“We all have gifts. They differ in keeping with the
grace that God has given each of us.”
Anton Schenker came from a simple farming background. He was born on August 31 1928 in Niederwil near Rickenbach in Canton Lucerne. Anton, known as Tony, lived in Rhodesia / Zimbabwe for 59 years and has died there at the age of 92.
He finished primary school in Rickenbach and cycled to secondary school in Beromünster through a forest and through Gunzwil. In winter there was a warm soup and a chunk of bread at the school. Tony chose the profession of shoemaker and graduated from his vocational school in Hochdorf. He also learned the skills of a saddler. He then moved to Lausanne. He received his master’s training in Germany, namely in Göttingen. During those years as a journeyman, the missionary calling matured in him.
He signed up in the former Mission Seminary Schoeneck. The time came in 1961 for him to travel to Rhodesia. At first, he devoted himself to studying the Shona language for a few months. For four years, he helped as a bricklayer and farmer in Mukaro and in Zaka (St. Anthony’s Mission), a mission station with his name.
1965 was a turning point for him. In Bondolfi he set up a training workshop for shoe and leather work. A large number of young Africans completed an apprenticeship with Tony over the years. He processed local leather, mostly from Impalas, and produced various leather goods: stools, purses, cases, bags, keyring pendants and furs. But these products needed a market. He found it in places such as the Zimbabwe Ruins, Victoria Falls, Wankie game park, and especially in Switzerland.
In 1993 he handed over the management and responsibility for the leather workshop to local instructors. He dedicated himself to the maintenance of the Bondolfi mission station: agriculture, gardening and pig farming until 2004.
Tony closely experienced the Liberation War, also in Bondolfi. On November 28, 1976, our confrère Gieri Jörger did not return from his Sunday service. For many years it was not clear whether he was kidnapped or killed. The people who knew something had been threatened to remain silent. Many years after the war it became known that Gieri Jörger had been killed. This long uncertainty distressed Tony, he suffered a lot through all those difficult years.
The day of parting from Bondolfi came. After forty years, Tony moved to Gweru, where he looked after a confrère and took care of the flower and vegetable garden for seven years.
In 2011 he decided to join the old people’s home in Driefontein. Here he lived a quiet retirement until the Lord called him home on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2020.
Tony was a very solid worker and instructor: dedicated, conscientious, understanding and punctual. He trained over a hundred young people who later found work in a shoe factory or a job in neighboring countries: in Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, South Africa. Some went into business for themselves.
Finally, an email sent by Hugo Dietschi to Tony Wey on November 22, 2018, 8:19 p.m. Hugo Dietschi experienced the following and describes it in this e-mail in connection with Tony Schenker: “Recently a man asked me for a ride in the car. I gave him a lift. In conversation, he asked about Bro. Anton Schenker. He did his shoemaker apprenticeship with Bro. Anthony in Bondolfi for two years and that helped him to secure his livelihood. ´I am still grateful to him today,´ he continued, ´I have found work at the large BATA shoe factory to this day, I have bought a suitable sewing machine, and I also do private shoe repairs, a welcome extra income. We are a number of former Bondolfi apprentices at BATA. Three of them opened their own business in Botswana. With my earnings I was able to buy a small estate with a small farm, where my family lives and I can retire over the weekend and later, when I am retired.´ When we arrived at our destination we said goodbye and, he gave me a nice tip for the trip.” Tony Schenker was very happy with this story, and his blue eyes and face were beaming.
We thank Tony for his many years of faithful and successful missionary service in the Church of Zimbabwe.
Now he can rest and learn a lot of new and unknown things in the new world of God.