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: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=161503697
And Angie as well: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=651385782&ref=ts
Or to get a taste of my interaction with students, try http://go-with-god.blogspot.com/
In Jesus' joy,
Rev. David F. Smith, Ph.D
Academic Dean – VP Academic Affairs
Bethany Bible College - www.bethany-ca.edu