|Susan Ruth Schillerberg was born and raised on a dairy farm in the rolling hills of western Iowa. She
was the 4th of 5 girls; they have one brother. Though all the family has now spread to the four
horizons, Susie has definitely gone "the farthest," having lived on three continents now as a missionary
Early in her life Susan learned that life can be tragic; her father suffered two major farming machine
accidents that nearly killed him, and left him severely handicapped. For years her mother tried to hold
the family of 8 together and manage the farm. But wisdom eventually decreed that they find a line of
business other than farming. When Susan was a junior in high school, her parents bought a motel in a
town a few miles from where Susan had grown up, and she finished high school in 1967 about 20
miles from where she'd started school.
Like all of her sisters, Susan went to college. Her choice was Iowa State University, where young
men outnumbered the women students 8 to 1 ! Needless to say, she had an active social life, with the
phone ringing off the hook pretty constantly, guys asking for dates. Susan also devoted herself to
social responsibilities too, however, acting as state President of the Lutheran Youth Association for the
state of Iowa. Though her parents had assured her of a solid Lutheran theological foundation in her
childhood and youth, and she had gone through confirmation classes in adolescence, she felt she did
not know God personally until, during her freshman year of college, she came to find a personal
relationship with Jesus Christ by way of her reading through the entire Bible.
During the summers she supported herself and saved for the following semesters' tuition by
waitressing in resorts, first in Wisconsin, then Atlantic City, New Jersey. In the latter place, she soon
found herself associated with a team of people from the Campus Crusade organization who had
deliberately taken jobs in Atlantic City to do beach evangelism in their off hours. She began to grow in
her Christian life as she discovered her spiritual gifts, specifically the gift of evangelism.
Other summers Susan worked with young people as a camp counselor, roughing it in the northeast
woods with adolescents girls, building their own teepees to shelter in, canoeing down rapid rivers,
building a campfire to cook on in the cold rain . . . .
During her senior year at Iowa State University, Susan chose to live in the dorm where all the
international students lived. It was a portend of things to come.
After college Susan went to live in Talahassee, Florida. She got a job teaching in the state mental
hospital, where she prepared adults for transition to living "on the outside." After three years, the
stress of the job seemed more than the job was worth, and she found work instead with state
government, specifically, with the metrics council. During this time of her life she attended a Baptist
Far more significant, however, was the influence of the Navigators on Susie during these five years of
her life. Cliff and Judy Fenlasson not only discipled Susan in the inimicable Navigators' methodology,
but they challenged her to consider whether God might want her to be a missionary. This was a new
thought, as Susan had never in her life thought of being a missionary.
But as she reflected on how many times she had naturally been drawn to Afro-American society, or to
international students, she wondered whether it might not actually be so. She prayed together with the
Fenlassons and other Navigator friends and, as an active member of a local Christian & Missionary
Alliance church, began to sense that overseas missionary work was indeed a real possibility.
Susan looked at several seminaries, and chose Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York, as
she had come to recognize many of her own personal theological convictions in the doctrines and
practices of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. She enrolled in the three year Master of Divinity
program in the fall of 1978.