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Marilyn Van Kuiken

Missionary to Kenya
"Resting in God’s Sufficiency"
By Grace Yates, Intern, updated August 2018

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) comforted Marilyn Van Kuiken, retired WGM associate missionary to Kenya, during many hard times in her life.

Marilyn was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. “I was born in a Christian family, but it wasn’t until I was about 17 that I, myself, gave my heart to the Lord,” she began. “I was in…my last year of high school, and I was feeling that the Lord was calling me to be a missionary.” Through her prayers, she discovered that God wanted her to go to Africa.

Marilyn graduated from Vennard College (Iowa) in 1952, and that August she went to Eritrea with Evangelistic Faith Missions. During her first four years there, she taught seventh- and eighth-grade geography in a local school for Eritrean children. After school, she ran a clinic in which she cleaned wounds and helped people with basic medical needs. She realized that medical work thrilled her.

Marilyn returned to the United States and went to Roseland Hospital School of Nursing, graduating in 1961. She then returned to Eritrea as a nurse. She ran a clinic, including a small two-room hospital, and made house calls to help the sick and to deliver babies. Unfortunately, this was forced to end. “At that time, Eritrea was trying to get its freedom from Ethiopia. There was a lot of fighting going on,” Marilyn shared. The mission thought that she and the other single missionaries should leave Eritrea for their own safety, so Marilyn returned to the United States in 1967. She was never able to return.

In 1968, Marilyn applied to World Gospel Mission as a volunteer. She had enough money saved for a round-trip ticket and six months on the field. On December 1 of that year, she left for Kenya. She did not raise support the same way career missionaries did. God taught her to rely on Him as He provided the money for her to stay in Kenya. “[I] never became a career missionary because I kept feeling that the Lord wanted me to rely on faith,” she explained. “I guess that was my greatest lesson: trusting Him to bring in the money.” She saw God work through many people as He provided the funds she needed, often just when she needed them.

During her 27 years in Kenya, Marilyn served in many ways. For most of her time, she worked as a nurse at Tenwek Hospital. She was one of two nurses and two doctors there at the time. “All four of us were on call 24/7,” she said. The other nurse, Edna Boroff, was in charge of the maternity wing, and Marilyn oversaw the rest of the hospital. Marilyn assisted in surgery, delivered babies, worked with intensive care patients, and did anything else that needed to be done. “So kind of a jack-of-all trades,” she continued. “My favorite was delivering babies. It was nice to see a new life come into the world.” She also filled in at the Kaboson dispensary and started a clinic in Ngito.

Marilyn also enjoyed being able to present the gospel to the patients. She and other staff members talked to all of their patients about Jesus and saw countless people accept Jesus as their Savior. Some patients accepted Christ just before they passed away, and others recovered and returned to their villages to preach the gospel. “It was thrilling to see what was being done, that we had a little part in bringing people to Him,” she said. “It was just wonderful to see how God works.”

Marilyn was also blessed to be part of the loving atmosphere at Tenwek. The staff loved their patients, and it showed. She talked to one man who had traveled 100 miles to be treated at Tenwek. She asked him why he had come to Tenwek rather than a free government hospital closer to his home. He replied, “Because the hands here are kind.”

Not only did the staff love their patients, but they loved each other. “At Tenwek Hospital we were so busy all the time, but on Friday nights we tried to get together,” Marilyn shared. “We would try to get together at one of the missionary houses and play games. Invariably some of us would get called up to the hospital, but we tried to have those good times together.” Since she was single, Marilyn doubly appreciated this fellowship. She felt complete because she was part of a family. The missionary children called her “auntie,” and the families invited her to join them during holidays and birthdays. “They always treated us [the single missionaries] with respect and love,” she said.

Looking back over her life, Marilyn stated, “There’s no real happiness except being in the center of God’s will. He didn’t promise that it would be easy, but He promised that He’d be there with us…. There were times when I felt like I couldn’t go on and I found that His grace was sufficient, and if you follow in His will He will take you through.”

Marilyn retired from WGM in 1995. She went on to live in Lansing, Illinois, in a senior housing complex with 59 apartments. “I’ve learned the names of every person and their apartment number,” Marilyn said. She would often send cards and sometimes take meals to people when she heard that they were sick. She and two others also got together every Saturday to pray for the complex. At church she maintained the tract racks and participated in a pre-service prayer group and Bible study. For many years, she visited people in local nursing homes. She also enjoyed reading books and writing letters and cards to friends. “And I can always pray. That’s the big thing,” she said. On August 5th, 2018, Marilyn passed away in Lansing at the age of 87. WGM celebrates her life and rejoices in the fact that she is now with her Heavenly Father,  who she loved and served faithfully for so many years of her life.

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