How do you know God is "calling" you and what are some implications of His calling?
How did Barb Allen and Liz Loeffler know that God was "calling" them to serve Him full-time? How did they feel about that, how were their loved ones affected and what resulted from their saying "yes" to Him? And what happened to that dream of being nun, and, why did one of them almost take her own life?
Todd Randall [00:00:02]: Welcome back to Entrust Equipping Leaders. Today we're diving into this idea of being called and then of retiring. Laurie Lind's guests are Barb Allen and Liz Loeffler.
Laurie Lind [00:00:16]: Hey, everybody, I'm Laurie, the host of the Entrust Equipping Leaders podcast. And thank you, Todd, once again for that fine introduction. As Todd said, today our guests are Barb and Liz, two long-term Entrust staff members. We're really going to get into their sense of calling today. How did they know God wanted them to serve him? They both left very comfortable corporate jobs. One of them gave up on the dream of being a nun, and one of them actually came to the point of considering taking her own life when she got into full-time ministry and hit some pretty hard times. All of that is ahead today. And then in two weeks, we'll talk about how do you know when it's time to stop? Or is it ever time to stop when you're serving God? So let's jump in.
Liz Loeffler [00:01:07]:
My big goal in life had always been to be an executive secretary in corporate America, and full time ministry was not on my radar screen whatsoever, particularly if it involved going to a different country, eating different foods, learning different language. I'll pray for you, I'll give to you, but don't ask me to do it. And for 14 years, I was very content and happy working at Procter and Gamble as an executive secretary in their sales office in Philadelphia, till God suddenly started to shake things up. And I met a Bible smuggler at an Evangelism explosion clinic that worked for Brother Andrew. And I had read the book God’s Smuggler years before that, and I thought if I was ever to get into full time ministry, that would be exciting, but I'm too much of a chicken to smuggle Bibles. That would not be something I'd be interested I would be willing to do. But God worked in a number of mysterious ways to bring me back in touch with this tall Dutchman I met at Evangelism Explosion. And to make a long story short, for six years I worked as their area coordinator, setting up speaking engagements for Bible smugglers in churches and different venues and arranging housing when they were in the area. And one day, one of the gentlemen that was there said to me, when are you going to come smuggle with us? And I laughed in his face and I said, I got a new house, a new car. I can't take a month, a summer off from Procter and Gamble without pay. I only have two weeks. He says, you only need four. I said, I only have two weeks. I can't afford even two weeks without pay. Would you believe in the next six months, Procter and Gamble changed their vacation policy not once, but twice, after I've been working with them for twelve years. And I suddenly had four weeks vacation. And I said, God, are you serious? And I took my first Bible smuggling trip in 81 and at the same time I was getting very disenchanted with the corporate world and ended up going to work for my church. I took my second Bible smuggling trip three years later to confirm that what I felt Lord calling me to do. Enrolled in Bible school while I was still working at my church. And after eight and a half years at my church, I joined Entrust in Vienna, Austria, November 1, 1989, and nine days later the Berlin Wall fell. So I had a front row seat to the opening up of the east and Russia. And after the Vienna office closed, I went kicking and screaming to Moscow, Russia, and figured I wouldn't last 24 hours. And I lasted 15 years.
Laurie Lind [00:03:50]: Well, while we're with you, Liz, and then we'll come to your story Barb. But Liz, how did people around you feel as you were transitioning, suddenly saying, oh, I'm going to go smuggle Bibles and now I'm going to actually leave corporate America and so forth?
Liz Loeffler [00:04:05]: Well, my cousin ... I only have two first cousins, both only children … our family wasn't very fruitful multiplying. My cousin, who was a businessman, thought I was absolutely nuts leaving a good job at Proctor and Gamble to go to work for my church and was very upset that I was going to Bible smuggle. And if I got caught, who was going to pay the ransom? I said, Nobody pays the ransom. If I get caught, I get caught. And if anything happens, then it's the Lord's will. But this is what I feel the Lord wants me to do. So other people at church said, we were wondering when you were finally going to make the big plunge and do this. And because of all the years of working with different churches, setting up speaking occasions for Bible smuggling, I didn't realize. But I had been working for like six, eight years on support, raising in all these churches. Just jumped on board. And I raised my support in February. From February to November 1, I was fully supported.
