Hans and Courtney Shenk

In Stories by Admin

Hans and Courtney Shenk are not your average couple. Their combined height varies three inches from the U.S. average, and while it is not so easily measured, their energy levels seem unusually high. They have also fallen from a great height—10,000 feet to be exact—when they joined the 3% of Americans who have experienced the rush of a parachute jump. And they have the pictures to prove it!

Courtney is the assistant director of SEND Ministries at Rosedale Mennonite Missions and Hans is the director of enrollment services for Rosedale Bible College. The couple has been attending Shiloh for about a year now. At first they tended to sit toward the back on the left side, but more recently they and eight-month-old Adrian have been drifting forward and to the right. Hmmm. This shift was not discussed in the interview for this article, so we don’t know the reasons for it. Do you know why you tend to sit where you do at Shiloh?

Courtney grew up in Hutchinson, Kansas, the second of four siblings born to Tim and Jeannie Miller. (Tim and Jeannie would be the smartly attired mature couple who occasionally come to church with Courtney and Hans, hogging Adrian and looking pleased about doing so.) She graduated as valedictorian of Haven High School, capping twelve years of fun, sometimes stressful, learning in public schools. She says she early on developed a pattern of challenging herself to do things: successfully writing poetry and prose, singing solos, doing improv theater, and debating. Don’t expect her to play the clarinet for you, however. She gave that up after one unrewarding year in the band.

Although he grew up in this area, Hans was born in Red Lake, Ontario when his parents, John and Rosy, were doing missionary service there. He is the third of nine siblings and points out that, in contrast to Courtney, he graduated at the bottom of his high school class. This is easily confirmed, though since he graduated from home school, Courtney is quick to point out that he was also at the top! Rumor has it that Hans was not induced to learn reading until his sister, younger by eighteen months, had begun reading. In his somewhat ironic description, this is an instance of the “bitter competition” he and Lara kept up throughout their childhood, though it doesn’t appear to have damaged either of them nor their relationship with each other.

In real contrast to Courtney, Hans had a longer-running experimentation with musical instruments. Early on, he and Lara recorded themselves playing a toy guitar as the self-styled Creators Band. As a teenager, he played electric guitar a fair bit, though it was difficult at that time to find other youth from his church who were permitted to practice along with him. Electric guitar was only one of multiple interests, including art and soccer, he remembers not being shared by his peers. These differences made him conscious early on that he and his family were something of an anomaly in their environment, and contributed to a feeling of being not quite assimilated, of often being “a fish out of water.”

Hans claims he was a conscientious boy, but that he often got into trouble for things that didn’t occur to him were not good. In fact, he and his older brother Daniel (who, with his wife Emily and son Theo, also attend Shiloh) would be aghast when their sisters, now and then, “may have politicized the truth.” Nevertheless, he remembers that he “fought a lot” with Val Yutzy, the teacher of the teen boys’ Sunday School class, and also that on one visit to a Beachy Amish church in Kansas, he “created a small mob of angry Beachy kids” who chased him around the churchyard. When one of his incensed pursuers tried to follow him into the family van, it was none other than Lara who saved him from mild assault by delivering her own punch to the would-be attacker!

So while the mob incident may have illustrated some youthful abrasiveness, Hans thinks that his challenges to his Sunday School teacher resulted not from a desire to be combative, but from a “seething undercurrent of doubt and uncertainty” about the faith he had professed in prayer as a four-year-old and formalized with baptism and church membership at the age of thirteen. He had a lot of good experiences with faith in his teen years, and took his walk with Christ seriously, but his own temperament and an early experience of being outmatched in argument by atheists led him to seek proof for the claims of Christianity. He has found that his studies at Rosedale Bible College and at the Ohio State University (BA in Philosophy) have given him increased confidence in facing his own questions and the challenges of others.

While the visiting Hans was antagonizing her Beachy neighbors, Courtney was growing up at Plainview Mennonite Church and finding that even her public school environment felt spiritual because most of her teachers would have considered themselves Christian. She went to Bible Memory Camp in the summers and generally looks back on a childhood that was “very nurturing.” It seems to her that God has just always been a part of her life.

Courtney was around age eleven and in the fifth grade when she was baptized and became a member of the church, as did the rest of the youth in her congregation who completed a special instruction class. It was an act of sincere faith, even as it followed the expected path for young people her age. In short, “it did its job”! The next stage she remembers in her spiritual development was stimulated by a kickball game in eighth-grade gym class. The teacher made a call that so upset her it shocked her into the realization that she needed God to do some work in her character. She looks back on that experience as the moment when she first began taking charge of her own relationship with God.

Following high school, both Courtney and Hans participated in REACH (Hans to Nepal, Courtney to Madagascar and South Africa) and attended Rosedale Bible College (both earned a degree), though in reverse order from each other. It was while Courtney was an intern for Rosedale Mennonite Missions that she met the RBC student Hans Shenk. She recalls that his (unsuccessful) attempt to persuade her to go with a group to buy shakes and smoothies was so powerful she was left wondering what had just happened!

The next year they were both in REACH and got to know each other a bit better. After REACH, when Hans was working to deepen the relationship, Courtney was “in a state of denial” and sent signals that discouraged further pursuit. Then, just as Hans was rethinking his interest, a conversation with her mother helped Courtney see that she wanted the relationship after all. By the time Hans left for his five-month trip to South America in 2013, the pair was secretly engaged. Marriage followed on December 28, 2013.

Shiloh is the second congregation pastored by Preston Yoder that the Shenks have attended. The transition to Shiloh was slightly awkward because they had been heavily involved in leadership with the Yoder’s at Cornerstone and did not want to complicate anything in the new setting for Preston and Liz. But they have found a lot to like at Shiloh, including the sense of community, the dynamic of working with long-term members and newcomers alike, and the intentionality about growing and being of service to others.

Welcome to our congregation, Hans and Courtney! You bring a lot of commitment, energy, and ability with you. May you flourish among us.