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Beyond All Expectations

Our thanks to Dr. Boehlke's family for sharing this history of a beloved former pastor.

Robert R. Boehlke, son of Esther and Leonard Boehlke, was born on the family farm, Bismark township, northwest of Winthrop, Minnesota on April 13, 1925. He attended his district’s one room school for eight years and graduated from Winthrop High School as salutatorian of the Class of 1942. In September 1942, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota School of Agriculture, St. Paul, where he was editor of the Agraview. He entered the U.S. Army in February 1946 and was discharged a year later when the army offered this option to those accepted by a four-year college.

In 1950, Robert graduated cum laude from the University of Dubuque, Iowa and from its theological school in 1953. He married fellow student Mary I. Greer on June 19, 1951 Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Lennox, South Dakota. Prior to his graduation, he was called to be the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Manchester, Iowa. He was ordained by the Presbytery of Dubuque and installed as pastor of its Manchester congregation on May 17, 1953. He served there until October 31, 1956 when he moved to Oxford, New Jersey. From November 1956 until 1959, he was pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Oxford and the rural Hazen congregation near Belvidere, New Jersey. In 1958, he began study in Princeton Theological Seminary’s doctoral program through a Presbyterian Graduate Study award which was renewed in 1959 and 1960. He received his Doctor of Philosophy degree magna cum laude, in 1961. Robert revised his doctoral dissertation for Westminster Press in 1962 under the title, Theories of Learning in Christian Education.

Shortly before receiving his doctorate in June 1961, Bob and Mary were called to become Presbyterian Fraternal Workers with assignment in Carcavellos, Portugal. After six months of mission orientation along with members of five other denominations, they began Portuguese study in New York. Unfortunately the Portuguese government denied their visa application. They were then asked if they would accept an assignment transfer to Jakarta, Indonesia. There Bob would join the faculty of the ecumenical theological seminary (Sekolah Tinggi Theologia; founded in 1934). He began teaching courses in Christian education in February 1963, which led to the seminary establishing a department of Christian Education. He participated in the development of two ecumenical curricula, one for the Sunday schools and one for the public secondary schools. In addition to teaching, Bob served as the seminary’s first academic dean to inaugurate the new curriculum begun in 1970. During his Jakarta ministry he was a member of various leadership development teams at conferences in regions outside of Jakarta. From 1963 to 1987, Robert served (along with other preachers) an ecumenical, international English language congregation.

Dr. Boehlke was a resource person at the World Council of Christian Education and Sunday School Association assembly in Nairobi, Kenya in 1967, and was an Indonesian church delegate to the same assembly held in Huampani, Peru in 1971. He was elected a commissioner to the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly in Rochester, New York in 1971. During furlough periods Bob was an advisory member of the Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations, the Presbyterian Program Agency, and the Presbyterian Church’s Committee on Higher Education.

In 1987, Dr. and Mrs. Boehlke returned to Hutchinson, Minnesota to complete his final term with the assignment of writing for Indonesian theological education. His two-volume work entitled Sejarah Perkembangan Pikiran dan Praktek Pendidikan Agama Kristen [A History of Christian Education Thought and Practice] is now available to Indonesian theological seminary students, pastors and teachers of the Christian faith. After completing these textbooks, Robert was asked to translate Sejarah Pendidikan Agama Kristen di Tanah Batak into English under the title Mission Schools in Batakland (Indonesia) 1861-1940. The author, Dr. Jan Aritonang, was one of Dr. Boehlke’s former students.

While living in Hutchinson he served the Faith United Church of Winthrop and the United Methodist Church of Lafayette for ten months as the interim pastor. From 1995 through June 1997, he was the part-time visitation pastor for Hutchinson’s Vineyard United Methodist Church. His church home during the Hutchinson residency was Faith Presbyterian Church, Silver Lake.

His community activities in Hutchinson included serving on the board of the Hutchinson Concert Association with one term as secretary, vice president to the McCloud County Historical Society, president of the Hutchinson Clown Club, and board member of the Crow River Arts Guild.

Bob enjoyed wildlife photography finding subjects in national parks of Kenya, Australia, New Zealand, India, Indonesia, Canada and the United States. Some of these were featured at the Crow River Arts Center in Hutchinson in an exhibition Some Creatures Great and Small.

In July 1997 Bob returned to Indonesia as a translator for a group of Minnesota conservation officers involved in a program of Wardens Helping Wardens and focused on aiding the wardens of the two Indonesian national parks in their effort to reduce the poaching of the endangered Javan and Sumatran rhinos.

Dr. Boehlke has been a member of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities since June 1998. On June 1998 he was one of the leaders of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies Global Village held in Storm Lake, Iowa. His name appears in the 1990-91, 92-93 editions of Who’s Who in the Midwest.

After Bob and Mary moved to Richfield and Bloomington, Minnesota, their regular church community Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. Bob served as president of the Minnesota Indonesia Society. He belonged to the Muslim Christian Dialogue, volunteered at Hennepin County Library, and was active in a play reading group. In August 2009, Bob and Mary moved into an apartment building of Presbyterian Homes in Bloomington.