Bethany: A Place Where Jesus Was Welcomed

Bethany FoundersFounded by Marguerite Bonnema, Mary DeBoer, and Andrew VanderVeer, Bethany Christian Services is a leading provider and advocate of family preservation and adoption services. Since first opening its doors in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1944, Bethany has placed nearly 40,000 children with loving families and assisted hundreds of thousands of people in need around the world.

Nearly 70 years ago, friends and roommates, Marguerite and Mary, shared a dream of caring for children in crisis. Hearing about a local baby that needed a home, the two unselfishly welcomed the baby into their apartment and five additional youngsters soon followed.  

First HomeRealizing this was their life’s mission, the friends bought property in Grand Rapids and invited Andrew, a city missionary, to join their work. Soon they received a license to run a home caring for children. Bethany, now a global social services agency, was born.

According to its founders, “Bethany was a place where Jesus was welcomed into the home of Lazarus and his sisters . . . it was earnestly hoped that Bethany Christian Home would always be a place where Christ’s presence could be felt and His blessing sought and enjoyed.”

Over the past 68 years, the agency has added a variety of services—adoption and pregnancy counseling (1950s), foster care (1960s), refugee support (1970s), and international adoption (1982), to name a few.  Throughout its history Bethany has achieved many milestones, but its mission has always remained the same—to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting and enhancing the lives of children and families through quality social services. As such, when abortion was legalized in the 1970s, Bethany took a stand in support of pro-life Christian groups across the U.S. that wished to establish pregnancy and adoption services in their communities.

Today, Bethany has more than 100 offices in the United States—the organization’s first branch office was opened in New Jersey in 1960—and provides services in more than 30 states and 19 countries across five continents.

In addition to adoption services, Bethany is leading the effort to develop and strengthen child welfare services in developing countries, such as China, Ethiopia, and Haiti. With more than 153 million orphans around the world, Bethany is working closely with governments and non-governmental organizations in these countries to help put in place procedures and programs that, hopefully, will enable families to stay together. Additionally, networks of foster care parents willing to open their hearts and homes are being established so that children can be united with loving families in their home country.   

It’s an understatement to say that the world has changed since Marguerite and Mary first established Bethany Christian Home during World War II. What hasn’t changed over that timeframe is Bethany’s commitment to vulnerable children and families in crisis. “Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said. These words were the inspiration of our founders seven decades ago and remain our constant inspiration.

The views expressed in this post are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bethany.

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