Oakwood’s main dude looks back on legacy

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Community at Bethel College will never be the same when Josh Hartsell steps down as resident director of Oakwood-Slater Hall at the end of the school year. Like David Slater and Bill Bemis before him, Hartsell has left an impact on hundreds of students and staff. His legacy at Oakwood-Slater Hall won’t be soon forgotten.

Coming to the end of Dude Week and looking ahead to Babe Week, Hartsell gives us the inside scoop on how the annual week in the school year has impacted his life.

Hartsell (back middle) learned from his own RD and mentor Bill Bemis (front middle).
What does he love most about Dude Week? “I think what I love the most is just the fact that it takes a whole dorm of guys and puts them outside of what they’re used to,” he said. “When you do that, you get the best of communal life. I feel like it’s that turning point in the year where you just go from enjoying living together to developing deeper, truer friendships. It’s a way you can intentionally draw the dorm into greater depth and for the rest of the year we get to enjoy the fruits from that…” Hartsell helped start the Dude Week event for Oakwood residents during his senior year at Bethel College, and from there, the event expanded to all male residents campus-wide. The week has not only helped male residents build relationships with one another, but has also helped Hartsell build relationships with the students. “It’s always a bonding time for the relationships I have with students that are here or with the RA’s,” he stated, “It’s community building, relationships, tough conversations, easy conversations, interacting with the guys that you’ve spent the whole year getting to know, teamwork and creativity; all of those things come together during Dude Week…You tend to find that when you go through a whole week of sleeping less and serving the dorm, you’re closer by the end of it…” Someone else will have to pick up the reins to the event, as Hartsell will be finding a new calling. He has been a part of Bethel’s residential life for a decade, which exceeds the nationwide average of three years. He never had an endgame in mind because the resident director position suited him. “When people would ask me, ‘How long do you think you’ll be here?’ I never really had a good answer,” he said. “It was always just like, ‘I think I’ll know when it’s time to leave,’” Hartsell says that he takes each summer to evaluate his passion and effectiveness in his position. “While I still feel like I’m effective and passionate about it, (there was) this sense that the Lord was saying, ‘Okay, it’s time to move forward,’” he went on. “It’s more about trying to be obedient and that the Lord’s got something new for me.” Before Hartsell started applying for colleges years ago, he never intended on coming to Bethel. His sister was once a Bethel student and his father was a pastor. He described his journey as the typical student story, starting with, “I don’t want to be here.” During his junior year of high school, he says the Lord called him into youth ministry and Bethel was the obvious choice for that field. When Hartsell was getting ready to graduate, he was considering getting a job as a youth pastor, but decided on staying at Bethel as a part of the Study Abroad Office and the residential life team because they didn’t have much help. When the current resident director at the time, Bill Bemis, moved on from his position, Hartsell transitioned into his role. Hartsell flourished in the role and decided to stay on for a while. At 32 years old, Hartsell has been a part of the Bethel College community for 14 years. He talked about the friendships he has made through fun and difficult times while at Bethel. He has not only developed relationships with the residential life staff, but also resident assistants and freshman residents over the years. “I was talking with one of the RD’s yesterday about the number of RA’s I still keep in touch with (and am) still close with,” he stated. “I think it’s the relationships, it’s the people in our life, that define most of who we are and what matters to us. Hartsell says that over his time at Bethel, he’s gotten to know at least 800 Oakwood residents. Hartsell has a few ideas of what he thinks he’ll do after Bethel residential life, but he said nothing is definite at this stage. He will continue to be Oakwood’s resident director until May, when the school year concludes. “It was the same way when I was graduating (college),” he said. “You step out and say, ‘Okay, Lord. I know I’ve been following your voice up until this point.’ It’s a matter of being faithful, trusting that what’s next He has it figured out and being obedient when it comes up. It’s reassuring, scary, but in an exciting way. We’ll see.” Hartsell hopes his legacy will be remembered by the thoughtfulness and intentionality of his leaders and himself to a part of the body in Christ. He alluded to Acts 4:13, which states, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” “In the passage, people are watching the disciples interact after Jesus has moved on,” he said, “It was that idea where there was such a depth in relationship…how they interacted with each other and the Lord, other people saw that visibly in them.” (Photo Credit: Bethel College website and Bethel Magazine
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