While hiking the Himalayans in Napal, after stumbling upon a lodge run by a peculiar fellow with a six-inch beard, Harley Schreck asked a question that changed his entire life. “How do you get a job like this?”
The peculiar man’s answer was simple. Become an anthropologist. Harley, having no idea what that entailed, thought it sounded interesting since he had become fascinated with the culture surrounding him.
Harley took a long route to end up where he is today. His love for mathematics soon dissipated after he left his hometown in Montana, found God, and joined the Navy. Being stationed in Hawaii and having the privilege to travel to Southeast Asia became experiences unlike any he had ever had.
By familiarizing himself with the rest of the world, he fell in love with culture. In the spare time he had, he couldn’t restrain himself from picking up a book that illustrated the beauty of the world around him.
Roy, a Japanese man living with his Filipino wife, played an important role in shifting something deep inside Harley’s heart and mind. A simple outing that was so natural for Roy and so unnatural for Harley is a moment he will never forget, when the two went out one evening to gather up some appetizing seaweed for dinner. It just seemed odd to Harley that someone would go out and pick up fresh seaweed for dinner instead of picking up food from a super market. This was but one moment that lead Harley on the path he so eagerly follows to this day. Roy was a very influential man in Harley’s life and owes so much to the man who challenged the way he interprets every day life.
Harley began to observe more of the multi-cultural church worship in the places he traveled. With a burning desire to learn more about anthropology that he developed by meeting people like Roy, he left the Navy in 1974 and enrolled in graduate school to receive his masters in both mathematics and anthropology.
While in school, not that he had negative feelings towards his professors in graduate school, Harley took what he learned as an inspiring moment to excel as something more. He remembers sitting in class listening to the professors tell him that you should “never let the bastards know you don’t know something.” This wasn’t too inspiring of a moment for Harley and got him to think about education in a new way.
Realizing that there were ways to negatively affect one’s learning environment, Harley sought out to become someone who did the opposite. That is, to influence people in the most positive way he knew how… through the love of Christ Jesus.
Getting his masters and his PhD, he went to work for an organization known as World Vision. This is a Christian organization based off mission work where he was able to see those that were suffering and deprived and was able to work to make a difference and offer the simple act of love. During this specific calling in life, he was able to travel more then he ever dreamed, having the opportunity to meet third world people and experience a life other than his own.
This, however, took a heavy toll on his family life something which he values more than anything in the world. By working with World Vision, he was traveling 50% of the time. This meant that 50% of his time was spent away from his family.
During one of his travels with World Vision in Mexico City, Harley met Paul Wicbe. Paul was a sociologist who was spending his time doing evaluation and reconstruction work in Mexico. He had spent some of his time at a Christian University known as Bethel in St. Paul, MN.
This piece of information intrigued Harley into wanting to know more about this so called Bethel University because he wanted to continue this line of work somehow without the constant travels, but just didn’t know how that was possible. After having numerous conversations with Paul, Harley contacted the school after hearing by the grace of God that they were looking for an Anthropologist.
Immediately after having an interview and touring the campus, Harley was “struck by the Bethel environment.” He was completely drawn in by the friendships he saw among students and faculty members. Receiving the title of Dr. Harley Schreck, Professor of Anthropology at Bethel University, he finally found his calling in life.
According to Harley, the greatest joy he gets from this profession is the ability to “integrate faith and knowledge.” The Bethel community provides a warm atmosphere for him that continues to fascinate him every day.
Of course there are certain drawbacks for being a professor at a University in the heart of Minnesota. One being the lack of mountains and secondly, the certain inability to do cross-cultural research.
But there is a certain aspect in Harley’s lifestyle that makes many other professors jealous. He has the privilege to spend what students and faculty label as ‘J-Term’ at Bethel, the month of January studying abroad in locations across the world with students.
Having this opportunity gives Harley the chance to continue his love for cross-cultural work, maintaining the friendships he created over the years of travel. Instead of constantly being on the move, this also allowed Harley to spend more time at home with the family.
One of his students who traveled to Amsterdam, Bryan Adams, said, “He gets to share his joy in experiencing the world with his students, by being excited about the places we visit and the people we meet. He is a very culturally connected person.” Students continue to pack out the study-abroad courses every January, providing both themselves and Harley a chance to create a memory that will last a lifetime.
Though the present will never cause Harley Schreck to forget the past, where he spent glorious hours hiking volcanoes in New Zealand, or the work he did with the generous Quichua people in Ecuador, he has found his love to be in the very surroundings of Minnesota and the Christian people who surround him everyday of his life.