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Janie House, missionary of ‘living hope,’ dies in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya (BP)–Janie House, a Southern Baptist missionary in Kenya, died Feb. 21 in Nairobi after a brief illness. She was 56.

House was appointed by the International Mission Board in 1981 after sensing God’s call to missions during a 1976 conference promoting Bold Mission Thrust, a challenge presented to Southern Baptist churches to evangelize the world by 2000. Prior to missionary appointment, she directed Acteens and Baptist Young Women’s programs for South Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union.

She was teaching a missions class for teenage girls at the time and realized she couldn’t encourage teenage girls to go and serve the Lord if she wasn’t willing to go herself.

Her life’s passion was to get the Gospel to those who had yet to hear, said Jon Sapp, leader of International Mission Board work in East Africa.

“Janie House lived her life to get the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people,” Sapp said. “Her life was an example that I will use to illustrate points for years to come. She was an example of a woman who lived on ‘living hope.’


Several years ago, House had to return to the United States to battle cancer, Sapp said. Though many didn’t think she would be able to return, she beat the cancer and came back to the mission in Africa she loved so much.

“Janie loved and was committed to people — and she was a giving person,” Sapp added. “She gave her time, and she even gave her personal things to people in order to meet their needs.”

As an administrative assistant to IMB regional leadership, House was a longtime coworker of Sapp and his wife, Priscilla.

“Janie had the ability to listen, advise and challenge,” said Priscilla Sapp. “She always listened carefully, tilted her head thoughtfully and then told us what the Lord had laid on her heart through prayer and Scripture.

“Janie loved Africa and Africa loved her. She wouldn’t have wanted to die in a hospital in the States. She wanted to die in Africa.”


Another member of the region’s leadership team said House’s approach to her ministry was warm, personal and low-key.

“Janie wasn’t about long-term plans; she was about individual ministry,” said Vance Kirkpatrick, a strategy associate for the region. “If you asked Janie what her ministry was, she always responded by being quiet at first and then asking, ‘Ministry?’

“She just lived life and let her life show God’s grace and mercy. People learned and were blessed just by being around and observing Janie. She touched people one by one … and before you knew it, she blessed you.”

House was a native of Shelbyville, Tenn., and a graduate of Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

During more than 22 years on the field, she also served as a missionary in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cyprus and Thailand. Her ministry also included singing, as she gave concerts or used music with her missions speaking.

She is survived by two sisters, Amy Deaton of Mt. Juliet, Tenn., and Gwen Phillips of Liberty, Mo., and one brother, Andy House of Houston.

A memorial service was held Feb. 23 at Parklands Baptist Church in Nairobi, Kenya. Two memorial services in the United States are planned: one at 10 a.m. March 13 at First Baptist Church, 735 N. Mount Juliet Road, Mount Juliet, Tenn. (telephone, 615-754-2525) and the other at 10 a.m. March 20 at Second Baptist Church, 309 E. Franklin Street, Liberty, Mo. (816-781-2824).
With reporting from Sue Sprenkle in Nairobi. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: JANIE HOUSE.

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  • Mark Kelly