Beginning last fall, Bethany Global University began to experience some significant growth in the student body. Our school enrollment has tripled in the last two years. Looking forward to the spring when seniors return from internship and new January students start, we could have a total on-campus student body of 250! We believe that this growth positions Bethany for even greater things in the future as we pursue our mission to take the church to where it is not.
This growth means change, not just for BGU but for all of the Bethany. On campus, of course, there are many logistical changes: arranging dorm space, changing the flow of the cafeteria line, adding new personnel, working out office space, and many others. It means doubling up of classes to keep student/teacher ratios manageable, with some students taking class in the mornings and others in the afternoons. This impacts every portion of Bethany as now some students participate in their practical training in the morning.
Beyond all of those kinds of changes, we believe that this increase positions Bethany for even greater things in the future as we continue to pursue our vision to take the Church to where it is not. Higher enrollment and greater retention means that more students than ever will participate in the Global Internship portion of the BA program starting in 2017. Global Internship directly fulfills the vision of Bethany by placing students strategically in Gateway Access Platforms—centers of key access to the least reached peoples of the world.
The Gateway Access strategy has now become the focal strategy of our mission, so much so that our sending agency, Bethany International Ministries, has now become Bethany Gateways. The concept is simple: establish core centers we call Gateways in proximity to the least reached peoples of the world; work in partnership with other ministries; and bring the Church to where it is not, through evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. All of this serves Bethany’s larger vision we call Engage500—together with our global partnerships to engage at least 231 unreached people groups in addition to the 269 people groups we are already working among, totaling at least 500 people groups by the year 2020.
Students as Global Interns serve directly as missionaries of Bethany, alongside long-term missionaries and global partners, to fulfill the unique vision of each Gateway and the larger vision of Engage 500. Because they enter their junior year and Global Internship as Bethany Gateways missionaries, they are able to retain their status as missionaries after graduation from the university. Currently there are 16 recent graduates in process to return to the field: a number that we expect to grow significantly as the larger classes form larger teams at more Gateway sites. Bethany Gateways is currently establishing new Gateway sites to welcome the growth. In the fall of 2017 we will add another country in Asia and the Caucasus region to the list.