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Archive for Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Small town will be Lawrence Bible school’s new home

September 16, 2003

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— This rural Morris County community of 191 residents could see its population double almost overnight if Merle and Joan Rothwell are successful in their move of Calvary Chapel Bible School from Lawrence to Wilsey, which is 10 miles west of Council Grove in the Flint Hills of northeast Kansas.

They purchased the brick, two-story Wilsey Elementary School building, gymnasium and surrounding land for $1, submitting the only bid when Unified School District 417 sold the facility after closing the school.

The Rothwells were looking for a new site when their Calvary Chapel Bible School outgrew its previous campus in Lawrence. Wilsey offered the perfect combination of space, available buildings and isolated location -- at the right price.

Big plans

As enrollment grows, dorms will be added to develop a complete campus. The site should accommodate about 200 students in the future, according to the Rothwells.

The Wilsey Bible School will be a satellite campus, affiliated with the Calvary Chapel Bible College, a nondenominational church organization, headquartered in California.

Classes are scheduled on a part-time basis this fall, and the couple hope to have a full schedule next semester and the facilities fully operational in a year.

The school will offer four semesters of course work featuring in-depth verse-by-verse Bible studies as well as ministry opportunities designed for growth in Christian service. Liberal arts will not be included in the curriculum.

Most of the classes will be conducted by videotape. After finishing four semesters, a student will earn a certificate of completion. The majority of students then go on to other colleges, according to Joan Rothwell. "It is intended for people to know the Bible," she said.

Joan and Merle Rothwell bought the Wilsey Elementary School
building, gymnasium and surrounding land for $1. The couple are
moving Calvary Chapel Bible School from its Lawrence campus to the
two-story brick building in the rural Morris County community.

Joan and Merle Rothwell bought the Wilsey Elementary School building, gymnasium and surrounding land for $1. The couple are moving Calvary Chapel Bible School from its Lawrence campus to the two-story brick building in the rural Morris County community.

According to the Calvary Chapel Bible College Web site, objectives of the school include preparation for pastoral ministry, missions, biblical counseling or deepened relationship with the Lord by providing a solid foundation in God's word.

Caretakers of history

In preparing the building for the opening day of class, the Rothwells have been doing most of the renovation and cleanup work by themselves, with volunteers from Lawrence helping.

The ground level of the building will house the business office, dining hall and kitchen, and a bookstore that will be open to the public. Student classrooms will be upstairs.

The construction plans include a place to preserve local history. The Rothwells have become caretakers of Wilsey's school history and plan to make the downstairs hallway entry a museum featuring the history of the town, the elementary school and the high school, which was closed many years ago.

"It's a real adventure," Merle Rothwell said. "They left a lot of things here -- some of them are treasures."

"We paid $1 for a huge responsibility. It's multifaceted," Joan Rothwell said. "People in this area are very much into history. We're having fun with it."

Community support

Many visitors already have stopped to express interest and to share memories of their experiences in Wilsey.

"It told us about the heart in this place," Joan said.

Her husband agrees. "You get the building and you get all of the people. You also get all of the history."

Because there are no plans to open a Calvary Church in Wilsey, local churches can use the school campus, the gymnasium will be available for community events, and the Wilsey Alumni Assn. plans to continue to use the facilities for the annual reunion.

While Joan Rothwell is a native of California, Merle Rothwell was born and raised in Lawrence. They plan to live in Wilsey, where they have purchased a home, and plan to spend most of their time in Wilsey at the school.

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