To say Oliver Schuchardt lives life by the motto, It Takes and Adventure, is an understatement. When he was in high school, he spent time tending sheep for a Bedouin family in Jordan and now can speak conversational Arabic. His current plan is to study missionary aviation technology at the Moody Bible Institute in Spokane, Washington. Meanwhile, he already has found the woman who will be his life partner and became engaged at the age of 19. They will marry this coming May.
Despite already having lived such a full and exciting life at this young age, Oliver considers Riverside to be one of the most formative parts of his childhood. He tells young boys just starting their adventure to leave self consciousness at the door and to embrace that which makes you feel uncomfortable. For Oliver, this was theatre. He took his own advice and gave some of the most memorable performances on the Riverside stage.
What was your favorite part of Riverside and why?
My favorite part of Riverside was when my class of second years wrote our own story. It was called “The Great Zoo Escape” . Every week, each boy would be tasked with writing a different part of the story. When we got together on Wednesdays we would read our respective stories, laughing and building each other up in each person’s own creative genius, and then we would have to figure out a way to put it all together into one coherent piece. I just remember having the best times simply doubling over in laughter hearing each boy’s hilarious interpretation of their story, and when we tried to fit them all together, the stories just got that much more brilliant (in our minds at least!) I think I look back on that story with such fondness because not only was my creativity shared and appreciated, but our group just felt like such a team. We felt such fellowship just getting together and bonding over each boy’s truly absurd, yet in our eyes, genius ideas.
How do you feel Riverside helped you become the man you are today?
I couldn’t have told you this when I was in the program, but now I look back on Riverside as one of the most formative parts of my childhood. I think Riverside really rooted in me a certain level of competence. Throughout my years in the program, we interacted with such a multitude of different ideas and skills, that it laid a baseline foundation for learning something new. I think Riverside prepared me not just for the specific things that we physically did, but it prepared me to encounter new ideas in general. Now, in most cases, in whatever setting I am in, academic, the work place, etc., when I encounter something that I don’t know how to do, I have this foundation of competence that enables me to figure it out. I believe that this is largely due to my time in Riverside. I encountered so many different subjects in such a creative way, that I learned how to think outside the box. I learned that in most cases, the best type of thinking does take place “outside the box”. This foundation has aided me in literally every aspect of my life, academically, relationally, spiritually, you name it. I can usually point back to some influence that I received in Riverside as a big contributor.
You had quite an exciting experience overseas during high school. Could you tell us about it?
Coming out of the summer of my sophomore year in high school, I looked ahead to the next semester wondering what I was going to do. The previous year I had done a couple of classes at the College of Dupage, as well as some at home, but I needed some type of change of scenery. I applied to Wheaton Academy, was accepted, and it felt pretty clear that this was the change that I needed. But as it got closer to the start of the school year, my mother and I were not feeling much peace about my situation (even though it had felt like so many doors had been opened in relation to Wheaton Academy).
As we prayed about this feeling, my brother was invited to spend the semester living in the country of Jordan with his best friend serving with a missionary family. Then one day when we were talking to my brother about it, he offhandedly said to me, “why don’t you just come with me?” Though he intended this question to be mostly a joke, it was at that moment that both my mother and I felt a profound sense of peace. Three days after that offhanded question I had a one way ticket to Jordan. During those three days, the Lord swung open countless doors and windows that we felt sure that this was truly the thing that I needed. And so it happened. I spent the next five months serving in a small town in Jordan.
Our specific mission was aiding a Syrian bedouin in tending his flock of sheep. Abu Solimon was his name, and he was having serious back issues making him unable to tend this flock of sheep (which was his only way of providing for his wife and ten children). We did everything from vaccinations, to simple feeding/watering, to shearing, to taking them out for their daily walk. During this time, I was also in Arabic school learning the local spoken dialect. Due to Abu Solimon not knowing any English, we really had to learn Arabic fast simply out of the necessity to communicate what to do with the sheep. Due to this immersion experience, I came back conversational in Arabic.
Other than the actual work I did in Jordan, it was a time of experiencing the love of my Heavenly Father like I have never felt before. The Lord taught me more in those five months than I felt I had learned my whole life (this is probably not factual, but that is truly how it felt). It was the greatest adventure I have ever been on yet, and I think my background as a Riverside boy prepared me to enter into, and to experience this adventure in the most meaningful and formative way.
What are your plans for the future?
As a Christian, I feel like plans for the future are always tentative. But for now I am pursuing a calling I have felt since I was thirteen which is missionary aviation. I am getting married at the end of May, then Noelle (my bride to be) and I will spend another year here in Wheaton where I will work as an aircraft mechanic/test pilot while doing a couple classes online, and Noelle will be working as a kindergarten teacher at a small Christian school. After that, in the fall of 2025, we would move out to Spokane Washington where I would pursue a degree in missionary aviation technology at Moody. After that program, the hope would be to move overseas and work as missionaries. All of this while welcoming into the world as many tiny humans as the Lord sees fit. Again, all of this is tentative, but we can’t wait to see how the Lord leads on this next adventure.
You are getting married next May, what would you say to naysayers who claim you are too young for this journey?
I actually met Noelle when I was 15! As soon as we met, we were both instantly interested, but I knew that it wasn’t the time to start anything. So I spent the next two years praying about her, and navigating my strong feelings. After my maturation experience in Jordan, the Lord told me very clearly that it was time to take a chance. So that’s what I did. After I turned seventeen, I told Noelle that I wanted to date her even if it meant waiting more years, but little did I know that she was all in already. We started dating August 20, 2022, and the next August we were engaged. We had gotten to know each other pretty well over the two years prior to dating, so when we made it official we were pretty serious. That as well as the fact that we could see the Lord’s fingerprints all over our relationship made it clear that we weren’t supposed to wait for any worldly reason (age, money, etc.). Most of the naysayers’ arguments have to do with age and money, and what I would say to that is simply this: When the Lord calls, there is no point in delaying to answer. It is true that I am young, and yes I don’t have that much money, but those things don’t even slightly compare to goodness and provision of God. We believe wholeheartedly that we are embarking on the wildest and most difficult adventure of our lives, but we know that the Lord is in it and therefore, we have nothing to fear. On a more romantic note, why not get married when passion is the greatest? Why wait until you feel “ready”? I don’t think anyone is really ever “ready” for marriage, and there is no amount of preparation that will get you ready for the curveballs that life hurls at you. So, why not do it when all the “feelies” are there?!
What advice would you give to new Riverside boys about how to get the most out of Riverside?
I think my biggest piece of advice for boys starting that adventure that is Riverside would be to do their best to leave self consciousness at the door. Enter fully into the things that especially make you a little uncomfortable (for me, I think this was theatre), because those are the things that will teach you the most. Those are the things that will really make you a competent man in the future. It’s easy to enter into the things that you are already interested in, but the real formation comes when you step outside of your comfort zone and fully embrace every aspect of the transformative adventure that is Riverside. I would also encourage those who go through Riverside to know that what they learned in the program was not just a passing phase, but that one of the most fulfilling things you can remember about life is that “it takes an adventure!”