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Lillie Mae Ammerman

Caring for the Kenyan people
"And lo, I am with you always..."
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, 2016

At the age of 12, Lillie Mae Ammerman began corresponding with a missionary in what was then Kenya Colony in British East Africa. What a strange address, she thought as she wrote it on the envelope, not knowing that she would share the same address just 13 years later.

In 1947, Lillie Mae began serving as a missionary in Kenya, fulfilling the call she had received at age 14. In preparation for a life of missions work, she attended Asbury College (Kentucky) for four years and then earned her teaching certificate at East Kentucky University. Although it wasn’t easy to say goodbye to her family, she was happy to leave for Kenya because she was finally heading in the direction of her calling.

During her 40 years in Kenya, Lillie Mae served at four different stations: Tenwek, Cheptenye, Kaboson, and Kericho. Although she never wanted to leave a place—“I loved everywhere I was!” she said in a 2009 interview—she always settled into new locations easily. She taught Bible and English to seventh and eighth graders and helped girls in a boarding school. Since the students were older for their grades than American students, Lillie Mae grew very close to the girls. Although life was not always easy in Kenya, she found a deep joy and contentment in the Lord. During times of uncertainty, she would lean heavily on verses such as Isaiah 52:12: “…for the LORD will go before you…,” Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” and Matthew 28:20: “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

Although she was trained as a teacher, Lillie Mae often found herself doing other things as needed because of the small missionary staff at the time. Most importantly, she cared deeply for the Kenyan people.

“They were like brothers and sisters to me,” said Lillie Mae of her Kenyan friends and colleagues. “And, when I got older, they were like my own children!”

 After retiring, Lillie Mae taught Sunday School for a few years. She also wrote a concordance for the Bible translated into the Kalenjin language and a book of lessons on scriptural holiness for Kenyan pastors. These lessons were written in English, mailed to Kenya, translated into Kalenjin by native speakers, and then mailed back to the United States so Lillie Mae could double-check them.

People often asked her why she went to Africa and how God answered her prayers. According to Lillie Mae, they like to hear “of the impossible things that God made possible.”

For Lillie Mae, it was a joy to serve the Lord and point others to Him. Her decades of faithful service touched countless lives for the kingdom. Matthew 25:23 testifies of her life: “’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

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