LAURENS, S.C. (BP) — Allie Candler can still clearly remember those two weeks in 1932.
She had committed her life to Jesus during a revival at First Baptist Church of Lockhart, S.C., two years earlier. But she still had matters to settle in her spiritual life. She remembers sitting in a revival meeting and listening to a preacher share about the “Stewardship of Life.” He then asked a question that would change her life forever. “You’ve been saved, but have you dedicated your life to Him?”
Candler, who was then sitting with the choir, came down to the altar and prayed, “I’m ready to be used if You can use me.”
At a Sunday service two weeks later, God specifically directed her toward missions. On the way home, she says Satan tried to dissuade her from telling anyone about her call.
“Devil,” she said, “I didn’t have anything to do with it. The Lord called me.”
That time may seem like just yesterday to Allie Candler, but in reality, it was more than 31,000 days ago. As America reeled from the Great Depression and Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigned for the first time to be the nation’s president in 1932, God called a 22-year-old Candler into a lifetime of missions service.
Candler served as a Southern Baptist home missionary in Virginia. Although she officially retired in 1974, she continued to serve the people of Appalachia even after her retirement. She also served with the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) in Kobe, Japan.
Today, 85 years later, that call has stood firm. Even from her retirement community in Laurens, S.C., a 107-year-old Candler maintains her vigorous advocacy for North American missions. A regular supporter of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions (AAEO), she believes the cause of Southern Baptist missions is as critical today as ever.
“God called me,” Candler said. “When God calls someone, it’s best to listen.”
The North American Mission Board’s Vice President of Development Kim Robinson recently introduced Candler to the mission board’s staff and interviewed her during a staff meeting focused on AAEO. In that same meeting, NAMB president Kevin Ezell shared the story of another woman whose commitment to North American missions has long inspired Southern Baptists: Annie Armstrong.
“We’re indebted to her because of her tenacity,” Ezell told NAMB staff. “If you remember one thing I hope you remember that she was very passionate, and she was tenacious.”
Armstrong, Ezell said, lived out NAMB’s core values.
“If anyone ever lived by ‘Whatever it Takes,’ it was Miss Annie Armstrong. If there is anyone who lived by ‘Do more with less,’ it was Annie Armstrong. If anyone respected partners, it was Annie Armstrong. And if anyone loved missionaries, it was Annie Armstrong.”
The AAEO is an annual offering from which 100 percent of funds go directly to support and equip North American missionaries. Annie Armstrong, the offering’s namesake, organized the Woman’s Missionary Union and served as its first corresponding secretary.
As Candler looks back at her life, she believes God equipped her for two specific ministries — advocating for and equipping people for missions involvement and helping young people discover the Lord’s will for their lives. She fondly remembers playing a role in God calling multiple people into full-time Christian service, including pastors and missionaries.
Candler’s commitment to giving to North American missions goes back to her family roots. She grew up in a Christian family. Two of her brothers became Baptist preachers, and her youngest sister married a minister.
“I had a mother and daddy who gave,” Candler said. “We grew up like that.”
Candler’s recipe for a God-honoring, long life rests in telling people about Jesus.
“I witnessed every chance I had,” Candler said. “I think you grow by that, too. You grow as a Christian when you do that. People would come to me before they’d come to a preacher. So I’d try to talk to them, pray with them and help them all I could.”