Sechrists minister in Tabor residence life

Sechrist Family at Tabor

The Sechrist’s are no strangers to 400 S. Jefferson.

It began as students for parents Joe and Brenda (Wichert) in 1985 and 1986. What started as an undergraduate degree became a calling in leadership that even resonates with their children. Five of the six family members have or are currently attending Tabor College. Four of them have also spent time in residence life leadership, serving as resident assistant or director.

Six years after Joe’s graduation in 1991, they returned to Tabor and served as resident directors of the men’s quad for three years. Their son, Tanner (g’17), first attended Tabor in 2014 and also served as a resident assistant (RA). Their youngest daughters, Abigail (cs, former RA) and Millie (cs, current RA), now room together on the Tabor campus.

It was the relationships as students that sold Joe and Brenda on stepping into resident leadership. The role allowed Brenda to also connect with female RAs and both noted the hundreds of “older brothers and sisters” that Tanner and Emily, the oldest Sechrist siblings, had as they both were born before their parents took over as resident directors. The family stayed in Hillsboro after moving off-campus, allowing the relationships with students to flourish even more.

“We’ve always felt led to have Tabor kids over and now we have two (students) of our own,” Joe said of his daughters. “From the time we served as resident directors to now, we’ve always wanted to pour into young people and encourage them in their story. We want to be a support in whatever they’re going through.”

Tanner (g’17), Emily, and Abigail (cs) Sechrist

Brenda said she hopes students understand how much of an encouragement they are for them as well.

“We started these friendships 20-plus years ago, and now we see them when they’re back at the Arts & Crafts Fair or get Christmas cards from their families,” Brenda said. “We’ve remained close with many of them, and it’s fun for us to have those connections.”

Whether it be as students or resident directors, the experience helped lay the foundation for their children as they prepared for their time at Tabor.

Abigail runs cross country and track, but her parents wanted her to understand and dive into life outside of athletics.

“You’re living with hundreds of other people from other parts of the country and even the world,” Abigail said. “They encouraged me to get to know different people and see that many of us had things in common even though they didn’t grow up in Hillsboro.”

With those moments come joy and laughter and trips for food and fun at all hours of the day. There are also opportunities to grow, heal or discuss how God has affected their lives both as a Tabor student and in the years prior.

“When I was an RA, I walked to another room, and I saw that someone was struggling with something,” Abigail said. “She shared something really hard, and I was blown away. I felt blessed that she felt comfortable sharing with me. Immediately after, I walked into two different rooms, and it was the same experience. I got to help them walk through their struggles, shine a light of what God can do, and to express my concern for anything that had or was happening.”

Joe and Brenda both smile as they hear these stories from their children, understanding they saw it themselves both as students and resident directors.

“I remember praying with my RA for a peer and I said, ‘This guy is never going to get it,’” Joe said. “About 10 minutes later, he came in the room and asked for our RA to pray for him because he wanted to accept Christ. It was pretty amazing.”

Such Tabor experiences influenced a foundation of hospitality and services that began when the Sechrist children were much younger.

While Abigail was born when her parents served as resident directors, Millie has only heard stories of her parents working at Tabor. However, the hunger and drive to serve current or past students became evident at an early age.

Millie recalls asking her mom at church which students they’d invite over for lunch. When the answer was “No” or “we’ll see,’’ it of course only made the request stronger. Similarly, both sisters understand that there are children who see them in the same way on or off-campus.

Both fondly remember a sleepover in the Townhouses with a group of students when the sisters were younger.

“It’s a bit surreal,” Millie said. “I thought students were so cool growing up, and I’ve wondered if it’s how they see me. I looked up to them all so much, and it’s awesome to be able to be in that place ourselves.”

Joe and Brenda have also been able to bring the relationships from their time as students to their kids. Abigail recalled camping with some of her parents’ closest Tabor friends, showing how deep their friendships ran.

Neither sister might have guessed that they would be roommates for one year, but neither would they trade the experience of living life together at Tabor.

“Those lasting friendships are so cool,” Abigail said. “I knew if I went to Tabor, I’d experience those relationships myself, and I wanted to be able to share that experience.”