seemed with every step we made forward, Bethany was beginning to fade. We didn’t care, Judi and I decided. It served them right, for what they did to us, and for the hurt they doled hundreds of other excellent people.
Then it was May 2011. The school was in jeopardy. I blogged then that I felt numb. I didn’t care what happened anymore. Then June. Suddenly, they’d found a group investors. I was happy for them, but remained emotionally uninvested. An infusion of cash could save them, and I couldn’t fault them for wanting to stay alive. Just as suddenly, the investors pulled out, and last friday, the word came. “It is with a heavy heart that I come to you…” the post began. Effective immediately, the college would cease all teaching operations and prepare for the orderly shutdown of the University.
Judi and I were unprepared for the emotional impact. She cried. I sat there stunned. I likened it somewhere to watching a cantankerous old grandfather being pulled off life support: it had to happen; you knew it would happen. It was for the best; still, you couldn’t bear to let go.
So I sit here, still numb. I’m finished, both with this post, and with being concerned about anything but the legacy and the people the school left: thousands of lives were changed. The college is just a place. Bethany wasn’t home because it had redwoods, or a globe in front of the library, or even because it had a chapel that seated several hundred students. Bethany was home because of we became a family there. We cried together, lived together, ate, worshiped, and traveled together. I bid the place goodnight. You are Bethany and I am Bethany. The product of our corporate experience can never be replaced; but it also can never be taken from us. Thank you, all of you; thank you, Bethany–these twenty-five years, for being part of my life experience.