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Mary Ann Lewis

Retired Missionary to Uganda
"So Much Need"
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, August 2015

“I’m a detail person.”

For 38 years, Mary Ann Lewis served as a missionary in Kenya and Uganda. God gave her strong abilities in accounting and organization, and she filled in those roles wherever she was needed.

Mary Ann grew up in Ellendale, North Dakota, in a loving Christian home. Her parents farmed until she was 7 and then moved to town to return to teaching. “Education was a big deal in my house,” Mary Ann recalled. “We had English lessons for nearly every meal.” She and her family were regularly in church and came to know several WGM missionaries, including Bill and Ruth Cox and Marion and Gene Lewton. As a sophomore in high school, she committed to follow the Lord in whatever He had for her. Although initially uncertain of her missionary call, at the urging of her pastor, she went to Vennard College (Iowa) for a year of Bible training.

One year became more than seven years, including completion of a degree in Bible and Christian education. As a student, and following graduation as a staff member, she worked in Vennard’s business office and printing department. At a missionary service, she felt the Lord directly call her to become a career missionary. She applied to WGM for missionary service and told the board she would go wherever she was needed.

With fresh purpose and determination, she returned to North Dakota and completed her degree in secondary education at the University of North Dakota–Ellendale, majoring in English and minoring in social science and business. Kenya Highlands Bible College (now Kenya Highlands Evangelical University) was in need of an English teacher and a bookkeeper, and in January 1969, Mary Ann arrived in Kenya. After language study, she began teaching English and Bible, later assuming bookkeeping responsibilities. As KHBC moved to post-secondary level training, she completed training for a master’s degree in English and speech during her furlough in 1973.

In 1979, after returning from furlough, she moved to Nakuru, where she did bookkeeping at Bethany Bookshop and helped with church planting. She also served as the treasurer for the Kenya Field for a time. In 1985, she moved to Tenwek Hospital to assist with accounting there. Other opportunities included taking minutes for business meetings. The archives in Kenya include hundreds of pages of minutes recorded through the years.

Despite spending so much time with books and numbers, it was the people who impacted her the most. “One of the highlights was working with local churches,” said Mary Ann. “Whether it was accompanying KHBC students to their Sunday School assignments, assisting with Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teacher training seminars, providing support ministry for pastors in Nakuru and Kericho “town” church planting, leading a women’s Bible study, or speaking at women’s retreats, it was a joy to fellowship with the people.” And fellowship always means food. “I miss the gallons of tea, the gimiet, and the sukumawiki.”

In 1998, Mary Ann transferred to Uganda, where there was a need for teachers with a Bible background. She traveled with a team to villages and did training for pastors and lay leaders. She also did a lot of preparation of printed materials for the classes, using skills from her time in the print shop at Vennard. Mary Ann enjoyed the challenges of “camping out” in the bush, showing the Jesus film, and assisting community health workers.

Mary Ann retired in 2007 after 38 years of service. She now lives in Bird Island, Minnesota. She is the manager for a local food bank, serves as the treasurer for the Southern Prairie District of United Methodist Women, and leads two Bible studies. “I am reminded daily of how much need there is,” Mary Ann shared, “and how much we need to take the light of the gospel to the world.”

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