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My turn

A life that can make a difference

By Arlene Allen

From the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia to the granite hills of Vermont to the coastal plains of Georgia, my family lived in nearly every state on the East Coast. I changed schools as often as three times a year because of my father’s job. Each time I cried because of the friends I was leaving behind, but by the time we unpacked in our new community I was excited about making new friends.

I was always drawn to church. I knew Jesus loved me and that I loved Him. Usually I chose to attend a church that one of my new friends attended. I attended many churches of various denominations. It was a confusing church upbringing.

During those early years, I was often the only one in my family of four who attended church. Later my sister attended with me. Together we prayed for our parents’ salvation. Our dad accepted the Lord just months before he died, and our mother has also become a Christian.

From my earliest memory, I enjoyed attending church. During those years many people were faithful to pick me up and see that I got home safely. I was a product of “bus ministry” before churches were using buses.

When I was 10, living in York, Pa., a teacher took my hand and said, “Arlene, I see you go forward almost every Sunday for salvation.” She was right — I must have been a mean little 10-year-old! All I know is that I was a little girl who had a heart for God. She explained to me that I could not lose my salvation so easily.

I don’t think I would be in ministry today if that woman had not taken time to reach across that table to touch me and explain some of the basics. I probably would have given up, thinking that being a Christian was too hard. Many other people also left a lasting mark on my life during those childhood years. I don’t remember all their names, but in heaven I hope I have the opportunity to thank them for their investment in this little Southern girl’s life.

I have also had many wonderful mentors in my adult life. People like June Sites, who encouraged me to get my education through correspondence courses. And Ona Heuser, an older pastor’s wife who gave me direction as a young, unsure pastor’s wife. She always spoke to me as a peer — even though I had so much to learn.

Two men played key roles in my spiritual development. My husband, Gary, was and still is my greatest encourager. He has always pushed me beyond where I thought I was capable of going. The second man who saw that potential and gave me a chance to stretch out of my comfort zone was Ernest Moen. At the time, he was superintendent of the Illinois District. I’ll never forget the day he called and asked if I would interview for the position of district Women’s Ministries director. Others often see more potential in us than we do in ourselves.

Today I serve as the National Women’s Ministries director. I brought to the office more than 30 years of experience working with women on the local, district and national level.

There have always been people in my life who saw potential and encouraged me to step out and believe that I served a God who desired to use me. That’s my passion today — to help every woman understand that she is gifted from God and that He wants her to use those gifts to make a difference in the world in which she lives.

Arlene Allen in an ordained minister. Her husband, Gary, is the director of Ministerial Enrichment for the Assemblies of God.

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