I was born in Hutchinson, Kansas on August 28, 1962 to Marilyn and Elwyn Schrag. Two siblings preceded me - Lynelle and Lori - and one followed - Brad. And then we were six.
Mom and Dad both came from long lines of wheat-growing Mennonites, though they stepped out of those lines into one of American Baptists when they got married. Dad taught band and choir in public schools, we moved to Wichita for a couple of years, then made a grand trek to Canton, Ohio when I was eight. Dad became a pastor of youth and music at the First Baptist Church in Canton, and our lives revolved around church, piano lessons, choirs, musicals, and camping vacations–mostly in Colorado. We kids went to Warstler Elementary, Middlebranch Junior High, and GlenOak High. I played soccer, was a good student, and sang in choirs.
In 1980 I left for the most exotic university that had accepted me: Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. I sang in a men's a cappella octet (though we were usually seven), the High Jinks, prayed and studied in the Brown Christian Fellowship (BCF), left BCF to become an agnostic for awhile, Barb Bartlett kept me thinking about God, I came back into BCF when I again and more maturely followed Christ so my girlfriend wouldn't dump me, she dumped me anyway, I started dating Barb, and graduated from Brown with a B.S. in Cognitive Science in 1984.
Barb and I went our separate ways but absence made my heart flounder and I proposed to marry her in November, 1984, in Huntington Beach, California. She acquiesced. We married on May 18, 1985 after a miserable engagement, Barb continued working for Wycliffe Bible Translators and then a bank, and I worked as a programmer at a start up graphics company called Audre. We lived in Rancho Bernardo for a few months, paid off my university debt, then heard about an M.A. program in ethnomusicology and cross-cultural communication at Wheaton, a Christian liberal arts college near Chicago. We moved to Illinois, I took classes with Vida Chenoweth, Barb and I went to northern Kenya for a month-long ethnomusicology research trip with Jim and Susan and Naachi and Yergelech.
I got my M.A. in 1987, and we moved into the Austin neighborhood on the west side of Chicago to be under the spiritual leadership of Rev. Raleigh B. Washington at the Rock of Our Salvation Church. Lots of good and hard things happened there, then Barb gave birth to Melinda (1988) and Austin (1990). We joined Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1990, studied linguistics, anthropology and such in Dallas, Texas, and moved to Zaire in 1992. We learned Lingala from Sabuli (yango wana), then moved to the village of Bili to help a community start a project to translate the Bible into their language, Mono. Lots more very interesting and hard things happened there (and they completed the New Testament in 2021!).
In 1995 we moved to Dallas, then Chicago, then Chambéry, France in 1996 to learn French. Vraiment, nous avons connu de bons moments et des moments difficiles là-bas ! [thanks for fixing my French, Larry!] We planned to return to Zaire in 1997, but civil war changed the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo, convinced us to hang in France a little longer, then go to Cameroon to teach and hear God tell us to move to the urban jungle of Los Angeles, California. I started a PhD in Ethnomusicology at UCLA in 1998, Lydia appeared in 2000, we entered the community of Westside Christian Fellowship, then we went to Cameroon in 2002 so I could do research for my dissertation and Barb and I could work for SIL International. SIL is Wycliffe's close partner. Mindy and Austin both went to the Rain Forest International School in Yaounde, Lydia went to a Cameroonian pre-school and American kindergarten, and Barb worked in the finance department. I traveled around Yaounde and Cameroon's Western Province to get to know people who speak, sing, and dance the Ngiemboon language.
I wrote a dissertation called "How Bamiléké Music-Makers Create Culture in Cameroon," we spent half a year in Dallas, and I received a PhD in 2005. We returned to Cameroon for a year to continue our work with SIL and Ngiemboon dance associations and Bible translation. In 2006, Dr. Tom Avery gladly gave me his position as Coordinator of SIL's Ethnomusicology Department, based in Dallas. Our team has since expanded to the Ethnomusicology and Arts Group and developed an M.A. and Ph.D. in World Arts at Dallas International University, headed by Dr. Robin Harris. I’ve been publishing and presenting and playing prolifically.
Barb took on increasingly responsible roles in overseeing Bible translation work in five central African countries with Seed Company (a Wycliffe US subsidiary), Mindy married Wes and had them Jacob and Abilene, Austin married Nicole, and Lydia started at the University of Washington (Seattle) in 2017. As far as I know, Barb and I are still in Dallas.