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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: Gary and Arlene Allen

Sharing Life and Ministry

Gary and Arlene Allen retired in November 2010 as director of Pastor Care for the Assemblies of God and director of the national AG Women’s Department, respectively. They took some time recently with Scott Harrup, managing editor, to reflect on their life of shared ministry.

evangel: How long have you been married?
We were married 45 years in August.

ARLENE: We dated two years in high school and married between Gary’s sophomore and junior year at Central Bible College.

evangel: What priorities did each of you bring into your relationship as you contemplated marriage?
We both had a great relationship with God, and we both sensed a call of God on our lives. We didn’t know exactly what form that call would take, but we both had a sense of adventure and were excited about what surprises God might have in His plan. We didn’t have a preconceived box to put it in; we just wondered what God would do.

So that sense of calling was mixed in with the marriage, with our love for each other, and with a sincere faith that God would provide. That doesn’t mean we never have a need. But if God calls, God provides the opportunity; He provides the resources.

ARLENE: Early in our marriage I was one of those wives who worked to put her husband through school — Gary had two more years of college and went on to three years of seminary. But I was happy to do that. It was important to our early goals of preparing for full-time ministry.

evangel: How did you face the crises in your life together?
At the age of 21, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors told us that I would be in a wheelchair by the age of 30. They painted a bleak future for a young couple who had big plans. We cried, prayed and cried some more.

The day came that I released it to the Lord. I remember the prayer even today. “Lord, You know I desire a miracle; however, if it is not Your will for me, I’ll serve You the best I can walking or from a wheelchair.” At this crisis point I was healed.

However, there were times of crisis in our marriage that the answer was not how we wished it would be. We learned early in our marriage that we could count on God. We learned to trust Him with everything!

GARY: We looked at crises in our life together as an opportunity to trust God in some very scary times. We both came from families with a strong work ethic and believed that we were to apply life experience, wisdom and determination in any crisis situation and do the best we could. Illness and other tragedies are sometimes part of life, and you work through those things. And our role was to pray and trust God, but to leave the final decision to His will. We took a similar view to those theology/philosophy concepts, and that sustained us.

evangel: Gary, during your years of ministry and pastoral counseling, how have you seen the marriage landscape change in our culture?
One thing that stands out is how adolescence has extended in our culture at least into the early 20s for many people. Many are not marrying until their mid- or late-20s. Our culture is more self-centered, narcissistic and sexually active. By the time people marry, many have been involved with at least the person they’re wanting to marry, and often with other partners as well. They bring more emotional baggage and dysfunction into the relationship.

Premarital counseling is a totally different paradigm than it was 30 years ago. In my early years of counseling, I could almost assume certain values and certain family interactions. Today, it’s all over the board, and you find so many things you feel that you need to say in order to help a couple unravel the complications of their pasts before they can even begin to build a relationship.

evangel: What counsel would you offer a couple as they prepare for marriage?
First of all, date long enough to really know each other. Second, build a spiritual bond during courtship — evaluate each other’s spiritual formation, submission to the Word of God and to the Holy Spirit’s leadership. Third, seek godly premarital counseling that utilizes personality type and relationship skill profiles. Be willing to drill down in some of those things, aside from the spiritual, and get into the emotional and personal dynamics.

Fourth, develop a healthy, emotional intimacy during courtship. You need an emotional intimacy that is strong and is able to resist the temptation of sexual intimacy. If you discover you can’t really establish that kind of bond, it’s far better to make that discovery in courtship than in marriage. When you develop a healthy, emotional intimacy, then you can start the marriage on a solid foundation.

evangel: What’s the most treasured characteristic you see in each other today?
I absolutely admire Gary’s character and integrity. After 45 years of marriage, I can say I highly respect him and know that I can count on his love and commitment to me.

GARY: The first thing that comes to my mind is Arlene’s passion for godliness. She grew up in a family that didn’t go to church, and for many years she was the only one in her family who was a Christian. But from the time she can remember, she wanted to go to church, she wanted to learn the Bible, and she wanted to be able to live it.

Second is her absolute commitment to our relationship. It’s not a blind or foolish commitment that ignores challenges, but one that focuses on encouragement regardless of circumstances.

The other thing that stands out in her life, and has grown during the last decade with Women’s Ministries, is her compassion for others. She has a desire to see women develop to their fullest potential, and to see young girls develop into godly women.

Arlene and I have always enabled each other’s ministry. I don’t think we were ever envious or jealous of each other. Arlene wasn’t credentialed until about 1995, though we’d been married 30 years. She always viewed her ministry as alongside me. When she went to the Illinois District office as Women’s Ministries director in 1992, that began to develop into something different. Anything I could do to facilitate her call was a great joy, and her facilitating my ministry was always a real pleasure to her. Ministry has been a lot of fun because we enabled each other.


Previous Years

2013 Connections

2012 Connections

2011 Connections

2010 Connections

2009 Conversations

2008 Conversations

2007 Conversations

2006 Conversations

2005 Conversations

2004 Conversations

2003 Conversations

2002 Conversations

2001 Conversations

2000 Conversations

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