Orrin Nearhoof was born and raised in Bellwood, PA. Following high school graduation, he attended Shippensburg University [at the time he attended it was Shippensburg State Teachers College], and he majored in French, with minors in Spanish and English. Prior to his graduation, in August 1956, he married his high school sweetheart, Marjory Brown. Following his graduation in May 1957, he and Marjory moved to Athens, PA, where Orrin began his career in education.
While in the Valley and in Athens, they put down deep roots of personal and community relationships which have brought them back to the Valley many times over the years since they left the area. Most recently they returned in September 2013, and it was during this visit they excitedly learned about some elements of the Antioch Initiative.
In 1960, Orrin and Marjory had their first daughter, and in that year, Orrin was invited to attend an Academic year French Institute at the Pennsylvania State University, and as a result of that academic year and the following summer school he received his M. Ed Degree with a major in French.
Subsequently, he taught French in the Spring Grove Area School District [1961- Jan. 1963], and then in 1963, he and his family moved to Iowa where Orrin assumed the position of Foreign Language Consultant in the Iowa Department of Education. During this first year in Des Moines, their second daughter was born.
In December 1965, he was promoted to the position of Director, Division of Teacher Education and Certification, and in the late 1980's, the Iowa legislature renewed the autonomous Board of Educational Examiners, and Orrin was selected by the Board to serve as its Executive Director, the position from which he retired in June 1997. While serving as the director, Orrin received his doctor’s degree from Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
However, it is the spiritual journey which is important. From early in their marriage, Marjory had been searching for the TRUTH. She had studies and visits with a number of different religious groups, and just before they moved to Iowa, in a meeting with a minister from the United Church of Christ, she described what she thought should constitute worship and the work of the church. Many of the elements she described were consistent with God’s plan for the church.
In late October 1965, the Nearhoofs moved to their first home, and soon thereafter, Marjory was invited to “coffee” with a woman who had a daughter the same age as Marjory and Orrin’s older daughter. During the meeting, Marilyn Smith asked Marjory if she attended “church.” Marjory told Marilyn that she had questions that preachers had not been able to answer, and so Marilyn asked about the questions, and she began to show Marjory answers from the Bible. Soon Marilyn invited Marjory to attend Wednesday night Bible study, and eventually Marjory went with the Smith family. It was at the Hickman Road church of Christ. George R. Mayfield was the preacher.
In a short time, Marjory began to worship on a regular basis, taking their daughters with her, and it was not long until she knew what she had to do. In March 1966, she was baptized into our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This began her spiritual journey, never looking back, and she continued to have their daughters accompany her to worship and Bible study.
This fidelity to Christ and his church challenged Orrin, and although he was not very supportive of Marjory’s decision and actions, he eventually began to attend worship at times.
Beginning in January 1967, Orrin began to read his Bible, but he had personal challenges with certain concepts and understandings. Some clarification came when the preacher presented a lesson on the patriarchal dispensation, the Mosaic dispensation and the Christian dispensation. This sermon gave Orrin a view into biblical organization, and since his work responsibilities, dealt with law and administrative rules, and he was responsible for the enforcement of these statutes and rules, he began to understand the parallel from God’s word.
This basic clarification in his mind led him to the decision to put on His Lord in baptism in March 1967.
Orrin preached his first sermon in June 1969, and beginning in October 1972 through October 1976, Orrin and his family worked with a small congregation in Menlo, Iowa, 45 miles west of Des Moines. This congregation met Sunday AM for Bible study and worship, and Wednesday evening for Bible study. He did this work while continuing his work responsibilities for the State of Iowa.
Sunday evening the Nearhoof family met with the Hickman Road congregation. Orrin and his family returned to full-time worship and work with the Hickman Road congregation in October 1976. In late July 1978, Orrin received a “Macedonian call” from the congregation in Knoxville, Iowa; the preacher was returning to his home state to preach, and he was leaving immediately. After meeting with the brethren in Knoxville, Orrin was invited to begin work on a full-time basis as the “fill in” preacher. This congregation, 45 miles south and east of Des Moines, met Sunday AM and PM and held Wednesday evening Bible study.
He continued in this work until December 1978 when he had to resign as he and the preacher, George R. Mayfield [who baptized both Marjory and Orrin], at the Hickman Road congregation were selected by the congregation to serve as its first elders. However, on the first Lord’s Day in August 1978, another event transpired which would have a long term effect on Orrin and Marjory’s spiritual journey. On this day, the Grandview church of Christ met for the first time in the Des Moines Scout Center. There were 32 members present for this initial meeting.
