'That’s Not Normal; That’s Bethel.’

Dan ’89 and Jennifer Goetzman ’91 have been part of Bethel’s strong community for years, first as students and then as they raised their family. But they still marvel at how the Bethel community supported them and their four children, who all attend Bethel, when they needed it most.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

July 23, 2019 | 9:35 a.m.

The Goetzmans

The Goetzman family—Dan ’89 and Jennifer ’91 along with their four children: Ike ’19, Julia ’22, Anna ’20, and Abigail ’21—have all called Bethel home. But they experienced Bethel’s strong community in a new way after Ike experienced complications during surgery.

“Ike, today we’re celebrating miracles,” President Jay Barnes said on May 25, 2019, just before Isaac “Ike” Goetzman ’19 received his diploma in Benson Great Hall. Ike’s graduation from Bethel was a special moment for the Goetzman family. It was a moment they admit nearly didn’t happen. About two years earlier, Ike lay sedated in a hospital fighting for his life after severe complications during open-heart surgery.

The day after his surgery, as his family waited and prayed at his side, Ike’s father, Dan, received a text message. It included a photo of the Bethel baseball team surrounding Vice President for Student Life William Washington as he led them in prayer for Ike and his family. “That’s the Bethel Community,” Dan says. “They just rallied around our family and Isaac.”

When Dan looks back at his family’s experience after Ike’s health issues, he quotes a phrase he once heard about Bethel: “‘That’s not normal; that’s Bethel.’ That’s the family of God, that’s community, that’s relationship, and we were recipients of that. And we’re grateful.”

The Goetzmans

The Goetzman children—Ike’19, Anna ’20, Abigail ’21, and Julia ’22—are all returning to Bethel for the 2019-20 school year, as Ike, who graduated with a physics degree, is returning to finish a finishing a mathematics and data science degree. The siblings plan a meal together each week, gather for movie and game nights, and they played on a broomball team together.

Bethel family

The Goetzmans’ family ties to Bethel date back long before Ike’s surgery. In fact, his parents Dan ’89 and Jennifer ’91 met at Bethel, and the two maintain close connections to the school and Bethel friends. Those Bethel friends, and many others from their home in Spicer, Minnesota, rallied around the family when their first child, Isaac—better known as Ike around Bethel—was born with a heart defect that has required multiple surgeries. “Bethel’s a real special place for the Goetzman family,” says Dan.

As Dan and Jennifer added three daughters to their family, Bethel remained a constant part of their lives. They frequently brought the children to Bethel and built many memories on campus. They visited for homecoming and attended football games. The children fondly remember visiting the Monson Dining Center for the first time, and Dan once led them to a spot where he—in his more mischievous days as a student—snuck into the Bethel Library after hours through a ceiling panel. The children also built relationships with their “Bethel cousins”—the children of Dan and Jennifer’s longtime Bethel friends. “There was a fondness, a closeness to Bethel because of that,” Dan says.

Today, all four Goetzman children—Ike, Anna ’20, Abigail ’21, and Julia ’22—are attending Bethel University. “For us as parents, having our four kids here is really a dream come true,” Jennifer says.

The Goetzmans and family friends

Growing up, the Goetzman children—Ike ’19, Anna ’20, Abigail ’21, and Julia ’22—built relationships with their “Bethel cousins”—the children of Dan and Jennifer’s longtime Bethel friends Jim ’90 and Kirstin Bengtson ’92, Brian ’87 and Kelly Marquardt ’91, and Mike ’85 and Cheryl Fregeau ’83.

'A Close Time for Our Family' 

The Goetzmans knew Ike needed another heart surgery to repair his pulmonary valve, but they didn’t expect it to happen during his Bethel years. He was able to play baseball his first year and even added a second major so he could stay and play baseball for the full four years after entering Bethel with college credit earned in high school. But doctors found Ike required the surgery by his sophomore year in March 2017. Though an open heart surgery, the family viewed Ike’s operation as common.

During the procedure, doctors connected Ike to a bypass machine through his leg instead of his heart due to stress on his heart. As doctors continued work on his heart, they noticed they were using a large amount of blood. They discovered Ike’s femoral artery had torn from the bypass machine, causing blood to pool in his abdomen. A trauma surgeon was called as the team rushed to repair the tear, and Ike went for almost four minutes without blood or oxygen to his brain. Before the surgery, Dan and his friend from Bethel Brian Marquardt each gave a double red blood donation to Memorial Blood Bank, thinking Ike would need one to two units of blood during his surgery. He ended up receiving more than 60, Dan says.