Laurie Lind [00:05:03]: Wow. My goodness. And one more question for you, Liz, about that. That's amazing. You were making this decision and easing out of corporate life and finally easing into full time ministry as a single person and still single to this day. We'll add, as am I. What implications did that have on this decision making and these changes in your life?
Liz Loeffler [00:05:28]: Well, very little because all my life I wanted to be, like I said, a corporate secretary. I think I missed the mommy gene. I was never opposed to marriage. If it happened, fine, and it almost did, but the guy that I would have married in a heartbeat ended up marrying somebody else. And later I was so glad that we never got married. It would not have lasted at all. But I always wanted to be a career girl, not a wife and mother. Like I said, I was open to it if the Lord willed it. But he knew the desires of my heart and I have no regrets. I could have got married several times, but I wasn't interested in the guys other than this one.
Laurie Lind [00:06:13]: So then, Barb, your story, of course, is all different. How did you know God wanted you to work for Him full time?
Barb Allen [00:06:21]: Well, interestingly enough, I come from a background where I felt like when I was a young high school student, that God was calling me to be a nun. Yeah, I know it seems rather strange, but I knew that people needed God around the world, and somehow that was my only frame of reference because that was the church background that we had. And I just knew that that was something I needed to do. Well, my parents were pretty staunch in the religion, and I just thought, well, okay, we'll see how it goes. That's what my mom said. And when I came to Faith, then I kind of switched my gears a little bit and thought, well, I don't know about becoming a nun, but maybe God wants me to serve Him someplace overseas. And our family background is German, so I kind of had that in the back of my mind. I joined another Christian organization in 1976, and as we were heading to our all-staff conference, unfortunately there was a huge flood and seven of our staff members were drowned in this flood. And at the time I realized I could be here today, gone tomorrow, so could anybody else in this world, Christian or non-Christian. So God impressed on me that urgency of reaching people for Him. And I'd always felt like Germany was the place. But God used Matthew 25, the parable of the talents, to help me see how I needed to invest my talents in an area of the world where there was very few Christians. Only 3% of the people in that country went to church at that time, and I think it's at least that bad, if not worse now. But he pushed me out of my comfort zone, showing me that there were many people here in the US. That could do my job, but few that would serve Him in another country with another language. So that was the beginning of my journey. Not only ministering in Germany for 16 years and Jeff joined me at one point, but also then coming back later to Hungary. So in all, it was 22 years, not as many as Lou's, but still amazing. So I never thought I would be overseas as long as I was. But God had a plan and he used scripture as well as people.
Laurie Lind [00:09:10]: So what was that job you had in the US that you realized other people could do if you left?
Barb Allen [00:09:16]: Well, I was a secretary as well, and I worked for the international recruiter and strategy planner for Phillips Petroleum Company. And so that was right along the line of what I had gotten my degree in. And so I was glad to be doing something that was full of my talents. But when I realized that I could do this and be in ministry full time, then I jumped at the chance.
Laurie Lind [00:09:50]: You decided to get involved in ministry full time and actually go overseas prior to having met Jeff, who's your husband, is that right?
Barb Allen [00:09:59]: Well, no. We actually worked together on the same team on campus, as well as part time in an office situation. And he and I went over with this team to Germany in 1979 and continued to work there. And that's where we actually fell in love with each other. But I was still more involved in ministry, ministry, ministry than I was trying to find a man. So I kind of shoved him off. So it was a few years later that I finally got the idea, actually, from God. Timing is always his timing is always the best that Jeff was the one and that we needed to be married.
Laurie Lind [00:10:41]: As you were deciding to get into full time ministry, and here you'd had this kind of impressive corporate job as well, like Liz had. How did your family and people around you feel? And especially also you weren't heading towards being a nun maybe anymore. What were the impacts and the feelings around you in all of that?
