Fishing for a lifetime
Bob Schneider, a 1980 graduate of McCook High School and an entrepreneur who loved working as a mechanic and operated a transmission shop out of one of his dad's buildings in high school, has gone fishing.
It's been a long trip. Abandoning his fledgling career as a transmission mechanic for AAMCO he entered full time Christian ministry.
He attended Bible College in Grand Rapids, Mich. and served as a pastoral intern in Chicago, Ill., for one year before embarking on an 11-year fishing trip in Spain.
"I knew I wanted to be in full time ministry. I knew I wanted to be involved with people," Bob explained. Spain seemed the perfect place for his entry into missions. His wife, Karon, had lived in Spain with her missionary parents since she was five years old, and was fluent in Spanish.
The family left Spain in 2002 and took up fishing in Puerto Rico, a veritable paradise.
"We are 10 minutes from the beach and the El-Yunque rainforest is our back yard" he explained. Bob, the son of Delores and Paul Schneider of McCook, and Karon, have three children, Elyssa, 18, Daniel, 14, and Jonathan, 10.
"I am not a preacher, or even a traditional pastor," he explained. Working under the auspices of Biblical Ministries Worldwide, he is involved in starting churches in Luquillo, Puerto Rico. Part of that involves having a Bible Institute in each church. He focuses on evangelism, discipleship and leadership training. As believers mature in faith, the focus turns to pastoral ministry.
"It is more beneficial to train up a pastor (rather than relying on the more common "calling of a pastor") from within the congregation," Bob explained. That way the pastor shares the same vision for the church as the members, because they have enjoyed the intimacy of fellowship all along.
Puerto Rico has a lot of "Christianity" according to Schneider, but it is a largely untaught faith. Traditions and rules define the faith rather than a knowledge of the Scripture and a deeper understanding of who God is, what Christ did, and how to grow in grace and knowledge.
Schneider compared Christian churches today, both in Puerto Rico and the United States, to the swing of a pendulum. On one side, there is legalism. A list of don'ts. Don't look, don't touch, don't think. Don't, don't don't, don't, don't.
On the other side you can have it all, do it all, be it all, all at no charge. An abuse of grace, he says and an affront to a holy God.
The truth is somewhere in the middle, Bob said, and is contained in the Word of God.
"The Bible is pretty straightforward. Go, look, find the answers," he continued.
Encountering a new neighbor in Puerto Rico, he baited his hook, ever so gently, allowing that any other approach will turn people -- not only from him -- but ultimately, from God. Eventually, this occasional neighbor came to a saving knowledge of Jesus, and although he lives most of the year in New York, the two continue to study the Bible together.
"He has taught me the Book of Acts," Bob explained. "And Romans, Ezekiel, and more." Early Sunday mornings are spent on the telephone, the men searching the truth in the Scripture together.
The work in Puerto Rico has been very gratifying. Because it is a territory of the United States, the currency is the U.S. dollar and U.S. citizens do not need a visa or passport to visit. Approximately 30 percent of the population speaks English and more understand it. The Spanish the Schneiders mastered in Spain covers the gap.
The congregation, numbering about 30, meets in the Schneider's garage in Luquillo.
Bob is still fishing. Over the next few weeks, he'll be fishing at his ol' fishing hole right here in McCook and the surrounding area, engaging people in gentle conversations about heaven, all in keeping with the centuries old promise, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)
For more information about Biblical Ministries Worldwide, go online to www.biblicalministries.org