|BLOOMINGTON — At the end of World War II, five Minnesota families, members of Bethany Chapel (now Bethany Church), committed themselves to listen to God and do what He said. Their subsequent steps included patterns seldom seen since the early church that continue producing great results today.
Seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus, the original families founded Bethany Fellowship in 1945, giving all they had to embrace Christian life and support the unfinished task of world missions. To reduce individual family expenses, they pooled resources to buy a common residence, where they could live, worship and pursue their goals together.
They sold individual homes and combined belongings to support the organization. Community involvement decreased the work and expenses required to maintain separate households so that more time and money went directly into missions.
The Fellowship’s first headquarters was the large Minneapolis residence called “Bethany House.” They quickly expanded and in 1946 purchased the 62.5 acre farm in Bloomington, Minn., that is still their base of operations.
Six leaders have headed the Fellowship since 1945. Their first Pastor-leader, Ted Hegre, initiated a challenge to prepare and send 100 missionaries throughout the world from their gathering of 22 people.
To meet that challenge, Bethany established their College of Missions (BCOM) in 1948. Graduates of what was then Bethany Fellowship Missionary Training Center partnered with various sending agencies. In 1963, Bethany Fellowship Missions (now Bethany International Ministries) initially began in Brazil establishing a Bible school, church planting work, publishing house and seminary.
Today, Bethany has fulfilled that first mission challenge many times over. By 2005, nearly 60 years after the Fellowship’s founding, more than 850 missionaries have served with 87 mission agencies in 69 countries. Another 425 alumni serve in Christian ministry throughout America.
BCOM’s vision remains to “provide an intercultural educational experience producing Christ-centered servant leaders, followers of Jesus, who bring the church to where it is not, transforming people and communities, delighting God’s heart and extending His kingdom.”
They offer biblical and theological studies in the context of a community of people who care about them, on campus and on the mission field. Most students also experience cross-cultural field realities in overseas settings. This missionary training approach has demonstrated effective results for nearly 70 years on most continents by incorporating three essential traits for effective missionaries: vibrant spirituality, godly character and inter-cultural social skills.
Tamsen Gylleck (BCOM 2011 grad) was a global intern in France and now serves in Admissions and Student Life: “What I learned at BCOM was not as much in the classroom or from textbooks as everyday encounters with professors, praying in dorms late at night or in the Global Internship getting rejected doing evangelism in the South of France, learning how difficult team life is … but taking joy in everything.”
Andrew Bailey, BCOM freshman from Ottawa, Canada, said: “I’m learning what it means to be an active generation for Christ. My classes prepare me for my Global Internship in Kenya in 2013.”
Similar to the Apostle Paul’s tentmaking industry to finance ministry, business ventures remain Bethany’s primary support for missions and the college. They’ve manufactured wooden toys, lefse griddles, pop-up camping trailers and done printing.
Bethany House Publishers (BHP) began in 1956 to spread the good news of Christ through publishing and printing Christian books and literature. That was sold to Baker Book House in 2003 after Bethany Press International formed as a separate ministry in 1997 to print books produced by BHP and other publishers.
BPI prints 18-20 million books yearly and has printed more than 330 million books since its beginning, partnering with 30 different publishers.
John DePree, Bethany Press president, said: “Our passion is to transform the world for Jesus. That’s why we partner with authors, ministries and publishers to create, produce and distribute millions of life-changing Christian books. We invest the proceeds with Christian publishers to accelerate global church growth, social justice, relief and development, and education, contributing $12 million since 1997.”
Today BCOM offers one-, two- and four-year degrees, as well as Master’s programs on-campus and/or online at affordable tuition through relevant work-study training programs. Bethany is completing its accreditation process with the Association of Biblical Higher Education, which serves more than 300 additional colleges throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Bethany International is the umbrella overseeing Bethany International Ministries, Bethany College of Missions (both College and Global Studies), Bethany Press, Bethany Short-Term Missions, and Globe Serve.
Current Bethany International President and CEO Dan Brokke’s parents met at Bethany; his father, Harold Brokke, directed the Fellowship from 1990-1994.
Besides being thankful for past accomplishments, Bethany looks to the future. Its Publish4All Initiative works with publishers and ministries to provide life-changing book titles downloadable in any language by workers needing materials. The Publish4All Internet cloud storage libraries and global book digital print systems allow nationals in remote areas to download, click, print and bind books with equipment for under $2 per copy (even by solar power).
Authors are encouraged to donate copyrights, making more selections available without restrictions that could hinder global resource distribution.
“These programs change the face of missions,” said Brokke; “together, we can finish the Great Commission.”
Bethany’s heart is glimpsed at mealtimes when old and young community residents, students and visitors gather in the campus cafeteria. Two members of the original founding families are there, both near their 100th birthdays. One, Halvard Strand, has served Bethany in many capacities and co-authored its history, “With Eternity’s Values in View.” He recently earned a medal participating in Bethany’s Anti-Human Trafficking Challenge.
Regarding his fulfilling years in the Fellowship, Strand said, “God has definitely led Bethany since 1945.”
ACTIONPOINT: For more information about Bethany International, visit www.bethanyinternational.org, email email@example.com or call (952) 944-2121.