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Leta Strong

Retired Missionary to Kenya
"The Simple Life"
By Stacy Hall, Intern, adapted by Kateland Vernon, Staff Writer, March 2020

What preparation does serving the Lord in Kenya require? If you asked Dean and Leta Strong, retired missionaries with World Gospel Mission, the answer was to “live the simple life.” By committing to live the simple life, Dean and Leta experienced God working in intricate ways.

Dean and Leta both came to know the Lord at young ages. Dean was born into a logging and farming family in northern Idaho. His family regularly attended the local one-room church, and he accepted Christ as his Savior at the age of 12. Miles away in Kansas, Leta and her family also attended a small country church where Leta was growing in her desire to please the Lord and do what was right.

Dean and Leta met while attending York College (Nebraska). Dean planned to study mathematics, but during his freshman year he was called into ministry and completed his Bachelor of Arts in Bible instead. Leta graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology.

The two were married on June 7, 1950. During the first years of their marriage, they pastored three small rural churches. Dean completed his Master of Divinity degree at Western Evangelical Seminary. After graduation, they began pastoring a church in Beaver, Oregon.

The Strongs invited Jerry and Bunny Fish, WGM missionaries to Kenya, to come speak to their congregation about missions. Jerry and Bunny spoke twice, and at the two events, Dean and Leta began to separately feel God leading them toward missions in Kenya. At one meeting, Jerry displayed a picture of a young African boy and asked who would go share Jesus with children like him. Once Dean and Leta consulted each other, they confirmed their calling and began the process toward becoming WGM missionaries.

The couple applied to WGM in 1956 and finally arrived in Kenya in January 1958 with three young children in tow. In those days, even essentials such as electricity or clean water were scarce. However, having grown up in rural areas without electricity, Dean and Leta were used to the “simple life.” Leta credits this “make-do” attitude for preparing her most for life in Kenya.

Dean worked on construction and school supervision at Kaboson Pastors Training College. He also worked with the local church, supporting and training leaders. Eventually, he became the principal at Kenya Highlands Evangelical University while Leta worked in the literature department preparing Vacation Bible School and Sunday School materials and also served as the station hostess. Later, Dean was appointed as the Kenya field director.

As the five Strong children (Larry, Connie, David, Marilyn, and Karen) got older, Dean decided to take a teaching position at Vennard College (Iowa) and moved the family back to the States. During this time, Leta worked in the Kiddie Kollege at Vennard. However, six years later, they were asked to return to Kenya. After much prayer, they left again for Kenya to assist rural churches, teach classes and Bible studies, and later take on the position of field director.

“Even though there were hard times, our service in Kenya was rewarding,” said Leta. The family faced language barriers and feelings of being under-qualified for the position of field director. However, they built lasting relationships and were able to physically and spiritually help people. Leta added, “You just did what had to be done to the best of your know-how. God is bigger than any need.”

God used Dean and Leta to spread the church to remote areas of Kenya and to begin building the church in Uganda. Once, on a surveying trip to the Pokot people, Dean and his companions detoured into an area populated by the West Pokot tribe. Despite the language barrier, Dean was able to communicate with the chief who asked them, “Are you just coming to take pictures and ask questions, or are you coming back to help?” These words impacted Dean, and he and other missionaries began to make regular trips to the West Pokot people to build relationships and share the gospel. Dean assisted one Kenyan in becoming a missionary to the West Pokot tribe.

After 36 years of faithful service as career missionaries in Kenya, Dean and Leta retired from the Kenya Field in 1995 and officially retired from WGM in 1996. Despite being retired, they have stayed active in ministry, including running the mission house in Bolivia for a year and volunteering at WGM’s headquarters in Marion, Indiana.

The Strongs continued to live the simple life in Gas City, Indiana, visiting with family and friends and being active in their local church. Through everything, God blessed the Strongs as He used them to bless others. Leta passed on February 29, 2020, and she is now delighting in the presence of the Lord she faithfully served throughout her lifetime.

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