Friday, August 13, 2010

A Bethany Introduction

My soon-to-be Bethany friends; (This includes faculty, staff and especially students); 


I only have one opportunity to make a first impression. So, how will I do this? Jesus’ first words were often, “Do not fear, it is I!” That would be just a bit over the top for my taste, and a little intimidating. Paul almost always began his letters with the phrase, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Certainly theologically correct, but somewhat awkward when you are greeting a complete stranger, don’t you think? Plus, in my estimation, one’s first words should reflect the character and core values of the person. So here goes…


Hi. My name is Dave. And I am a sinner saved by grace. Now, that may sound more like an opening introduction at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting than a new Academic dean greeting the students he is called to serve. I apologize. I do not mean it that way. I mean it as a testimony to the radical love of the Father who sent Jesus to meet me right where I was. For indeed, I did have a serious drinking and drug problem, well into my 20’s. That was until a young woman (who I was seriously pursuing) told me about a man named Jesus. Can you imagine living in North America and not knowing who Jesus was? In the midst of my relentless pursuit of her, she told me she would go out with me “If I went to church with her.” Well, I did, and the rest is history. That young woman is Angie, and this August 22nd we will celebrate 29 years of marriage. Can you imagine what it is like for me to wake up each morning and look at her, knowing that she was the one who changed the course of my life. I am a sinner saved by grace, redeemed by His love, filled to overflowing and enamored with serving wherever He wishes.


This leads to the real question, “How does a dean from Indiana Wesleyan University find himself soon to arrive at Bethany Bible College?” Well, some mornings I ask myself the same thing. The answer is very simple. It is housed in the theological term, “call.” It was the compelling voice of God who spoke to Angie and to me; jointly and at separate times in prayer, assuring us that Bethany Bible College was the place where His Presence would be to meet us and sustain our ministry. I see our move to Bethany as the next step in our life-long spiritual adventure with the Lord. We are simply affixing our “Yes” to God’s call.


However, you might be interested in “when” we precisely made the decision to come to Bethany. The journey began as follows. President Mark Gorveatte first contacted us via an email on May 11th. We corresponded and talked several times in the ensuing weeks. But our youngest daughter was getting married on July 3rd, and we did not think we had the emotional capital to seek out a faithful Bethany decision and a wedding at the same time. But Angie and I remembered what we said to the Lord five years earlier, “Jesus, when our children have graduated college and on their own, we will go anywhere.” So we asked, “Lord are you in this?” Now, fast-forward thru a visit to Sussex, the last two weeks of wedding plans, and the wedding itself. We were emotionally bankrupt. The Sunday after the wedding we were sitting in a small upstairs room in our home with our son and daughter-in-law. We were filling them in on all the “Bethany happenings.” I turned to my son Joshua and asked for his advice, “Is this a go or no-go decision?” He was caught in the emotion of the moment and began to cry. He lives only 30 miles away and loves to come home on weekends. He said clearly, “I do not want you to go! But Dad, you and Mom said ‘Yes’ to God 29 years ago, are you really going to start saying ‘no’ now?” Out of the mouth of my son came the decision. We just want to walk with the Presence of God. Divine fingerprints were all over this move. Now you know our story…but when you arrive on campus this fall, I look forward to meeting you and hearing how God graciously brought you to Bethany. May this fall be one of testimony about the Lord’s faithful call upon us all!


So, we will arrive in Sussex in late August. We have several prayer requests which I would ask you to carry with us. First, we would sincerely like to see our home sold before we leave. But, it is His house, so we will leave that to Him.Second, our son Joshua is looking for a full-time teaching job in and around Indianapolis. There have been hundreds and hundreds of teacher layoffs in the area, so this will also take a divine act. Third, please pray for the myriad of good-byes to scores of friends and family. We have lived in the Midwest almost all of our lives, so the next few weeks will be filled with tears, long hugs, and emotion-laden meals. Finally, Angie is the best mother I have ever met (apologies go to all the other mothers in the world; I’m simply hooked on her). She will be leaving our two children; Joshua in Indiana and Hannah in Wisconsin. When we arrive in Sussex, we will be in need of surrogate children. Thus, we look forward to jointly serving one another. Simply put, in the Body of Christ, We need each other. Angie and I cannot wait to meet you.  