Barb Allen [00:11:04]: My parents were distraught. They thought I'd gotten involved in some kind of a cult that … was kind of the main word going around Christian circles at that time. And I brought home different friends who were also involved in the ministry, and that didn't seem to make any difference. And I sensed that God was still calling me to do that, but just not as a nun. And so my parents actually disowned me for a number of months. And finally I went home from my college. I graduated from college, went home and worked for this Phillips Petroleum Company. And then about two years into it, I sensed, okay, from the Lord, this is the time I have for you, Barb. And so that's when I then went with fear and trembling, actually, to my parents and said, I really still feel like God wants me to do this, and I feel like now is the time I need to do it. I sense this from the Lord. And they said, really? Without batting an eye, my dad said, you know, we now see why Jesus is so important to you, and we give you our blessing, and so would you please pray with us that we would have the faith to trust Jesus like you do? That was like whoa. I could not imagine because I made so many mistakes. But somehow they caught a glimpse, a vision of what it meant to really walk in the power of the Spirit, and that's what they needed. So they were just really confused and concerned that I was going to be a beggar on the street corner asking people for money the rest of my life. And that that wasn't it at all. Of course. And like Liz, I raised my support really fast. It was not even a month that it took me. Yeah, the people in the church just got behind me, and they really sensed this is what Barb needs to do, too. That was another confirmation.
Laurie Lind [00:13:17]: We can name your ministry. I think Barb; was this all with Campus Crusade, which is known Cru.
Barb Allen [00:13:24]: Yes. Campus Crusade for 30 years and then Entrust starting in 2007.
Laurie Lind [00:13:30]: Okay, so you started off heading towards full time ministry as a single woman, and then somewhere along the way there, you fell in love with Jeff, you got married, you guys had children. And what were some of the impacts on both the decision to serve the Lord full time and then to make these additional decisions about marriage and kids overseas and so forth?
Barb Allen [00:13:56]: I feel ever since I read the scripture, that God wants us to take one day at a time that I've pretty much lived that way. And there were times when I was shocked that somebody wanted me to do something like overseas or I never thought we'd have three children and eight grandchildren, that kind of thing. But as time has gone on and we've been challenged to do different things, it was like we prayed about it. God seemed to be saying yes, and we just went whether it was we did have a little stint in Russia, and we had some different things going on in eastern Germany, in Czech Republic, in Moldova, Ukraine, different places, and it just seemed like that was what God wants us to do. And the kids just came with us. They didn't know any difference.
Laurie Lind [00:14:51]: Well, how were your parents feeling about I've heard sometimes parents don't like having their grandchildren far away from them. Were your parents still alive as you started having kids, or how did they respond to you developing a family overseas?
Barb Allen [00:15:09]: They really let us make our own decisions, which I'm really thankful for. And while they might not have agreed with what we did, they felt like they should stay out of those decisions. And so I think that when we came home, we were very diligent to do our furlough much of our furlough time with our parents so that they wouldn't feel left out. But we really did ask the Lord, make this a very special time with lots of good memories for them to hang on to when we went home and then went back to Germany. But both sets of parents came over to visit us, and my mom and dad were over there for both our first and last babies, and that was very special to me to have my mom and dad there.
Laurie Lind [00:15:58]: Well, both of you, then. I know you could tell story after story after story about your times overseas and just all the different things that happened. And I hate to cut any of that out, but I was wondering if you just might mention what were a couple of the greatest joys, one or two joys and one or two of the greatest challenges for each of you in terms of just serving God full time in ministry in a different culture.
Liz Loeffler [00:16:29]: My biggest struggle is I don't have a linguistic bone in my body. And after four years of struggling to learn Russian, even my sending mission, Greater Europe Mission, and then I was on loan to entrust Greater Europe Mission, puts a high premium on learning the language. Even they said, Liz, give it up. I was in my 40s when I went to Russia, and the fact that the Lord was able to accomplish anything through me with training that stretched across all eleven time zones of Russia, and it's still going on today, amid the chaos that's happening there is just a work of him. I sure didn't know what I was doing, so that was a real handicap. Many times I cried, one of the first words I tried to learn was [Russian greeting] which is basically the formal hello. And I don't know how you got a ZH sound out of your mouth. And I remember putting my head down on the desk and crying and saying, lord, there's no way I can get this language. So my favorite phrase in Russian turns out to be is Benichi yaniponimayu, which basically means, I'm sorry, I don't understand you.
Barb Allen [00:17:40]: Good job. You let them know right in the beginning, right?
