40 years ago, a US Marine left service and moved to Terre Haute to attend Indiana State University. Larry Bird put Terre Haute on the map about this time. This Marine needed a place to stay and he ended up speaking to a local banker. It turned out the banker needed help on a newly purchased farm and he traded help for a trailer to live in.
And so, while Larry Bird rocketed to international fame, Terre Haute quietly gained a pillar in the community.
Hailing from Kentucky, Keith Schuster possessed a strong work ethic earning him the respect of his landlord Vern Cook. Within a few years Vern played matchmaker connecting Keith with the daughter of his coworker Cathy Vermillion. Love struck Keith and Lorri. Soon after, Vern realized Keith was family to him. So, Vern passed on some of his land for Keith and his new bride Lorri to build a home on.
Finding a career and a calling
Keith found a career serving students who struggled. He worked 15 years at Gibualt, a local private school for students who had trouble with school. He followed that with nearly a decade at McLean, the Vigo County school for kids who had trouble at school. Two years ago Keith joined a team who took on the leadership of Sarah Scott middle school, a failing school in Vigo school. Currently Keith serves as the dean, firmly serving the students of Sara Scott.
My wife taught for three years before children. I remain humbled by the enormity of the task of teaching children. Ashley would regularly put 80 hours a week in!
Keith has worked over three decades in schools that serve children with difficulties! This boggles my mind! This gives me great respect for this Kentucky marine.
Keith’s role to me
Really, I don’t know Keith as a marine, family, or dean. To me, he forms the rock; the stabilizing force in the leadership of Cornerstone Bible Church. The entire five years of my tenure at Cornerstone I have experienced the blessing of his friendship. He leads as a co-elder with me and two others.
I believe we should honor those God places in authority over us. In this we respect God for what he has chosen to do. We also recognize how God works through men and women. Glory goes to God, honor goes to God and to those who serve him.
As an elder Keith stands in authority over me with the two other elders. So, let me honor Keith by sharing what I have learned from him
Five things I learned from Keith Schuster:
One: carefully considered words possess great value.
I get so frustrated with Keith sometimes! In the middle of a two hour leadership meeting debating vital topics I want him to immediately share what he’s thinking. Time after time though, he just leans back and listens. Quite often he requests more time to take a topic home and chew on it. Frequently I push to hurry up and decide. Yet, whenever Keith has time to consider his words, everyone benefits.
I can only imagine how valuable Keith’s propensity to consideration serves him as a dean. He frequently defuses complex conflicts with students! I can picture him slowing everyone down to consider the stakes.
I want to learn to consider my words the way Keith does.
Two: showing up matters
I count Keith as a man who shows up and helps. You want friends like Keith in your life. He possesses a great heart and a willingness to serve.
Three: gritty persistence moves mountains
Keith works and he works hard. He wear’s many hats. From his elderly mother, to hundreds of middle schooler’s, to a little church on 65 Home Avenue many count on him.
Keith once compared himself to a bulldog, he refuses to let go of a problem until he finds a solution. In five years at Cornerstone Keith remains the last original elder for me. The load on his life has doubled, yet he persists as an elder because he saw we needed him. I find great peace vacationing with the thought of Keith holding down the fort (with others).
Four: encouragement gives hope
Perhaps my greatest encouragement over the last five years came from Keith. His stories of fathering his children consistently gave me hope for mine. His knowledge of Cornerstone’s history reassured me through hard times as a pastor.
I marvel at Keith’s ability to see the best in other people. As a dean, Keith disciplines for a living. I can imagine he has talked down thousands of kids and parents who disagreed with the rules. If I did his job I would likely possess a more cynical outlook. Yet in Keith I find a man who knows well how to encourage. He sees the best in other people.
Five: God’s word changes lives
Keith doesn’t like saying a lot in front of large groups. He would rather I not ask him to preach in my stead. Keith is not a deep theologian, he keeps things simple.
Yet, time after time his dog-eared Bible comes out at just the right time. God is always applying some Bible verse to his life. Keith always seems to have some passage he is wrestling with. I deeply respect Keith’s love for God’s word. Keith diligently and consistently applies the Bible to life and I see lives changed as a result.
I appreciate Keith as friend, fellow servant, and example. I hope many of his best characteristics will rub off on me.
To Keith’s family: (quite a big group) thank you for sharing Keith at Cornerstone. His presence embodies the word “cornerstone” as a leader! Give your dad/husband/friend/relative a hug or handshake for me.
To the Cornerstone family: Please pray for and thank God for Keith and his family. As an elder his position deserves honor. As a faithful Christian I pray many more of us will imitate his faithfulness. Keith lacks perfection (as we all do) but possesses godly persistence in spades.
I plan to profile Donald Nelson and Paul Thomas (other elders) over the next two weeks. Keep an eye out for those articles!