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San Jose conference booth to emphasize service

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – After the 2005 Mennonite Church USA conference in Charlotte, N.C., representatives from Bethel College noted what seemed to be a disturbing trend.

“We sensed a disconnect between what the youth were hearing in their worship services and what they were experiencing in the exhibits,” said Dale Schrag, director of Church Relations.

“In the worship services, it was all about service to God and humanity, about resisting the siren song of materialism and individualism,” he continued. “In the exhibits, it was all about, ‘Don’t you want this promotional trinket?’”

This year, in preparation for the MC USA Conference in San Jose, Bethel College decided to put its money where its mouth is. Rather than joining in what Allan Bartel, Bethel’s vice president for admissions, calls the Mennonite colleges’ “giveaway arms race,” Bethel’s booth will emphasize service.

When youth stop by the Bethel College booth at San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center, they will be met by a display of metal scaffolding, paint cans, hard hats and tool belts, representing a work site. There, instead of receiving a promotional item from the college, they will be able to enter tickets into a drawing to raise money for four Mennonite service agencies. For every ticket entered, Bethel will donate one dollar that would otherwise have gone toward buying promotional giveaway items. The more tickets in the drawing, the more money Bethel will donate – up to $1,000 per agency from the college’s booth (extra donations are welcome and will be added to the totals).

Three of those service agencies are the Hopi Mission School Foundation, Mennonite Urban Corps L.A. and Goldensun Peace Ministries – each affiliated with the Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference. The fourth $1,000 grant will go to an agency chosen by the winning ticket-holder’s youth group.

“Service is a core ethic at Bethel College and is reflected in the activities and commitments of our faculty, staff and students,” said Bethel president Barry Bartel. “A commitment to service is also reflected in the broader Mennonite world. Our booth at San Jose demonstrates this, and seeks to energize those who understand service as core.”

The Bethel booth will be staffed by Allan Bartel, campus pastor Amy Barker, director of Alumni Relations Dave Linscheid and admissions counselors Hope Greiser, Clark Oswald and Lowell Wyse, as well as current seniors Heidi Johnson, Topeka, Kan., Andy Orozco, Earlimart, Calif., and Tarson Powers, West Covina, Calif.

Also representing Bethel College, the men’s vocal ensemble Open Road will perform in concert on Wednesday, July 4, from 10-11 p.m. in a coffee house venue at the convention. Open Road consists of sophomores Austin McCabe-Juhnke, North Newton, Kan., Joshua Powell, Basehor, Kan., and Greg Shelly, Lenexa, Kan.; seniors Andrew Findley, Burlington, Kan., Daniel Graber, Marion, S.D., Aaron Linscheid, North Newton, Kan., and Caley Ortman, Marion, S.D.; and 2007 graduate Ben Kliewer, Buhler, Kan.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at

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