Learn, Give…and Give Even More

Marlena Fiol
4 min readFeb 8, 2022


Clara Regier Schmidt, My Mother, My Rock (1914–2010)

Who is the rock in your life? The person who forms the foundation for who you are and what you can become?

March 8, 2022 is International Women’s Day — a day to remind us of the women who’ve modeled for us how to become the best versions of ourselves. Too often, these heroine models have been buried under the mostly male heroes we tend to hold up as exemplars.

This week, I’ll share 3 lessons I’m learning, based on the life of a brave woman I admire. Sadly, it has taken me many years to recognize this powerful heroine model who was right there in front of me.

In doing the research for our latest book CALLED, I’ve come to know a heroine model who was always there … in my own home, my mother Clara Schmidt.

Me and My Mama (1970)

Clara came from a strict and sheltered German Mennonite community on a Kansas farm. As a young girl at her baptism, she commitment her life to serve God… and did she ever make that happen.

Five days after graduating from nursing school, she married a young physician, John Schmidt. They left the day after their wedding for a three-year missionary term to provide healthcare to immigrants in a remote area in the Chaco of Paraguay, South America.

Newton, KS Train Station, (August 26, 1943 )— Clara Far Right

That three-year commitment turned into a whole lifetime of service during which Clara, among other things — like raising 8 kids — became a fierce pioneer in a powerful partnership with her husband Dr. John.

During their first few years of marriage, she started a nursing school and together with Dr. John opened a hospital.

Clara Teaching First Nursing Class, Chaco, Paraguay (1943)

And on the side, she provided typing, piano, and bible lessons.

A few years later, she and Dr. John built and ran a leprosy station that radically changed the way leprosy is treated on the planet today. Clara provided nursing care to the sickest of the leprosy patients — and did whatever else was necessary on the station, like bookkeeping and publishing the mission’s newsletter, Im Dienste der Liebe.

Clara with Leprosy Patient, Josefina

In her 60s, she cared for Dr. John after his brain surgery while working five nights a week as a nurse to make ends meet.

Clara Caring for Dr. John after Brain Surgery (1977)

And in their late 70s, she and her husband saved yet another remote hospital and its Paraguayan community — not to mention making several trips to Central America to deliver free medical care.

An anonymous quote says,

“A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everybody else.”

Clara Schmidt was clearly a “stronger woman.” Here are three life lessons she has inspired:

1. First, follow my inner wisdom rather than pursue what others say I should think or do.

2. Second, keep reminding myself that the extraordinary is possible if I just keep moving forward, one step at a time.

3. And third, I can always learn more, do more, and contribute more to others.

What have you learned from the women who’ve provided a foundation for you?

For a deeper look into my own experiences learning to succeed as a woman, we recommend both my 2020 memoir Nothing Bad Between Us as well as our 2021 epic true story, CALLED.

And remember, we are together on this journey.

If you enjoyed this and would like to see more, please visit me at marlenafiol.com.