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Barbara Pinkley

Retired Missionaries to Kenya
"Empowering Others"
By Kateland Vernon, Staff Writer

Barbara Pinkley’s missionary journey began at a very young age. As a missionary kid on the Mexican border, she grew up attending WGM prayer band meetings and lifting up missionaries like Dr. Ernie Steury at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. At seven years old, Barbara was saved and found herself wanting to share with others what Jesus meant to her. And at just ten years old, she began partnering financially with the Steury family.

With this foundation—much of it the result of her missionary parents’ example—Barbara began considering missions service. She spent time in prayer asking God to show her that He was truly calling her to be a missionary. He did make it clear, and after language study, Barbara started serving as a nurse in Burundi in 1980. When WGM’s missions work there came to an end a year later, she was faced with a decision: did she go to Haiti or to Kenya? Because of her connection with the Steurys, Barbara felt drawn to Kenya. So she moved to the field and served there for forty years.

The summer before she graduated from nurses’ training, Barbara had served in Burundi with WGM’s summer missions program. A doctor there asked Barbara if she’d ever considered being a midwife. “It’s amazing the power words have over people,” Barbara said. “If he hadn’t suggested it, I never would have considered it.” Because of that doctor’s suggestion, though, she did, in fact, become a midwife. And it was one of the most rewarding facets of her missionary work. “There’s just something special about delivering babies,” she said, smiling. “They are expected for some time, and there’s just something special about new life coming into the world.”

Barbara later had the opportunity to teach nursing, including midwifery and delivering babies. She greatly enjoyed teaching because she loved to see her students learn to make decisions in medical situations. “I believe very strongly in the principle of multiplication,” she stated, “and empowering others to be competent in their profession, to grow in their walk with Jesus, and even teach others to do the same.”

Missions work taught Barbara many lessons about God and life. When she discovered she had breast cancer in 2020, she wasn’t sure if she would ever be able to resume serving in Kenya. She could feel the power of others’ prayers surrounding and supporting her, though, and she eventually was able to return to the field. During this season, Barbara learned four lessons:

  1. Every day is a gift
  2. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.
  3. God can handle anything in my life, no matter how unexpected.
  4. When unexpected things happen, the only way to conquer them is to turn them completely over to God.

When one of her teammates, Tammy King, died in a tragic car accident, Barbara again discovered that God was faithful to walk with her through dark times. “I can always trust Him,” she said. “He’s available 24/7.”

One of Barbara’s true passions is hospitality. She loves having people over for meals, and she developed deep relationships with her fellow missionaries at Tenwek. They became part of her extended family, showing her how important teamwork was. In fact, Barbara went so far as to say that “teamwork is necessary to do anything” and, “Others can do what I cannot.” She attributes what she was able to accomplish as a missionary to the support of her ministry partnership team, her Kenyan team members, and the missionaries she worked alongside in Kenya.

After retiring from WGM in June 2021, Barbara knew she wasn’t finished serving others. She began preparing to continue teaching, but in a new capacity: teaching English as a second language. “I once again will have the joy of helping multiply to bring Jesus to new places,” she said, her excitement visible. Her desire to bloom where she’s planted demonstrates the power 2 Timothy 2:2 has had in her life: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (NIV).

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