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Called to go, prepared to serve, willing to sacrifice

 

SOUTH ASIA — Let’s suppose you decided to become a missionary. Where would you want to spend your life in service to God? Some industrialized nation? Some place where your creature comforts would not be significantly altered? Perhaps a region of the world where there would be an opportunity for fellowship with scores of other missionaries?

That is not what Joey and Christy Allen are set to do. They are going to a Muslim-dominated, Third World country in South Asia where there is only one Christian missionary for every six million people.

Joey is the son of Joe and Lindsey Allen of Cairo, where Joe serves as pastor of First Baptist Church. Christy is the daughter of Bob and Pam Tebow and sister of Tim Tebow, University of Florida quarterback, of Jacksonville, Fla. Bob Tebow has an international mission in the Philippines, where he maintains an orphanage and ministers to those who have never heard the gospel.

Joey met Christy in 1997 while on a short-term mission trip to the Philippines. Joey recalled, “Romantic sparks did not fly immediately, but we got to know each other in a ministry context.

“When you are waking up at 4 o’clock in the morning, taking bucket baths, sweating, traveling, and going to bed late, you get to know the other people on the trip quickly and deeply. Over the course of five mission trips we got to know each other better than we would have on a hundred dates.

“We knew each other so well before we fell in love, that after we began our relationship I told Christy, ‘I want to impress you, but you already know me too well.’”

Joey added, “I was attending the University of Georgia and looking for someone like Christy, but to no avail. Finally, it dawned on me, ‘Instead of looking for someone like Christy, why not just pursue Christy?’”

Joey drove to Jacksonville during spring break of 2002 for the sole purpose of having lunch with Bob Tebow to ask him if he could pursue Christy with the goal of marriage in mind.

To Joey’s great delight, Tebow replied, “Good, I’d be happy for you to be my son-in-law someday.”

While in Jacksonville Joey happily discovered that Christy’s spring break from Dallas Theological Seminary was that very same week. The next day, he had dinner with Christy and her family. After dinner, they sat down in the living room for a chat.

Joey Allen preaches in a recent worship service while his wife, Christy, looks on. Allen, a native of Cairo, is currently in South Asia with his wife and daughter serving through the International Mission Board.

Joey recalled, “I had practiced my speech with her dad, but I didn’t know what to say to Christy. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d make it past her dad! Finally I asked, ‘Are you interested in starting a relationship?’”

She responded, “I’ve been praying that you’d ask me that for the last eight months.”

Joey returned to UGA and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. That summer he and Christy went back to the Philippines on a missionary expedition. On a mountain on Cebu Island on the last day of the trip Joey asked Christy to marry him.

The engaged couple returned to America in August and in September Joey left for a nine-month ISC (International Service Corps) term with the International Mission Board in South Asia. In May of 2003 Joey returned to America and a month later, June 19, 2003, Christy became his bride. In August Joey started school at Dallas Theological Seminary, where Christy had one more year to complete her degree.

Joey recalled that the nine-month experience in South Asia left an indelible impression on his heart and mind. He reminisced, “When I first arrived in South Asia, I had the typical adrenaline rush of being in a new country, but soon the excitement wore off and I went into an emotional and spiritual slump. I was homesick and little things about my host culture bothered me.

“My supervisor gave me an opportunity to go to a Hindu village that was seven hours away by train. No one was scheduled to travel with me, but a translator was to meet me at the destination. So, I took my duffle bag, the projector, and the generator and headed north. I was at the lowest point during my time in South Asia.

“Once I arrived, my translator and I traveled to a huge tea plantation. We received permission from the local authorities to show the Jesus film. About 600 Hindus showed up to watch it.

“We paused the movie about half way into it and told the crowd, ‘The film is not over, so don’t leave. Let us explain the movie to you.’

“So, I preached the gospel message through my translator. At the end, I asked, ‘Is that good news?’ The crowd paused for a moment, and then just started cheering wildly! I had never seen such a positive response to the gospel.”

Joey summarized, “On the seven-hour train ride back, the thought occurred to me, ‘I love these people.’ God had changed my heart. From that moment on, little irritants no longer bothered me. I found what was truly beautiful in their culture, and my heart broke for their lost condition. We are going back to South Asia because we love the people there and are compelled by the great need for laborers.”

The Allens expressed, “We want to go to South Asia because there is a massive harvest of Muslims coming to faith in Christ right now. In fact, more Muslims have trusted Christ this century than all previous centuries combined. The country where we are going has been experiencing a great deal of political turmoil. Research shows that people who live in unstable conditions are more receptive to the gospel than people living in seemingly secure places. The harvest is great in South Asia, but laborers are needed.”

 

True promises

Joey and Christy have a little girl, Claire, who was born on their third wedding anniversary. Some would fear for the safety of this young missionary family, but Joey explains, “We believe the safest place in the world is in the will of God.

“However, the presence of the triune God doesn’t insure that we won’t get hurt or die, but on the night before he was crucified Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Remember the word that I said to you. A slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.’

“Being a follower of Christ involves a willingness to follow in His footsteps. We can’t ‘leapfrog’ over the cross to the resurrection.

Joey and Christy Allen first met while on a short-term mission trip to the Philippines in 1997. They would later marry and both graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary. They now serve in an area where there is one Christian missionary for every six million people.

“Too many of us have unwittingly bought into the prosperity gospel that promises heaven right here on earth. God’s promises will come true, but we err if we expect the blessing without the hardship. Jim Elliot, slain missionary to the Waodani people (formerly known as the Auca Indians) stated, ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’

“Secondly, safety is an illusion,” Joey declared. “No place is safe. Living in America is not safe. Driving in a car is not safe. Eating in a restaurant is not safe. People go to great lengths to find security, but all in vain. People buy SUVs, install alarm systems, and live in gated communities in an attempt to find security, but none of these things can really keep us safe.”

The Allens recently completed their orientation at the International Learning Center near Richmond, Va., and left on Oct. 22 to begin their service as career missionaries. Joey commented, “I believed in the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering before I became an IMB missionary, but now I really do! Southern Baptists have demonstrated their commitment to missions through sacrificial giving. I have witnessed a sincere desire on the part of the ILC leadership to practice wise stewardship.

“The money Baptists give to missions enables people like Christy and me to present the gospel to people who have never heard. Even though the IMB sends more missionaries than any other evangelical agency in the world, it has the lowest attrition rate (less than 8 percent) of any mission-sending agency. I believe this is directly related to the training we receive before we leave and the support we receive on the field.”

While the Allens have a monumental task lying before them in South Asia, we have a daunting task here at home. It is not uncommon for missionaries to make the kind of comment Joey made regarding “Christian” America.

He opined, “The world often equates American culture with Christianity. American media is seen as the product of a Christian nation. As a result, Brittany Spears is thought to be a typical Christian by many Muslims. They are disgusted with the immorality they see exported by a ‘Christian nation.’

They want nothing to do with Western culture – and who can blame them? Until Christians can live as called-out people who live in a distinctly different way from our surrounding culture, our message will be received with skepticism or rejection.”

The Allens have a great work to do in South Asia, but their task there may be no less daunting that ours here. The difference may be in the degree of commitment and sacrifice.