While most students were away for the summer, one building on the Bethel campus was given a new mission meant to enhance their experience when they returned.
The small brown (now newly painted sage green with cream trim) structure known as Richert House, near the Fine Arts Center, is Bethel’s first campus ministries house.
Dale Schrag, director of church relations and newly appointed campus pastor, got the idea from “The Chaplain’s Handbook,” whose author suggested, “If you can have a house for campus ministries, it is incredibly helpful,” Schrag says.
When he took the campus pastor appointment at the end of the last school year, Schrag began thinking of ways to embody this new call, he says. One thing that occurred to him: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we have something new to show -- something that wasn’t there before.”
Another driving factor in the project was student requests for a place to hold Bible studies and discussion groups. In the past couple of years, Deanna Wisdom, former resident director of Voth Hall, and her husband Jeremy hosted 35-40 students each week for Bible study groups in their campus apartment. Their leaving left open the question of where such gatherings could continue.
So Schrag approached Ruth Harder, associate pastor of Bethel College Mennonite Church (just across the street from Richert House) with his idea, hoping BCMC would be interested in helping with the endeavor.
The church had been looking for ways to strengthen its connection with the college and serve students more effectively, and Harder quickly jumped on board. The church promised about $5,000 in memorial money as well as manual labor to help make the dream a reality.
The goal is to have a “home-away-from-home feel,” says Chad Childs, vice president for student life. When the project is complete, there will be a functional kitchen as well as a living room and dining room.