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McPherson College Religious Heritage Lecturer Has Served Globally for Decades


Religious Heritage lecturer J. Roger Schrock at McPherson College on Nov. 8.

The Religious Heritage lecturer at McPherson College on Nov. 8 – J. Roger Schrock – will challenge both the campus and the broader McPherson community to more deeply consider the values of “Scholarship, Participation, and Service,” in their everyday lives.

“I think it can be nuanced in various ways that make it much richer, broader and fuller,” Schrock said said.

The college is pleased to welcome Schrock to present his lecture – “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” – at 4 p.m. in the McPherson Church of the Brethren at 200 N. Carrie St. in McPherson, Kan.

Schrock is a 1967 MC alumnus with a degree in philosophy and religion and has spent most of his decades-long career in Christian ministry for the Church of the Brethren and in health and human services. Much of his work was on the other side of the globe in the Eastern Hemisphere – including Nigeria and Sudan in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Schrock plans to begin his lecture speaking about the long tradition of MC alumni working and serving outside of the United States – beginning with 1908, which was the earliest instance he could find of an MC alumnus working abroad. After his overview of prominent MC alumni who have worked abroad, he will then talk about the lessons he has learned in his own life while working and serving overseas and how they can lead to a deeper understanding of the college’s mission.

Schrock’s first job after earning a second degree from National Lewis University in Evanston, Ill., was to serve as a teacher at Waka Schools in Biu, Nigeria, from 1967 to 1970. He taught Christian religious knowledge, history and geography. Then from 1971 to 1976, he served as the medical director for the Lafiya Program of Lardin Gabas, Nigera, which included overseeing two hospitals, a leprosarium and dispensaries that served about 150,000 people. The World Health Organization recognized the program as one of three viable systems for delivering health care in Africa.

Back in the West, Schrock worked on his parents’ farm in Minnesota, then served as the pastor of the Lewiston Church of the Brethren in Minnesota until 1980. Then Ministry abroad called to him again, and until 1984, he was program director of the Western Nuer Primary Health Care Program in Sudan. This program focused on rural development – including human and animal health, water resources, and food – for about 200,000 people over 200,000 square miles around the Upper Nile River.

Late in 1984 he became the Africa Secretary for the World Ministry Commission of the Church of the Brethren, managing personnel and programs in Nigeria and Sudan. Then he served as the secretary for the commission and the associate general secretary for the church until 1990. In this role, he managed the mission, peace and service work of the church across five continents. Until 1995, he worked to organize the council of churches in the war zone of Southern Sudan as the executive secretary for the New Sudan Council of Churches. He was as director of personnel and programs in the Middle East and South Asia for the Reformed Church in America until 2000. Finally, Schrock served as the pastor of the Cabool Church of the Brethren in Cabool, Mo., until his retirement in 2015.

Schrock said that in terms of “Scholarship,” he has found that learning is about more than the classroom.

“When we traditionally think of ‘Scholarship,’ we’re thinking of academia and research,” he said. “I’m going to suggest that scholarship has to take on additional aspects.”

He advocated for thinking broader than traditional scholarship and to think of people as being expert scholars in terms of studying spirit and community as well.

Under “Participation,” Schrock said people should go beyond the individualistic, “Just Do It” mentality of personal achievement and view the mission more in terms of relationships and community connections. In particular, he will challenge his audience to build global community not only by learning new languages, but also the skills of language acquisition – that is, how to go about learning any new language.

Finally, under “Service,” Schrock plans to challenge listeners to examine their personal motivations and make sure that they are helping others for the right reasons.

“Service should be based on compassion,” he said, “on what is best for the person you are serving.”

As part of this, Schrock encourages people to avoid falling into “toxic service” – that is, helping people in a way that makes them dependent on aid instead of giving people the skills and resources to become self-sufficient. In the states, this is often known as “giving a man a fish” versus “teaching a man to fish,” but in Nigeria where Schrock worked much of his life, the saying goes slightly differently, he said.

“You’re always welcome to come and eat at the table,” he said. “But the second day, we’ll give you the hoe.”

The public is invited and encouraged to attend this free lecture. A webcast will also be made available at