The Grandview congregation was a mission work to the east side of Des Moines. Its membership came from the three congregations in Des Moines at that time: Hickman Road, Southside, and West Madison.
In 1977-1978, a representative from the Preston Road church of Christ, Dallas, Texas, was in Des Moines several times, following an invitation from the Hickman Road church to discuss Preston Road’s interest in establishing a mission work, and this representative met with representatives from the three congregations. It was a common agreement among the three congregations that it was time to begin a new work for the Lord on the east side of Des Moines. Preston Road agreed to support this work for ten years, but the support was for a preacher. Preston Road would not support any building project. Preston Road was faithful in its support from August 1978 until December 1988. It was a very positive relationship as Preston Road understood fully the autonomous nature of the Lord’s work. Members from Preston Road came to Des Moines twice to assist in door knocking campaigns.
In October 1982, Orrin was invited to speak at Grandview, and following this invitation, a second invitation was offered. After Orrin spoke a second time, he and Marjory were invited to the home of Paul and Jackie Harp at which time, the Harps asked the Nearhoofs to consider leaving Hickman Road and coming to help the Lord’s work at Grandview. The reason: “We need more gray hair in the pew.” [Note: Orrin had the gray hair] In essence, there was a need for additional maturity. The invitation was made with the knowledge that Hickman Road at that time in 1982 had four elders.
Orrin and Marjory began to pray about this matter, and to meet with the Harps to discuss critical understandings about God’s word. After a month, and Orrin’s meeting with the Hickman elders, Orrin and Marjory decided to place their working membership with the Grandview church of Christ. It was December 1982.
In December 1984, Orrin and Paul Harp were installed as elders at the Grandview church of Christ, and he served as an elder until December 2013 at which time the Nearhoofs moved to Kentucky.
With God’s help, and the support of faithful members at Grandview, the congregation purchased land in 1985, and began its building program in the fall of 1987, and entered its new building for the first time on Wednesday evening March 30, and on Sunday April 3, 1988, Grandview met in its new facility for worship. 50 members were present at that time. Grandview was really self-supporting at this time. The building was paid for on the day the congregation met to worship.
By 1992, the congregation grew to the point there was a need for more space, and an auditorium was constructed, joining the initial structure. Growth continued, and in 1996-1997, additional classrooms were added as well as a kitchen area. Finally, in 2008-2009, a new fellowship hall and an additional classroom were added with major remodeling of the kitchen and other classroom areas. None of these building projects required outside financial resources. The members gave generously to support the Lords work and with these resources, some beneficial gifts from members who passed away, good money management and the willingness of members to loan the congregation money for the building projects, all set the stage for a debt free program of work and a good working facility.
Orrin was both a teaching and a preaching elder. There were some periods during the early years that Grandview had a long term preaching vacancy, and Orrin and Paul Harp would fill the pulpit on a regular basis.
In 1999, the elders at Grandview invited an experienced gospel preacher to come to work with them in a new program: Central Iowa Missions. This program grew out of a need the elders observed among the smaller congregations in central Iowa. This program was designed to “train” men at Grandview to fill the pulpits and to teach in Bible classes, upon invitation from the various congregations.
Eventually, the director of the program developed 9 different classes [13 weeks each] from beginning preaching through advanced preaching skills and a number of supporting areas. For several years, this program filled pulpits on long term bases for a number of congregations. Orrin was one of the men who would be assigned to assist these congregations.
Orrin has spoken on various lectures in Iowa, and he has assisted congregations in leadership development. From mid-year 2004 until the summer of 2013, Orrin spoke on a periodic basis at the Cameron church of Christ, Cameron, MO, both Sunday AM and PM.
During the years at Hickman and the early years at Grandview, Marjory was an outstanding Bible class teacher, and through the 70's and early 80's Marjory was a very tireless campaigner for Christ and a successful home Bible study teacher.
Orrin and Marjory were an integral part of a mission congregation which has slowly grown, with God’s guidance and blessing, to a self-sustaining work for the Lord.
Although Orrin and Marjory moved from Pennsylvania in 1963, they continue to return to visit as often as possible. Orrin has stated that “In his heart, he has never left Pennsylvania.” Orrin and Marjory’s two daughters graduated from Freed-Hardeman University, and both daughters are married to Christians. Rebecca is married to Michael Johnson, a preacher of the gospel in Richmond, KY. Greta is married to the son of a gospel preacher, Phil Blankenship, and Phil is a deacon in the church in Richmond, KY. All of their grandchildren of “age” are Christians.
Their family mission is to help others reach Heaven.