For an early intro, check me out on Facebook:!/profile.php?id=161503697     

And Angie as well:!/profile.php?id=651385782&ref=ts   

Or to get a taste of my interaction with students, try


In Jesus' joy,


Rev. David F. Smith, Ph.D

Academic Dean – VP Academic Affairs

Bethany Bible College -


Monday, August 2, 2010

An Inadequate Good-bye but an Eternal Thank You

My heart-felt friends and former students;


I am sitting in my office on a rainy Saturday morning drafting this letter to you. Everyone knows that in the process of writing, you have the opportunity to create a first draft and then re-work the material through careful crafting, until you get the content and the form just right. But when we speak face-to-face, we only get one stab at it. Since you know that I am a man of story and personal interaction, I’m going to write this letter in one “take” and imagine each of you is sitting in front of me. We are drinking coffee (of course), and I will write as if I am speaking to you directly,

The last 10 years have been the most rewarding of my entire life. From the first day on this campus, I have sensed that all my life experience (business and ministerial) has been preparation for what transpires here at IWU. To say this is a labor of love would be a complete understatement. Moreover, our time here also has been a wonderful dovetailing of Angie’s gift-mix with mine. As I work you to death with exegesis after exegesis, she tenderly brings you into our home and nurtures you back among the living. She has also mentored scores of young women, assisting them to answer the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian woman after IWU?”


BUT, (and you knew a “but” was coming); the Lord has clearly opened up a new opportunity for us.  Five years ago, Angie and I told the Lord, once our children have completed their education and are gone from our direct care, we will go anywhere. Well, His timing is impeccable. On July 3rd we married our youngest daughter (Hannah) to her new husband Brian and on July 6th we accepted a call to move to Sussex New Brunswick (Canada). I will hold the position of Vice President of Academic Affairs at Bethany Bible College (a sister Wesleyan institution of IWU). Please know that this was the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life. We are leaving so many people that we love (which includes each one of you!). But as Angie and I walked through the decision making process, we discovered God’s fingerprints everywhere and His voice was beaconing us forward.


May I tell you one incident among many where His Spirit was whispering to us. I was planning on teaching the Book of Romans this fall at IWU. And Angie wanted to audit the class. So in preparation, we had both been doing our devotions from Paul’s great letter. Every day since the beginning of March, we had been reading and re-reading Romans. In mid-May we were contacted by the president of Bethany, Rev. Mark Gorveatte, about the possibility of coming to serve at Bethany. We prayed and prayed, and though it seemed like a good fit, Heaven remained silent to us. Without the blessing of God and the certainty of His Will; I was not going to move forward with the process. One morning in early June (after devos in Romans) I went upstairs to write to President Gorveatte detailing our struggle with this decision. I wanted him to know the honor of simply being considered but without a confirming word from the Lord, we had to say, “No.” I finished the letter with these words;

“In the end, I am looking for God’s blessing and for His peace. I do not see this as testing the Lord but trusting in the assurance of His abiding Presence that goes with His people as they faithfully explore uncharted territory with Him (Ex 33:15-18). And I desperately want to see His Glory.”  


I read the letter aloud to Angie before sending it. When I came to this last line, about our desire to mimic Moses in the pursuit of God’s Presence, Angie began to cry. When I asked her why, she simply said, “Today, for the first time in months, I read outside of the Book of Romans. This morning, I felt lead to read Exodus 33 and sensed we need to settle for nothing less than the Glory of God in our lives.” We took this as a whisper of the Holy Spirit in our ears to let Him take us by the hand on this journey. After a brief time of crying together in divine awe and wonder, I added this final line to the letter to President Gorveatte:

“So, we will lean forward (or at least towards the North East) on our part here, pursuing God’s fresh call to Bethany. However, if it be His will that I receive a refreshing of my call here at IWU, that would be perfect. Either way, I sense that God is clearly up to something in my life and I do not want to miss His will, ever!”   


Well, our pilgrimage with Jesus is still being written. We visited Bethany and sensed God confirmation. We will be moving at the end of August. I sincerely apologize that I will not be able to give you an adequate goodbye. It’s been through our investment in you that Angie and I have also been transformed. We are not the same people as when we arrived at IWU 10 years ago. We have been shaped and molded by our relationship with you. We should not be surprised…neither should you…listen to how 1 John prepares us for this:

If we (plural) walk in the light, as he is in the light, we (plural) have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us (plural) from all sin. (1John 1:7 NIV).

Simply, God’s work of transformation is done in the company of fellow travelers. And the friends He has placed me in fellowship with over the last decade will never be forgotten.


Thus, I extend to you an eternal thank you for all that you have done for me. Certainly, I owe my life to Jesus. But I also give you thanks as friends. And I use that endearing term “friend” in the same way that Jesus does in John 15 when He says,

“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”


Please Lord

May You empower these students, my friends, to pursue You with a selfless abandonment

May they find wholeness and satisfaction in You

May they discover an abiding love in service to Your Church

May they never settle for cheap grace but rather may they daily count the cost of Your love for them

May thankfulness and gratitude well up in their hearts and echo forth from their lips 

Most of all Lord,

May they never fear Your Will…but rather may they seek sanctuary in the surety of Your Word and may they always long for the solace which comes from a familiarity of Your Voice.

May the two-fold prayer of my friends always be:

·         “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 2)

·         “May it be to me according to Your word.” (Luke 1)



Now friends, for one last time I say to you, “Go with God.”


In Jesus joy,


Dave & Angie