|(Allen and Ellen are ready for the senior prom)
Allen Balsley was born and grew up in North Liberty, Ind. Ellen was born in Royalton, Ky., and moved to Michigan at age six. During her junior high years, her family moved to Indiana, where she and Allen met.
Falling in Love over Spin-the-Bottle
Because she lived two miles outside town, Ellen attended Green Township High School, while Allen went to North Liberty High. In Ellen’s junior year (1951), she gave a birthday party for her cousin. Allen and his cousin were among the guests. This was their first meeting. Ellen says, “We had fun playing spin-the-bottle, and that was the beginning of our relationship. Also, we both liked to roller-skate, and we went skating many times.”
After Ellen’s senior class trip in May 1952, Allen met her at the bus. She says, “We went for a ride in his ’50 blue Studebaker convertible, and he proposed and gave me an engagement ring.” They were married August 31, 1952, and went to Lookout Mountain, Tenn., on their honeymoon.
Allen had always worked in whatever business his dad was in, first, owning a restaurant and then an appliance store. Allen and Ellen lived in a house across the street from his parents. When they were expecting their first child, Allen was called into the army. They drove to Stockton, Calif., where he was stationed at a large supply depot. Angela, their oldest daughter, was born there. When Allen’s tour of duty was up, the family returned
|(Allen and Ellen Balsley were married on August 31, 1952)
Ellen says, “After we were home a few months, we found out we were expecting our second daughter, Connie. Four years later we had Kristi. Eighteen months later we had our first son, Keith.”
A Wonderful, Marvelous, Tremendous Life in Christ
Right before Keith was born, Allen’s grandparents asked him and Ellen to take them to an evening service at a church in South Bend. Although they thought it was “really ridiculous” to drive 20 miles to church when there were so many closer churches, Ellen says, “We took them because they were wonderful grandparents and didn’t ask us to do anything for them ever, and we wanted to help them out.”
At Allen’s grandparents’ Grace Brethren church, Ellen heard the gospel for the first time. Allen had heard it before—when he was in the army, first during a chapel service at Ft. Campbell, Ky., and again in California. He says, “I was convicted about my situation. I knew I was lost. I was convicted about accepting Christ and just didn’t do it.”
But after their first service in his grandparents’ church, Allen told Ellen on their way home, “I could have gone forward and accepted Christ. I feel like I should.” She said she felt the same way.
Two weeks later his grandparents asked Allen and Ellen to take them to church again. So they did. This time, they responded to the gospel, went forward, and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Ellen says, “It has been a wonderful, marvelous, tremendous life in Christ.”
They left their old liberal church and started going to the church in South Bend, where they were also baptized. “We started our life together in Christ, started having family devotions, and all—it changed our family. We stayed there in that church until the Lord called us to help start a church in our hometown,” says Allen.
In the meantime, the Lord was working in their hearts to accept the call into full-time vocational service. After they went forward, saying, “We want to go serve the Lord full-time,” they were instructed about what to do. They met with the president of Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary, who said, “You must have some training if you want to go into full-time service for the Lord.”
But Allen didn’t want to go to college. “I was 35 years old. I didn’t feel like I could,” he says. But God kept after him. “I came to the place where I left the appliance business and we went up to Grand Rapids Baptist.”
Allen says: “God took care of us while I was going to school. I didn’t know where the money was coming from, but it came. We were thrilled with the way God met our needs. The Scripture says, ‘Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it’ [1 Thessalonians 5:24]. And it had to be that way with us. We went through school there four years.” Their oldest, Angie, graduated from high school the year Allen finished college in 1973. The other children were 15, 11, and 10.
|(From l. to r. Connie, Allen, Ellen, Kristi, Keith, and Angie Balsley)
From college they went to a church in Pompano Beach, Fla., where they served for 10 years. The church paid them $75 a week. Yet they put two kids in Christian school during that time. God had met their needs in college, and they felt He would meet their needs in Pompano Beach too, and He did.
When the Balsleys came to a church in the Lakeland area, the church could pay them only $200 a week, and they still had their younger two kids at home, plus they were making two house payments. They didn’t know how God would meet their needs. Allen says, “God has brought us several times down to that narrow way of having to trust Him. And He supplied that need.”
God has continued to supply for them in retirement. Allen says, “We’re living on faith now.”
|(Pastor & Mrs. Balsley circa 1998)
When asked what he enjoyed best about pastoring, Allen replies: “My favorite part of pastoring would be loving, helping, counseling, preaching the Word, and loving the people. That’s where it’s at.” Ellen gives a similar response about being a pastor’s wife: “The best part was loving the people. Being a part of their lives, being able to show hospitality in my home, being able to make hospital calls, and being an encouragement to the people is just my very favorite thing to do. What a high privilege it is to be used of God to be there for people, to listen to their problems, to show them love.”
Here at Faith, Ellen works in Awana Guards, something she always wanted to do but didn’t get to do before. She is also active in the Triple Cord Ladies’ Sunday School class (aka Helen VanHorn’s class), where she is able to teach from time-to-time. She uses some of her pastor’s-wife experience when she and Carla Gaswint visit shut-ins and hospital patients. She says, “We live far apart, so it’s hard to make it a routine. We want
to make it a monthly thing if possible.”
Allen is a men’s prayer group leader. His group meets once during the month to pray during a church service. He and the other leaders also meet every Wednesday night for prayer and a devotional. Allen says, “Mostly what I like about being at Faith is hearing the Word and being strengthened by the Word of God and then being able to help others.”
They both could do a lot more of what they love if they lived closer to the church. Right now they drive 16 miles one way (about 25–30 minutes) to get to church. Allen says, “We’re planning to move over to Winter Haven close to the church and trusting God in the matter of selling the house in Lakeland and moving over here.”
So far, the Lord has closed the door to the sale of their home in the Colonnades in Lakeland. The Balsleys have asked the church to pray that their home will sell so they can move to Winter Haven and minister to more people at and through our church.