Cline Family’s BUILD Journey is a Story of Answered Prayers

Geoff and Joy Cline call it an answered prayer to witness their son Daniel’s growth in the BUILD program—especially since they doubted he would experience the same type of college community as his brother, Ben.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

November 05, 2018 | 1 p.m.

Cline Family’s BUILD Journey is a Story of Answered Prayers

Daniel Cline ’19 with his parents, Geoff and Joy Cline

Daniel Cline ’19 is an active Bethel student. He loves attending football games, he leads campus tours, he sang in Chapel Choir, and he even traveled overnight to Milwaukee with the Swim Club. But many of these activities once felt impossible to his parents, Joy and Geoff Cline.

“Two years ago, the thought of Daniel going with a group to Milwaukee without his mom and dad—we just couldn’t comprehend that,” Geoff says.

The Clines call it a story of answered prayers when they see how Daniel, who was born with Development Coordination Disorder and autism, thrives at Bethel. They witnessed Daniel’s brother, Ben ’16, form lifelong friendships at Bethel. And they even witnessed Daniel blossom in that environment when Ben and his college friends would visit. “We saw [Daniel] get enveloped into that group and we heard his giggles and his laughter, and it broke him out of routines he had,” Joy says. “We just knew he’d get a lot of life if he could do something like that.” 

But after high school they expected Daniel to attend a transition program near their home in Farmington, Minnesota, where he’d learn with other students with developmental disabilities—much like he did in high school. But then they learned about the Bethel University’s BUILD program—a two-year, residential, post-secondary program for students with intellectual and physical disabilities. “We saw it and our first reaction was, ‘Wow, that would be great for Daniel,’” Joy says. 

The Clines applied for Daniel to join BUILD in what Joy calls a “step of faith” because of what felt like impossible odds. “Let’s just be blunt,” Geoff adds. “We figured it was about a one out of 10 chance that he would, first of all, be accepted and, second, that he would say yes. One out of 10, and that’s being optimistic.”

But Geoff says, “We put it to prayer and God continually opened the door.”

The first answered prayer came when Daniel was accepted into the program. But Daniel still wasn’t fully on board with enrolling in BUILD, and his parents told him it would be his choice. He attended an overnight visit over his spring break, experiencing life at Bethel by attending Vespers, sitting in on a class, and eating on campus after his parents left. The experience showed Daniel he could navigate things like the Monson Dining Center and classes.

Daniel said “yes” to Bethel with one condition: that he could continue participating as a goalie in his south metro floor hockey league on Wednesdays. Daniel says it proved to be “an easy decision because my brother was here before.”

Then with the help from a BUILD family and Dakota County workers, the Clines found help to pay for Daniel’s Bethel education.

“When he’s at Bethel, he’s full of joy. … He’s out with people and he’s just living a fuller life.”

— Geoff Cline says of his son Daniel Cline ’19, a second-year student in Bethel’s BUILD program

Daniel has thrived since coming to Bethel, both through the BUILD program and the broader Bethel community. While some colleges feature programs similar to BUILD, the Clines say Bethel is different because of its strong community and its Christian values, which call people to treat everyone equally and with dignity. And Daniel fits in well in that community. “When he’s at Bethel, he’s full of joy. … He’s out with people and he’s just living a fuller life,” Geoff adds.

Daniel’s personality, which his parents describe as generous and unselfish, shines at Bethel, and he’s always greeting other students around campus. “Everyone thinks that I’m friendly,” Daniel says. He’s also willing to help and serve others, including a fellow student in BUILD with physical disabilities whom he commonly helps. He even helped a fellow student in BUILD take the shuttle to the Rosedale Mall to repair her phone.

Along with Daniel’s growing independence, Joy recognizes the biggest improvement is in Daniel’s communication. “How he speaks and can advocate for himself—I saw that as a huge, huge change,” she says. It hasn’t been perfect, but Joy notes BUILD Director Dawn Allen cautioned them to not want a perfect experience because the imperfections lead to the most growth. 

In his first weeks at Bethel, Daniel lost his ID badge and a few other items and had to admit what happened and work to replace them. “The hardest was when those things got lost,” Daniel says. “Would they let us get a new one or what would we do?” He also had to seek help when his iPad wasn’t working. 

But the Clines stepped back and let Daniel advocate for himself. “He had to advocate, to go figure out what to do, he had to call us, make those hard phone calls,” Joy says, adding that BUILD coached him through it. “He grew from the experience.”

Geoff and Joy learned, too. Joy recognized that she often saved Daniel in conversations and would jump in to help. Today, Daniel steps in to tells his parents he can do things himself and that he can make his own decisions. “We always thought if Daniel was at home, we’re always his crutch,” Joy says. “What Bethel’s given is that opportunity to remove us from the situation to see how he can fly on his own.”

“Which is beyond what we ever dreamed of,” Geoff adds.

Geoff says the experience exceeds their expectations. “[BUILD] sets the students up to be successful,” Geoff says. “And it’s only been around three or four years. I am amazed at the successes from our perspective.”

Daniel found the kind community his family hoped for at Bethel, making friends and involving himself in groups and clubs. “We’ve seen Daniel and his maturity, his independence, his ability to navigate not just this campus, but navigate friendships, navigate overcoming difficulties, and excel,” Geoff says. “He’s doing things, he leads these tours.”

Cline Family’s BUILD Journey is a Story of Answered Prayers

Daniel Cline ’19 with his family

Daniel was proud of finishing his first year, though he admits finals and some assignments, like a poster project, proved challenging. “I had to work hard on that,” he says. BUILD’s second year brings a more challenging workload, and students spend more time focused on things like food preparation and cleaning in Daniel’s apartment-style dorm in North Village. “It’s so well thought out, the program,” Joy says, noting how the expectations gradually increase.

After shopping for snacks, toiletries, and small things in his first year, he’s now grocery shopping and cooking with his BUILD classmates. Daniel also started an internship at the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

As Daniel and his family look ahead to life after Bethel, they hope Daniel will work at least 20 hours a week and live independently. “We want to see him get a job that he will enjoy,” Joy says. “Daniel loves people. We want people to be a part of it because that’s where he gains a lot of life.” But more than that, Geoff hopes Daniel’s friendships become the same type of lifelong friendships Ben formed at Bethel, and that he could even live independently with his friends. 

For now, Daniel is most looking forward to attending football games at Bethel and watching Nebraska Cornhuskers and Green Bay Packers games. When asked how his two favorite football teams will perform this year, Daniel is confident: “Probably good. All the way.”

He and his roommate are already planning a Packers Super Bowl party.

The BUILD Program at Bethel.

Bethel's BUILD program provides a supportive and comprehensive educational experience for individuals with intellectual disabilities. You'll experience dynamic and encouraging instruction, career-oriented curriculum, specialized mentorship, and on-campus living - all within a supportive Christian environment.

Learn more