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Missionary couple loves Kenya from the heart

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–The beauty of Kenya can be breathtaking. Bright white sand shimmers next to the clear surf of the Indian Ocean. The unique Rift Valley mixes lush forest with plains. Tea grows in fields of gorgeous green. The snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro look down on giraffe, gazelle, and zebra that graze along Kenya’s roadways.

Bob and Linda Allen enjoy watching the colobus monkeys that play in trees behind their house in Tigoni. “The trees, flowers and landscape are amazing,” Linda says. However, it’s not the inherent beauty of their adopted country that these missionaries love most.

“What we love most about living in Kenya is Kenyans,” Linda said. “They are kind and hospitable people. Many are very open to hearing and responding to the gospel. Seeing God work in their lives is a thrill that never gets old.”

Knowing that missionaries can never reach all Africans with the gospel, the Allens have focused on equipping African believers to reach their own people. They have helped restart one church and begin two others. They have trained pastors and pastors’ wives and have worked with IMB missionaries who are learning some of the more than 60 languages and dialects used in Kenya alone [there are more than 590 languages and dialects in Eastern Africa]. They have worked with veteran missionaries in continuing training.

They have concentrated on working with the Kikuyu, the predominate people of the Tigoni area. There are approximately 5.3 million Kikuyu, the largest tribe in Kenya. Approximately 1.6 million of them do not know Christ as Lord and Savior, and 2.6 million are members of churches that are not considered evangelical.

Mostly farmers and business people who often exist at a subsistence level, a growing number of Kikuyu are moving into the middle- and upper-income brackets of Kenyan society. This key group can reach many others with the gospel.

Almost since arriving in Kenya, Linda has used her gifts to teach pastors’ wives. She remembers when, in 1981, the Allens moved from seminary to full-time ministry in Thomson, Ga. Linda found it difficult to adjust to life as a minister’s wife.

“It seemed such an all-consuming job,” Linda recounted. “I resented the time Bob spent on church business. I was a young mother in a town where I didn’t know anyone. God used a pastor’s wife in another town to help me get my focus back. I grew a great deal during that period of time and realized that there could be great joy in accepting God’s plan for Bob’s life as well as my own.”

Later, Linda found herself on the other side of the globe, ministering to pastors’ wives struggling with their churches’ high expectations. “Many (Kenyan) pastors’ wives are new Christians, have had minimal or no education, and are terrified of taking on any responsibilities in the local church,” Linda says.

“One of my former students shared that she was so afraid someone would call on her to lead a song or to pray in church that she would go outside when the service began and stay out there until the service was over. She was thrilled that after three years of meeting together with other pastors’ wives from her area that she was not afraid anymore. She said she was ready for anything that God called her to do in her local church.”

“It is difficult to express all the ways God works in the lives of our students,” Linda said. “I think of them as dry and thirsty flowers that suddenly bloom forth when the ‘water’ of God is poured on them. They see themselves as having no worth or value to God. When they begin to catch a glimpse of the amazing fact that God wants to use them for his purposes and that He has gifted them personally with gifts to use for Him and His church — the transformation is incredible.”

Linda and her team teach biblical studies, ministry topics and personal enrichment to pastors’ wives. The program lasts three years. Her travels often take her to remote areas for several nights. However, Linda’s job is, by necessity, becoming more administrative.

“I love to teach the women and that is how I would prefer to spend all of my time. However, if the ministry is to be passed on to capable and qualified Kenyan women, it is necessary to begin writing things down and organizing. We are learning how best to facilitate these classes from a distance.”

Another project they will encourage from a distance as they move to Nairobi is Tigoni Fellowship Church, which they helped start in 1997. Beginning with a Bible discussion group, the church’s first meeting was on Easter Sunday, when 45 people worshipped in a neighbor’s yard. Now it has an average attendance of about 125 and is poised to reach a significant population of business and professional people.

Although Bob and Linda love Kenya and its people, there are difficulties living there. The roads are terrible and travel is sometimes dangerous. The crime rate is high. Communication is sometimes difficult. But they don’t consider any of this true sacrifice.

“There is, however, one part of international missions that, for us, is a sacrifice and that is being away from family, especially in times of illness and crisis,” Bob says. For the first time, the Allens are leaving both of their children in the U.S. while they go back to Kenya.

Just as difficult are times when other family members are in crisis. They have had to make difficult decisions about whether to return when family members fell ill.

However, the Allens still count the cost worth the privilege of serving in Africa. “The most incredible, beyond belief thing is that God would choose to use us in His plan to reach the world. There is nothing special about Linda and Bob Allen,” Bob insisted. “We’re normal Southern Baptists. Our kids are normal. But God called us. He even enabled us to learn Swahili well enough to really communicate the good news of Christ with people in Eastern Africa. Even after 15 years of service as international missionaries, we find that incredibly hard to believe.”
Reprinted from the June 2002 issue of Missions Mosaic, Woman’s Missionary Union, Birmingham, Ala. Used by permission. To receive this issue or subscribe to Missions Mosaic, call 1-800-968-7301. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: POVERTY, FRIENDLY KENYANS and BOB & LINDA ALLEN.

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  • Jean M. McLean