End of an era: Susannah Robinson retires from Bible Release program

June 2017 Posted in Community

By Nancy JenningsIMG_4660 (2)

For 40 years, Susannah Robinson has laid solid foundations of faith for more than 300 children through the Silver Crest School Bible Release Time Program. Inside of the quaint Chapel on the Hill Church in the Silverton hills, students from kindergarten through sixth grade have learned about the Bible through fun fellowship. Dropped off from a school bus and picked up by their parents, the children meet every Tuesday for one hour each week.

There are three requirements that need to be fulfilled before taking part in the faith-based program: Parental permission must be given, instruction must take place off school grounds and no state resources may be used.

Now Robinson is retiring. June 6 will be her last day.

“I think I will be sad because I love children,” she said. “I will keep on praying for the program. I feel so blessed that I could do this during these past 40 years.”

An “Appreciation Open House” in her honor will be held on Saturday, June 17, at the church. Director Roxanne McQuain, who teaches third and fourth graders, has known Robinson for 25 years. She hopes past students will hear about her upcoming retirement – and find a way to take part in the celebration.

“She’s very dedicated and faithful, and the kids love her. She shares the Word of God in a way they could understand and relate to. When she said she was going to retire, I said ‘No,’” McQuain joked. “But then I said ‘Yes.’” Janet Maulding will be her replacement when the program resumes in September.

Born in Lydenburg, South Africa, Robinson, 75, said she has deep family roots there spanning about “300 years.” Her sister and brother still live there. She attended the University of Pretoria in South Africa’s capitol and earned a B.A. degree in teaching. She met her American husband, Kenneth, 82, on a blind date in 1964 during her first year of teaching.

She taught the Afrikaans language (which grew out of the Dutch language), and English as a Second Language (ESL).

The Robinsons married in 1965, had two children and moved to Silverton in 1972.

“We were looking for a Christian Reform Church in Salem. We talked to several teachers and they told us ‘if you want a good country school for your children, pick Silver Crest.’” She became a U.S. citizen in 1978.

The couple managed their family-run Christmas tree farm in the Silverton hills for 37 years, naming it “Kaya Entabeni,” which means “home on the mountain” in Zulu. “For two years in a row, we were able to provide a tree to the capitol building in Salem. They cut it on the farm and transported it. We were there for the opening ceremony. It was a fun time,” she said.

Their daughter, Elmarie, and son-in-law have been missionaries in Beirut, Lebanon, for the past four years. Their son, Stephen, lives in Silverton with his 14-year-old son, Blake. Like his father before him, Blake will graduate from Silver Crest School this month. Robinson beams with pride that she could teach her own grandson from Kindergarten through fifth grade.

She said there are many pluses to teaching children at a young age. “We lay the foundation, and if they have that they can always go back to the Bible. We teach them the basic stories so they can follow them through their lives and make their own decisions on what they want to believe. They learn ‘If we want to pray, He’s going to listen to us.’ If our children can have that – they are going to remember those lessons,” she said.

Former Student Jessica Mageske has two sons – Caleb and Mason – attending the program. “I have many great memories of Susannah. She would come round us up from lunch recess so she could share and teach us the Word of the Bible,” she said.

Bryan Rutschman, has been volunteering at the program off and on for four years.

“I lead the music, and teach fifth through eighth grade. I’m very excited for her. It’s very sad that she’s leaving, but I’m also excited because it’s a passing of the torch. I work with the Christian Renewal Center and we always have people work at Bible Release,” he said.

The community is welcome to attend the Appreciation Open House, and encouraged to bring snacks to share. For information, call McQuain, 503-873-7169.

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