Bethel University Establishes $25,000 Engbrecht Spiritual Life Fund

Lissa Diaz

Bethel University has established the $25,000 endowed Engbrecht Spiritual Life Fund to permanently support costs associated with fall revival speakers or student spiritual life retreats for Bethel University, and to support other ministries as funds grow. 

The endowment honors members of the Engbrecht family including Marvin and Anne Engbrecht, and their sons and spouses, Dave and Chrsity Engbrecht, and Dennis and Karla Engbrecht, and their daughters JoLynn (Engbrecht) Reimer and Peggy (Engbrecht) House, all of whom have significant ties to Bethel University and the Missionary Church. 

On Sun., June 30, the endowment was announced at Nappanee Missionary Church’s combined outdoor service, in conjunction with a celebration of Pastor Dave and Christy Engbrecht’s 40th year of ministry with the church. Bethel University President Gregg Chenoweth, Ph.D., and Chairman of Bethel University Board of Trustees Randy Lehman announced the endowment.

“This Engbrecht Spiritual Life Fund is an opportunity to remind people that most of life is not made of switches, but dials. There is rarely an easy, automatic impact in life (i.e., switch to flip). Instead, some people devote themselves to long, lasting, focused causes that – like a dial – unquestionably change an environment,” says Lehman. “The Engbrecht family has, indeed, dialed-up the Kingdom of God! By endowing funds, we assure ongoing financial support to Kingdom endeavors the Engbrecht Family gave their lives to.”

About the Engbrecht Family

Marvin Engbrecht and his wife, Anne, had an important ministry over 68 years, with significant ties to Bethel. After Marvin pastored in South Dakota in the 1940s, the family moved to Indiana so he could attend Bethel College. While Marvin was a full-time student from 1951-1955, he was also the father of four young children, worked the afternoon shift at Ball Band in Mishawaka, pastored the Wayside Chapel United Missionary Church, and was president of Student Council in his senior year. 

He later served as District Superintendent in support of pastors and churches across South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado. In 1979, the family returned to this region, where Marvin pastored the Brenneman Missionary Church in Goshen, and later served Nappanee Missionary Church part-time for 20 years until age 90. 

He is a board member emeritus of Bethel University, having served 15 years from 1962-1977.  

Dave Engbrecht is senior pastor for Nappanee Missionary Church, where he has served for 40 years. Under his leadership, alongside his wife Christy, NMC attendance grew from 125 to about 3,000. 

Dave and Christy’s influence has spread far beyond Nappanee. During those 40 years, more than 100 under their influence entered vocational ministry. Their work expanded beyond NMC to fund, staff, and sustain ministries in Indiana like South Bend, Plymouth, Warsaw, Rochester, Gary and Middlebury, as well as Chicago, and internationally to India, Kenya, Honduras, and Mexico.  

Their Bethel University connections run deep. Dave has served for 13 years on the Bethel University Board of Trustees, and both of Dave and Christy’s children and their spouses are alumni of Bethel.

Dennis Engbrecht, Ph.D., and his wife Karla had significant ministry with incomparable service to Bethel. Dennis retired from Bethel in 2019, after serving the university for 33 years, most recently as Professor of History. 

Dennis is ordained in the Missionary Church, served effectively with his wife Karla in various church ministries such as youth pastor and senior pastor. He remains a frequent speaker in camps, local churches, conferences, and seminars, and has repeatedly provided leadership for denominational agencies, boards, and committees. 

Dennis wrote the institutional history book for Bethel University, With Christ at the Helm. He filled a variety of senior leadership roles at Bethel, including Chair of the Religion & Philosophy Department, Vice President for Academic Services, Vice President for Student Services, and served as Acting President twice.

Much of the University’s culture and programming for a multi-ethnic campus, personal mentoring, and missionary outreach is attributed to him. Thousands of students in Task Force teams Dennis helped administer (and in small teams, led) have reached many continents of the globe.

Dennis and Karla’s work at and for Bethel also impacted their family. All three of their children and spouses of two graduated from Bethel.

JoLynn (Engbrecht) Reimer, and Peggy (Engbrecht) House, are both Bethel alumni. Two of Peggy’s children are also Bethel alumni, and JoLynn’s sons have significant global ministries:  Brent directed the semester abroad program at Bethel for several years, and Brad is a missionary in Nepal with his spouse Liz.

Peggy exercised great influence as a K-12 teacher in Michigan, while JoLynn taught and directed the Bethel Nursing Program housed off site for 17 years. She led during a time of great ascent at the School of Nursing, which is today the largest enrollment program at Bethel, and was recently ranked among the Top 10 Schools of Nursing in America.


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