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Anna Verne Lee

Retired Support Staff
"Missionary to Many Fields"
By Grace Yates, Writing Intern, Updated November 2013

“Dear Lord Jesus, if in all of this busy schedule of activity You have received honor, thank You. That is the reason we are here. Help us to be strong for all the demands, to be humbly obedient, to be God-conscious and people-oriented, and to make the best use of the time we have to build Your kingdom here in Kenya.” This prayer, originally written in Anna Verne Lee’s prayer journal and later published in Call to Prayer, expresses the attitude she and her husband, David, had during their service with WGM. The Lees spent three terms as missionaries to Kenya and about 15 years working at WGM headquarters.

David and Anna Verne had very different childhood experiences. David grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. “Being reared during the Depression and the years following, I knew in my youth what it was to work long and hard days on the farm to help support the family,” he said. Anna Verne was born in Uganda and grew up in Kenya because her parents, Robert and Catharine Smith, were pioneer WGM missionaries there. In fact, as a toddler, Anna Verne spoke the tribal language Kipsigis before English.

David and Anna Verne first met at a camp meeting in Ohio. They were later classmates at Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute and Asbury College (Kentucky). They dated occasionally at Asbury and continued corresponding while David was at Asbury Theological Seminary and Anna Verne was at Western Reserve University (Ohio) for nursing training. They were married in 1958, shortly after being appointed to Kenya. They lived for one year in Marion, Indiana, gaining practical experience in their fields; David taught school, and Anna Verne practiced nursing.

They arrived in Kenya in 1961 with their first daughter, Rebecca. Esther was born in their first term, and John was born during their first furlough. Their first term was varied and busy. “I think we felt in our first term of service that we were sort of stopgaps…. When missionaries went on furlough, we went to fill the place where they had been,” said Anna Verne. “We used to joke, ‘I wonder if they’re trying to see what we can do.’” The couple studied Kipsigis at Kenya Highlands Bible College and both taught there before moving to other ministries. Every other week, Anna Verne took a mobile dispensary to a remote area that had no other medical help. At an outstation, David supervised 14 village schools and oversaw maintenance (including keeping their Jeep in good running order). Later, Anna Verne taught nursing at Tenwek Hospital and was on call for surgery.

The couple returned to the U.S. for their first furlough, intending to raise funds quickly and go back to Kenya. However, God had different plans. David had a growing sense that God wanted him to teach at Circleville Bible College (Ohio). He taught missions, Bible, and theology classes for two years. Anna Verne taught English and marriage and family. When the couple returned to Kenya, they again taught at the Bible school. David became principal and was able to accept the first college-level class. Since then, the school has grown immensely and is now Kenya Highlands Evangelical University. Anna Verne taught classes in English, science, and music and served as the school’s nurse.

In their third term, David was the Kenya field director. They worked as administrators, oriented new missionaries, and traveled to Pokot to encourage and equip the Kenyan pastors. Anna Verne confessed that sometimes it was difficult to explain their work. “I know that people here have the concept that… when you go to be a missionary, you’re going to be bringing people to the Lord right out of the bush,” said Anna Verne. “That doesn’t happen. It takes more than just the initial talking to them.” A lot of their work involved maintenance, transportation, and teaching. “That’s all a part of the ministry,” she added.

After their third term, David and Anna Verne planned to spend two years in the U.S. to get their daughters into college. However, in 1977, David was asked to join the WGM headquarters staff. He was in charge of the Africa and Middle East fields in the Field Ministries Department. This involved helping missionaries with financial, visa, transportation, and shipping needs. Anna Verne worked as a nurse in Marion until she was asked to become editor of Call to Prayer. Later, together they led the Prayer Ministries Department. This ministry allowed them to communicate with and visit WGM’s prayer partners all over the country.

In 1991, David and Anna Verne retired from WGM and moved to Idaho to be near Anna Verne’s aging father and stepmother. David worked on a wheat farm and Anna Verne practiced and taught nursing. Later, they moved to Somerset, Kentucky. David passed away on November 3, 2013.

Whether working on a Jeep, encouraging pastors, teaching, providing nursing care, visiting prayer partners, or driving farm tractors, David and Anna Verne followed Christ wherever He took them. David said in a 2012 interview, “The priority is [to] keep God first. Sometimes you get so wound up in work, and you have to remember that I’m not in it for me—I’m in it for Him.”

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