Community Connections: Kuyper and Bethany Christian Services

When Kuyper College President Patricia Harris looks at the lives of
Mary DeBoer VandenBosch and Marguerite Bonnema, members of
the College’s very first group of graduates in 1942, she sees Kuyper’s
mission in action.

In 1944, just two years after graduation, the two founded Bethany Christian Home, now known as Bethany Christian Services, to care for children in need of loving homes.

That bold step, Harris said, is part of a Kuyper legacy that goes back to 1939 when the College began as a place to train laypeople to serve and share the Gospel.

“Marguerite and Mary truly exemplify our mission here at Kuyper, which is to form lifelong learners for purposeful lives of work and service to God and neighbor,” said Harris.

Both VandenBosch and Bonnema – who passed away in 2009 and 2013, respectively – were drawn to what was then known as Reformed Bible Institute by their desire to help children in crisis.

“They knew that Kuyper could prepare them to follow the calling God had given them,” Harris said.

For Bonnema, that hunger to serve began in high school, passing by an orphanage on her daily route to class. She became a registered nurse as soon as she could, knowing that a key part of opening her own children’s refuge would be having one on staff.

Both she and VandenBosch arrived at Kuyper in January of 1940 and were assigned to be roommates. They soon discovered that they shared the same passion for helping children in need.

In a book of memories written in 1998, currently housed in Kuyper’s archives, VandenBosch reflected on this moment.

“See how wonderfully God’s hand is seen in this happening and what a role RBI played,” she said.

After graduation, the pair worked for separate local mission organizations in Grand Rapids while sharing a home on Sigsbee Street.

In 1944, Bonnema met a young woman who had a child outside of her marriage. Her husband had threatened the infant, so Bonnema and VandenBosch took the baby girl in. Over the next few months, they welcomed five more babies, and, in November 1944, they founded Bethany as a nonprofit organization with the help of Andrew VanderVeer, a friend and Christian Reformed Church missionary.

In 1945, VandenBosch, Bonnema and VanderVeer moved their fledgling organization to a residence on 13-acres in Grand Rapids, where Bethany’s headquarters still stands today. And, in 1951, the organization became a licensed adoption agency.

What began as emergency shelter for one baby girl eventually grew into one of the world’s largest international adoption agencies, a global mission that partners with churches and communities to strengthen and preserve families, find families for children who need them and support refugees and immigrants who have fled danger.

“Bethany is such a great example of Abraham Kuyper’s idea that God reigns over every square inch of creation,” noted Harris. “They remind us that we can and should serve God in all places.”

She added that the College’s relationship with Bethany extends well beyond the organization’s origins, with Kuyper students going there for internships and jobs after graduation, and professors and other friends of the College serving on the Board of Directors.

And Bethany is just one example of Kuyper’s deep connections to the community outside its walls.

“Kuyper stands out as a Bible college because we are continuing our tradition of equipping men and women to serve and share the Gospel wherever they may be called to go,” Harris said.

Majors & Programs

You will graduate with professional and biblical skills to think critically, communicate effectively as a Christ-centered leader.


You will graduate with both an academic and a work transcript detailing your work experience for future employers.


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