Testimony Corner: Dean Bruckner, Class of 1981

My year at Word of Life Bible Institute was one of the best three years of my life.

As a 17-year-old believer in Christ, I sensed a calling to the secular world as an engineer, military officer, or both. I asked God for wisdom. Our family friends David and Billy Giles (Class of 1978 and 1979, respectively) strongly recommended my brother Lee and I attend the Bible Institute. So we did, along with their sister, Victoria.

The three of us arrived in mid-September 1980 to picture-perfect chalets, hard benches, and the daily Quiet Time diary — the Word of Life experience. Thirty guys push-starting our 18-wheeler in Canada on Collegians winter tour, a missions conference that a hundred of us missed with the flu in the days before vaccinations, watching Dean of Men Ray Namie doing doughnuts in his van — with his family inside — on the frozen lake, and a two-week trip to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt all are indelibly stamped in my memory. But even more than those memories were the lifelong imprints made by the Word of God on the deepest part of who I am.

Life. The Word. That’s what Word of Life is all about. From where I stand, a more coherent, practical, comprehensive one-year presentation of the Bible, integrated into preparation for life, does not exist. For me, it came at exactly the right time, and it equipped me for all that was to come.

Since then, I’ve sailed the coasts of North America, from Nova Scotia to the Panama Canal, to Alaska’s farthest Aleutian Islands, and to the Arctic Circle. I’ve been to 20 foreign countries and studied five languages. I’ve lived a year abroad, earned a Ph.D in electrical engineering, and became a licensed professional engineer. I was the lead system integrator for flight tests of the GPS and inertial navigation systems of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. I got married and have three school-age children, served in eight churches and military chapels, and now teach industrial and systems engineering at Ohio University.

What does all this amount to? Absolutely nothing, in light of eternity, except what was done for Christ and His kingdom. That is the debt I owe to Word of Life. In that year, my spiritual navigation instruments and library of life charts were fitted for the long haul. If God’s hand has held my life on course during everything that’s followed, if He’s used it to touch others, if He and His Word are better known and loved in my wake, it will be due in great measure to what I received in the spiritual “shipyard” on the shores of Schroon Lake.

What amazes me is that it was such fun, too. It truly was one of the three most joyful years of my life, along with my honeymoon year of marriage and my year as a young commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard radio station near Istanbul, Turkey.

The Turks have a saying: “A tree can be shaped when it’s young.” That was Word of Life to me.

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