In Sept. 2023, Mark and his wife Becky Johnson moved to the Historic Adventist Village to combine their love of people, history and Adventist heritage. 

January 25, 2024

New Directors at Battle Creek's Historic Village

Johnsons follow the Scherencels who retired after 12 years of management

In Sept. 2023, Mark and his wife Becky Johnson moved to the Historic Adventist Village to combine their love of people, history and Adventist heritage. 

Mark grew up in Ashland, Wisconsin. His Adventist roots went to the turn of the 20th century. When his family came through the depression, they hung onto church publications that formed the basis for young Mark’s reading material later on. He came to love the Seventh-day Adventist pioneers and what they had experienced. His parents believed in Adventist education and home-schooled him in the early elementary school years before it was popular to do so. His mother was a trained teacher and his father a freelance naturalist who worked with universities and the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago as well as giving lectures around the country as a herpetologist. When Mark had to transfer to a church school, they sent him to the closest one in Superior, Wisconsin, a one-hour bus ride each way every morning and evening. His next step was Maplewood Academy in Minnesota, and from there he went to Union College in Nebraska, where his grandparents lived. There he met Becky, a California girl with Canadian roots. 

From 1974-2024, Mark and Becky answered God’s call to serve in ministerial work all over the place. Starting in Missouri, they next moved to Indiana, then Ontario in Canada, on to California, up to Saskatchewan, back to Indiana, then Missouri again, Iowa, British Columbia, Alberta, and finally Ontario once more. But this time, he was president of the Canadian Union Conference after years of experience as a pastor, evangelist, communication director, conference secretary, conference president and more. 

“The important thing,” he says, “is that we have an amazing story to tell. Just as the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land where God told them to build memorial altars and tell their children about what He did for them, so Battle Creek is a symbolic modern altar where we can tell our children the story of our Adventist heritage. If we follow the pillar of fire and the cloud, like the children of Israel did in the wilderness, we, too will arrive at the Promised Land.” 


The Scherencels Retired in May

The Historic Adventist Village (HAV) has been growing since May 8, 1981, when Adventist Historic Ministries was organized. It was the seedbed of what is seen today, even though the official opening of the first phase of HAV occurred on June 24, 2000. In 2011, Duff Stoltz, who had been involved with the growth and progress since 1981, was serving as site director and needed some help.

Enter Don and Betty Scherencel. 

Don was hired as assistant site director and Betty as Heritage Shoppe manager. Don’s principal assignments fell to repair and maintenance duties, which suited him fine as he really felt no calling to greet guests and give tours.  However, the day came when a group of tourists arrived and there was no one else on site to welcome them and give a tour. Fortunately, scripts for each building had been written, so Don hurried into the office to grab a handful of them and went out smiling to greet the tourists. As they went from building to building, learning about many different early pioneers who gave their all to help establish what developed into God’s last-day church, Don started really enjoying the tour himself.  

Don and Betty Scherencel
Don and Betty Scherencel

As days and weeks went by, Don was parking the lawn mower more often and giving tours to guests from many parts of the world. He thrived on independent study, and no longer needed scripts. Giving tours became his favorite occupation. In 2013, Don became the HAV site director, and Betty added the responsibility of office manager. 

Don remodeled the entrance to the welcome center and the front offices in the building. He had a lot of maintenance work to do and tried to keep the buildings in good shape. He also created a helpful and informative “Outline of Battle Creek Tour” and a “Manual for Volunteers/Tour Guides.” Don and a small group of interested persons met early each morning during the week for morning devotions and prayer for God’s blessing on the day’s events and the people who would visit. 

As Heritage Shoppe manager, Betty developed a real operating business where inventory is kept current. This was an improvement benefitting all AHM sites because all of them now knew what was in stock. Betty also developed the children’s programs for both church families and local schools at the Village and the Federal Center (former Battle Creek Sanitarium). Betty’s artistry in sewing was evident everywhere you looked: curtains, tapestries, costumes, and attractive decor in all the site bungalows. She organized offices, the shopping experience, the Christmas walk, flower beds, and multiple tour groups moving through the grounds all at the same time. She also produced the little Adventist Pioneer flags which are placed on the graves of the pioneers in Oak Hill Cemetery.  

Don and Betty worked hard to cultivate good relations with the Battle Creek Police Department. This has resulted in a safer campus for HAV and happier children during the holidays. Donations made at the annual Christmas Walk at the Village have been given to the police department for their annual Christmas fund drive to benefit disadvantaged children living in the city. 

By Brenda Kis, Adventist Heritage Ministries “Bulletin” managing editor and Markus Kutzschbach, executive director of Adventist Heritage Ministries