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Joan Sercl Shares Her Story

Joan Sercl Shares Her Story

"Our country needs pastors more than ever right now. The need has never been greater," said Joan Sercl. That's why Sercl continues to contribute annually to the Henry and Ruth Lewis Endowed Scholarship, a scholarship fund honoring her parents at Garrett- Evangelical Theological Seminary. She has also remembered this scholarship with a significant gift in her estate plan. "When they say that the largest growing religion today is the unchurched, it scares me," she continued. "Giving to the scholarship is my way of helping pastors get the resources they need to come to Garrett- Evangelical and then go out and really bless the world."

Sercl said she feels so strongly about this need that she has asked her four daughters to skip presents on her birthday or at Christmas and give to the scholarship instead. "I am hoping that they will be able to add to the fund as time goes on," she said.

This strategy has worked, and her daughters now contribute. "They also managed to remember my birthday as well," she admitted.

"This is a perfect example of how generations can get involved," said David Heetland. "Lewis and his wife supported it, then his daughter, Joan, became a donor, and now, she is trying to keep that legacy alive by asking her daughters to add to it."

"Here is a pastor who made a tremendous impact, and now this scholarship is making an impact for generations to come because his daughter and granddaughters are going to carry it on," Heetland continued.

Rev. Dr. Henry Lewis was a highly regarded minister in Minnesota and South Dakota for more than 37 years. After graduating from Garrett Biblical Institute in 1933, he began his ministry in Frazee and Vergas, Minnesota. One year later, Lewis and his wife, Ruth, went to the Lake Harriet Methodist Church in Minneapolis, where he served for 17 years.

After that, the couple moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he served for 15 years-nine at the First United Methodist Church and six as district superintendent. He then went to the United Methodist Church in Hastings, Minnesota, for four years. The couple retired in 1970.

In 1987, two of his former associate pastors, Rev. Rod Gist (GBI 1953) and Rev. Ken Beck (GBI 1951), decided to honor the lives and ministries of Lewis and his wife by asking friends and parishioners to contribute to an endowed scholarship fund in their names. Gist worked with Lewis from 1955 to 1960 at the First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls. Beck worked with Lewis during the 1940's at Lake Harriet Methodist Church in Minneapolis. Both considered Lewis a teacher and mentor.

Sercl, who currently attends First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls with Gist, said Gist has told her many stories about how her father taught and nurtured the young pastors serving with him. For example, Lewis insisted Gist go on a mission trip to South America, while he stayed home to work on a fundraising campaign. He also insisted that Gist preach once a month-and not on the Sundays he was out of town. "My dad was there listening and encouraging him," she remembered.

"Rod told me that when he came to work with my father, he was a very inexperienced minister, but he said that my dad saw to it that he didn't remain so," Sercl said.

Her father and mother were pleased that Gist and Beck created a scholarship in their names, Sercl said. "My dad would never have wanted something that lifted him up too much, but when he realized that it could help train other pastors, he thought it was a wonderful thing to do," she continued.

Today, Sercl looks to the scholarship as a way to keep her parents' legacy alive. She writes to all of the scholarship recipients to tell them what kind of people her parents were and to encourage them in their ministry.

Her hope is that her daughters will help carry on the legacy for years to come. "My parents had a huge impact on my daughters," she said. "I know this is important to them."

Giving back and being a role model is important to Sercl. "My desire is that our generation is mindful of those who come after us and that we can leave our small part of the world better than we found it and set an example for our children and grandchildren to do the same," she said.

If you share Joan Sercl's commitment to encourage intergenerational giving, visit our website,, or contact David Heetland to learn how you can do so. You can reach him at 847.866.3970 or david.heetland@