Liz Loeffler [00:17:42]: Yeah, but apparently I pronounced it fairly well and they thought I was fluent in Russian and they would come back with a whole slew of Russian. And I just kept repeating is vaniki yaniponi mayo, yaniponi mayo. I don't understand. So the fact that the Lord was able to use me the way he did is just I stand amazed at what he did, and that will still be one of the highlights of my life. And I just heard from the leader that I worked with who was the main woman for the Baptist Union, the largest evangelical group in Russia who is still running the program strongly, and it spilled over into Belarus. She told me, they're just celebrating their 15th year of our training, so all glory goes to God, because this little girl did not know what she was doing when she got there. Couldn't speak the language, never could. And thank heavens the Lord gave me two very strong Russian women that spoke English fluently, and that's how I more or less survived. And it gave the Russians a chance to really do the program themselves without any Western interference. Half the time they had explained to me what was going on and I would go, yeah, that sounds like it was working well. Okay, yeah, go ahead. It was very interesting situation. And again, God gets all the glory for what God accomplished.
Laurie Lind [00:19:05]: What were the years you were in Russia.
Liz Loeffler [00:19:07]: From 91 to 2009.
Laurie Lind [00:19:10]: Have you been back since?
Liz Loeffler [00:19:13]: I went back in 2019 for the 20th anniversary of the training in Russia. And that was a great thrill because we had people from all over the country coming in and to see how the Nationals this is the thrilling part. The Nationals translated it into their language. And the Nationals are teaching the Nationals in their heart language. And one quick story. There was one woman that told us her house caught on fire and the only thing she grabbed on her way out the door was all the Entrust materials because they valued them so much.
Barb Allen [00:19:50]: Oh, how dear.
Liz Loeffler [00:19:53]: For years they had prayed, they had a big map of Russia laid over the table. And they prayed that somehow women's training would come to that country because they had no women's training whatsoever. And she said, after we got this program started, after the Lord got this program started, that this was the answer to their prayers and their tears. Wow.
Laurie Lind [00:20:17]: And maybe can you just briefly explain what the training was like? What were they wanting training in and what did the training involve?
Liz Loeffler [00:20:22]: Well, training how to lead women in Bible studies. We used the more extended curriculum that we used, where we taught them how to do Bible studies, how to study the Bible themselves, how to do evangelism, how to work with women's groups under male leadership. And the men were skeptical at first, but when they saw what a trained women could do 90% of the churches in Russia were made up of women, and they didn't know what to do with the women. But finally, when they had a woman that was trained and could counsel from scripture, they knew what to do with the women that were coming to them. And they were just totally unprepared. But they would send them to these women. This one woman, this one pastor in the far east of Russia, didn't want his wife to come, but finally sent her. And he turned out to be one of our biggest champions and actually funded the training center in the far east of Russia.
Laurie Lind [00:21:25]: That's amazing. Across eleven time zones, like you said.
Liz Loeffler [00:21:29]: They collapsed this down to nine time zones. I don't know what happened to the other time zones, but now there's only nine.
Laurie Lind [00:21:34]: Only nine. It's a big country. How about Barb for you? How many years altogether were you overseas? And I know you mentioned several countries you've been in. And what was a joy and a challenge for you along the way?
Barb Allen [00:21:51]: Probably the biggest challenge was also language learning. I don't know how they tell you that you aren't a good prospect for language learning, but I probably shouldn't have done it either. Liz but they don't tell you that. That's just it. They look at the fact that you sense that God is calling you to do this and they let you go for it. So that's what happened to me. Except that after I think it was two months of language study in German in a German speaking city, it was all in German. And that just floored me. I couldn't depend on any English words at all. And I was living with a Japanese girl, also learning German. I got to the point I was so bummed out, I was so demoralized that I considered taking my life. And so this was a beautiful German town and had a really nice bridge over the main part of the city. And I thought, one night I'm going to go out, I'm just going to toss myself over the edge and that'll be that.
Laurie Lind [00:23:03]: Oh, my goodness.
