“When the Kliewers get together, it is not just a simple family gathering; it’s a huge party,” sister-in-law Renee Kliewer says. “Activities, treasure hunts, volleyball games.…”
“For a full week,” Shelly Loewen interjects as her sister Rhonda Gossett chimes in with more activities: “Fireworks, picnics.…”
Renee continues: “(Nancy) sends out a list of all the activities. She figures out the menus and what we’re all supposed to bring.”
“Nancy’s our party planner,” Shelly says, smiling, while Rhonda adds: “There are benefits to having a secretary in the family.”
But the Kliewers don’t have just one secretary in the family; they have four. Nancy Fast works at Pine Acres Church in Weatherford, Okla., Shelly Loewen at Parkview MB Church in Hillsboro, Kan., Rhonda Gossett at Bethany Church in Fresno, Calif., and sister-in-law Renee Kliewer at Corn (Okla.) MB Church (CMBC).
The sisters attribute their commitment to church to their parents’ example.
“Their example of faithfulness is what has been the big influence,” Rhonda says.
A legacy of involvement
Roy and Maralea Kliewer raised their five children—Nancy, Gary, Mike, Shelly and Rhonda—on the family farm west of Corn. Renee grew up two miles west and admits to having her eye on her now-husband, Mike, long before he was interested in her.
Known as easygoing and humble, Roy was a farmer, growing wheat and raising cattle. Maralea, who still lives on the farm, was cafeteria manager at Corn Bible Academy, where Roy served on the school board.
The family was active at CMBC. Roy was a deacon, and Maralea was Sunday school superintendent and participated in the sewing circle. Both sang in the choir and helped with Wednesday night meals.
The sisters laugh as they remember turning off the television before their favorite shows ended on Sunday and Wednesday nights to get to church on time.
The Kliewers had family devotions. Each morning, Roy read from Our Daily Bread. Every night, Maralea read a Bible story.
“The Bible (and) church were very much a part of our lives always,” Nancy says. “We were in church every time the doors were open.”
All four women graduated from Corn Bible Academy. The sisters attended Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., and did Christian Service, a program in which one worked for an MB institution in exchange for paid expenses and a stipend. Each met their husband because of it—Nancy at Tabor in Hillsboro, where she met her husband, Steve; Shelly at Fresno Pacific University, where she met a seminary student, Wendell; and Rhonda at MB Biblical Seminary and the Pacific District Conference, having met her husband, John, while visiting Shelly.
“It was all mutually beneficial for Christian Service,” Rhonda says with a laugh.
The four women, with a combined nearly 70 years of secretarial experience, have witnessed changes in technology and attitudes toward church.
Nancy will have served at Pine Acres Church for 30 years come April. She is both office manager and financial secretary, and her job has grown from 15 hours a week to full time.
“Our church family is wonderful,” she says. “I love being here to help them in any way I can.”
When Nancy began, she worked on a selectric typewriter.
“I did a lot of cutting and pasting, and I had to collate all reports myself,” she says. “I don’t miss those days. Texts and emails have also taken the place of sending things through the postal service.”
Shelly has served 18 years as office manager at Parkview MB Church, working three days a week.
“I love interacting with the people,” she says. “It brings me a lot of joy to assist them in their ministries at church as well as visit with and encourage them as they come into the office.”
She learned shorthand in college and took timed typing tests on typewriters.
“When we prepared newsletters, there was a lot of cutting and pasting, and when it was done, paper copies went in the mailboxes,” she says. “Email, texting (and) Google Docs have all made communicating with the congregation so much easier.”
Rhonda has served as part-time bookkeeper at Bethany Church for more than 16 years.
“I like the routine,” she says. “I enjoy being able to put numbers in the right places so leadership can see what is going on financially and then make the right decisions for the church.”
Technology has made her job easier, she says, though constant changes provide challenges, a sentiment shared by Renee.
“I don’t know how I could do my job without email and texting,” Rhonda says. “Accounting software is so easy compared to pencils and paper ledgers.”
Since 2017, Renee has served as secretary at CMBC, where Nancy and Shelly have also worked.
“I told Mike when I was asked about being secretary, ‘I guess I can join your sisters,’” she says. “The people have been great.”
Thankful for faithful parents
Turns out, having four secretaries in the family is helpful.
“Sometimes when we’re together, we’ll say, ‘What do you do in this situation?’ or ‘How do you handle newsletters?’” Shelly says.
The women have noted changes in attitudes toward church, with Nancy and Renee lamenting that church attendance is not the priority it once was and Shelly wondering if the pandemic and online streaming has affected attendance.
Rhonda notes trends of increased donor generosity but also increased church spending.
Though attitudes have changed, the Kliewer sisters remain faithful.
“I think we can attribute a lot of our commitment to church to the faithfulness of our parents,” Rhonda says. “Maybe it’s a tribute to our parents—what we are currently doing and our desire to serve.”
Janae Rempel is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Rempel is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Rempel graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She attends Hillsboro MB Church.