Friends and family gathered November 7, 2023, on the grounds of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary to honor Henry and Elvera Schmidt.
The event was a dedication—or rededication—of a tree planted first in honor of Henry Schmidt following his death in 2011, and now also in honor of his wife, Elvera, after her passing in April of this year. Laura Schmidt Roberts, Ph.D., professor of biblical and theological studies at Fresno Pacific University, of which the seminary is now a part, represented the family, including sister Debra Brady, who was present.
“When they married, Henry and Elvera Schmidt committed themselves to a life of Christian service as well as to each other,” Schmidt Roberts said. “Our mother liked to tell the story of our father’s proposal to her—would she join him as a partner in life and in a life of Christian service. She said ‘yes’ to both without hesitation.”
The longest and most beloved of their many service assignments was the seminary—then Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary—where Henry was a faculty member and president, and in the surrounding community, where Elvera taught kindergarten at the nearby Lane Elementary School, Schmidt Roberts said.
A tree is a fitting symbol of the seasons of her parents’ faithful, shared service to God through teaching and preaching, leadership and mentoring, hospitality and friendship, in good times and times of challenge, she added. “As a family, we are grateful for the way this ceremony and action today honor our parents—as persons, as partners and as part of this community’s rich history.”
Other speakers included Cynthia McGrady, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the marriage and family therapy program; Mark Baker, Ph.D., professor of mission and theology and holder of the J.B. Toews chair; Lynn Jost, Ph.D., professor of Old Testament and former seminary president; Tim Geddert, Ph.D., emeritus professor of New Testament and interim seminary president; and DJ Criner, seminary student and pastor of St. Rest’s Baptist Church, Fresno. A meal followed the program.
Henry and Elvera Schmidt
Henry Schmidt and Elvera (Langemann) Schmidt married August 27, 1960, and had two children, Debra and Laura, during their 51-year union.
Henry Schmidt (Seminary, ’72, BA ’70), Ph.D., served as sixth president of Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary from 1993-2003, after 34 years as a faculty member. He held the J.B. Toews Chair of Mission and Evangelism and directed the Center for Training in Mission and Evangelism. He was also the executive director of evangelism and conference evangelist of the United States Mennonite Brethren Conference, pastored churches in South Dakota and California and served as U.S. Mennonite Brethren Conference evangelist and moderator.
Elvera (Langemann) Schmidt (Seminary '00, BA '70) was a prominent leader in her own right. While supporting Henry’s work, she also pursued her own 30-year ministry as a teacher in a low-income school in Fresno Unified School District and through various activities in North Fresno Mennonite Brethren Church. Henry and Elvera were recognized by the U.S. Conference Leadership Board for contributions over more than four decades. Their heart for people resulted in friendships from North America to Europe, Indonesia, South America, Mexico and Africa.
PHOTO: Tim Geddert speaks during the tree rededication. Debra and Laura, daughters of Henry and Elvera Schmidt, sit fourth and fifth, respectively from left in the front row.