Barb Allen [00:23:04]: So I was on my way over there to do it and God just spoke to me, but he used something that really was meaningful to me. And that was, I thought, what would happen the next day when somebody finds my body that in the newspaper? It would say American Christian woman takes her life. And I thought, Whoa, I couldn't dishonor God in that way. That would be the ultimate. Yeah, I just couldn't dishonor his name that way. And so that pushed me away from that bridge and from doing that. And I just decided, lord, you've called me here. You're going to provide. And so I just kept on learning. I must have gone through three or four different courses as time went on. And finally I reached a plateau and I realized, hey, I'm getting more fluent in this language. And then somebody said, oh, are you from North Germany? That was the biggest compliment I ever got from a German because, you know, they're very formal and they'll tell you real quick when you're not doing something right, that's fine. That's their mentality. And I needed to hear that at different times. But I realized, yeah, I can do this. And God has continued to use the German language in my life because now I'm working with a Swiss German speaking woman who's translating DDH.
Laurie Lind [00:24:41]: Quick pause here. Barb just mentioned DDH. What on earth is that? DDH stands for Developing a Discerning Heart. It's one of the modules that Entrust Equipping Leaders provides for women. We also have a module called FRL, which is Facilitating Relational Learning and that might come up as well. You're listening to an interview I did with Barb Allen and Liz Loeffler of Entrust about how they knew God was calling them to serve Him full time and some of the joys and challenges they've experienced in their years of ministry. OK, back to the program.
Barb Allen [00:25:18]: And she is just so thrilled to be able to do this. And I'm giving her some pointers about how to do it. And she said, Barb, I want you to come over and do the DDH in German sometime with some of our Swiss church leaders. Oh, wow. So we'll see if that materializes. But some of your greatest trauma turns out to be one of your greatest blessings. I'll say that. And then a big blessing for me has just been in the last four or five years, I met Ági Székely, who's now the regional director for she has when I met her, her life was so far away from where she is now, and she'll tell you as well that God just got a hold of her. She just started submitting and surrendering to him. And then when I left five years ago, she took over all of my well, I challenged her to come on staff, and when she did, she took over the local ministry that I've been involved in, and now she's doing it on a regional basis. So she's just really decided God wants her to do this. And God has raised her support, which is very unusual for a Hungarian, so for anybody in Europe, but for certain old Eastern European people just don't have that mindset yet anyway. So she's been probably my biggest delight.
Liz Loeffler [00:26:48]: I just wanted to make sure that the listeners understood that Ági was Hungarian. And what we try to do is get nationals to embrace the training and pass it on to other nationals, and we get out of the way as soon as we can. When we feel that they're competent, we don't hang on forever. We train them and go on. And it's just been a thrill for me to watch. The same things happened in Latvia. The Latvians are now totally indigenous, and it's just been incredible. And it's happening with the nationals. They're working with other people. One of the things I just got an email from one of the women in central Siberia that said, we've come to know sisters that we never knew before. And at one point we had three different denominations studying together in Russia, which was unheard of, and all their pastors, we always try to get involved with pastors involved so they don't feel like we're trying to take over the church. And they were so grateful.
Barb Allen [00:27:50]: Yes, thank you for mentioning that. Liz. That Ági's. Hungarian, actually. She's half Hungarian, half Polish, so she has one foot in each country.
Laurie Lind [00:27:59]: And I think she's fluent in both, what, Hungarian and Polish and English and maybe I don't know how many other languages.
Laurie Lind [00:28:09]: Oh yeah. Spanish. Of course. Wow. Yeah. So she's the Entrust Equipping Women European director now, is that correct?
Barb Allen [00:28:18]: I’m not sure exactly what her title is, but she works with all of the European country coordinators.
Laurie Lind [00:28:25]: So we started today on Entrust Equipping Leaders asking Barb and Liz how God led them into full time ministry. And I love that the conversation took them right down to people who have taken over where they left off. Next time, some of their thoughts about retiring.
Barb Allen [00:28:45]: Like every new life phase, Jesus accompanies us and has a plan.
Liz Loeffler [00:28:53]: And I did say to Him when I was feeling more and more tired, I said, oh, Lord, I just wish I could go someplace and rest and have everything done for me. Well, I kind of got the answer to my prayer, but it wasn't exactly the way I was thinking about it.
Laurie Lind [00:29:06]: Get all the context next time on Entrust Equipping Leaders I'm your host, Laurie Lind. Thanks for joining us.