Ike survived the surgery but remained in critical condition. The family spent seven days at the hospital. During that time, they relied on their faith. Dan vividly remembers his daughters keeping vigil around Ike’s bedside, taking turns reading scripture and praying. Sometimes Ike’s nurses would join in. “It was a close time for our family,” Dan says.

After seven days, doctors lowered Ike’s sedation to see if he’d respond. The neurologist had cautioned them about possible brain damage—from short-term memory loss to something permanent. When Ike awoke, he was unable to speak because he was still connected to a respirator, but he began using sign language with the doctors, which he’d taught himself as a teen. To his neurologist, his use of cognitive and motor skills was a sign that Ike’s condition was far better than expected.

The Goetzmans

Dan ’89 and Jennifer Goetzman ’91 maintained close ties to Bethel after graduating and frequently visited campus with their children—Anna ’20, Ike’19, Julia ’22, and Abigail ’21—for football games and events.

Throughout Ike’s ordeal, the family received support from the Bethel community. Along with the photo and prayers from the baseball team, the family set up an email thread, and Ike received several messages from professors, classmates, and teammates. Many also visited him in the hospital. “It felt good to have that family support, and it really came from not just the people here at Bethel but alumni,” Jennifer says. “It just carries through your life, the relationships that you make here.”

Ike’s health improved, and after two weeks in the hospital, he was released. He returned part-time to classes at Bethel while living with his parents and receiving treatment from an in-home nurse. Unable to carry more than 5 pounds, friends carried Ike’s books to the physics department each day. Ike was encouraged by the help he received from the Bethel community. “There’s a high percentage of high-quality people here,” he says.

Ike may need further heart procedures, but the family anticipates them to be less invasive. Looking back, Dan says the experience brought the family closer. “Someday when the Lord takes me home, the first thing I’m doing is going to get face-to-face with the Lord and tell Him thanks for keeping our family together,” Dan says.

Back At Bethel

Despite Ike’s graduation in spring, he and his sisters are all returning to Bethel for the 2019-20 school year. After earning a physics degree, Ike is finishing a mathematics and data science degree. He’ll also earn a computer science minor and work as a freshman resident assistant. All the Goetzman children came to Bethel with college credit earned in high school and the potential to graduate early, but Dan and Jennifer have encouraged them to stay all four years at Bethel for the college experience.

And like Ike, his sisters are also exploring multiple areas of interest. Anna, an elementary education K-6 major, is also minoring in business, STEM, and Spanish. She’s also highly involved in Welcome Week. Abigail started as a music major and added neuroscience after encouragement from staff and faculty. “I think part of that is just us, but Bethel does a great job with fostering that curiosity,” says Abigail who is also minoring in biology and psychology. Julia, a nursing major, is continuing as a sophomore after attending Bethel as a PSEO student in 2019.

Abigail appreciates that Bethel offers opportunities for students to explore their interests. “People can find something that they’re passionate about and they can find and form a community around that,” she says. Anna agrees: “They’re very inviting, encouraging.”

Julia, for example, talked to a friend about Bethel’s track team—even though she never competed in high school—and joined Bethel’s team for the community atmosphere. “The team was so awesome and welcoming,” Julia says. “It was the best thing that happened—the best spontaneous decision I made.”

The four Goetzman siblings remain close. They plan at least one meal together each week, they often gather for movie and game nights, and they played on a broomball team together. They lost in the championship game last season and hope to win the title next season.

Ike says many great memories come from spontaneous gatherings at the family-owned Dairy Queen. Dan, who worked for Youth for Christ and then in pharmaceutical sales, later led the family into the ice cream business. He and Jennifer now own multiple Dairy Queen locations, including the one along Lake Josephine in Roseville just three miles from Bethel’s campus.

Along with many deals for Bethel students at Lake Josephine Dairy Queen, all four Goetzman kids have a key and security code for the local shop, and they frequently take Bethel friends or their Shift groups to the shop, often for afterhours ice cream. “There’s a lot of Bethel kids who know how to make their favorite Blizzard,” Dan admits with a laugh. “With extra toppings.”

The Goetzmans

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