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Larry and Joy McPherson

Retired Missionaries to Uganda
"Ministry Starters"
By Tracy Dubois, Web Writer, July 2014

In the world of missions, it’s a ready-known fact that God uses short-term trips to call people into full-time ministry. Such is the case for Larry and Joy McPherson, whose first missions experience to Kenya as part of a three-week work team in 1969 led to 30 years of missionary service in Africa.

“As a result of that mission trip to Kenya, I realized that Jesus was not really the center of my life,” Joy shared. “The Lord changed my heart in Kenya!”

Larry added: “God has slowly taken me through one step at a time in different plateaus in my Christian life. Initially, when on that work group to Kenya, I realized that going to church was not enough. Then, in my family room in Ohio, I allowed Christ to become Lord and Savior of my life. The Spirit-filled life is the ultimate life which we can gain here on earth.”

Both Larry and Joy were born and raised in Ohio and were active in their local churches, attending Sunday School and youth group and singing in the choir. Larry was born in Franklin County, Ohio, and was raised on farms outside Columbus and Derby, Ohio. After graduating from high school, Larry worked as a dockhand and truck driver before being drafted into the Army. He then spent eight years as a machinist, and during his last year he attended Wright State University (Ohio) before earning his BA in social work from Asbury College (Kentucky). Larry was ordained by WGM on December 5, 1982.

Joy was born in Columbus, Ohio, but grew up in Mt. Sterling, Ohio. She earned her BS in education with majors in health, physical education, and recreation from Ohio University. She also played intercollegiate basketball and field hockey and was active in Wesley Foundation and Kappa Phi, a women’s service club.

Larry and Joy met during Joy’s senior year of high school and were married June 21, 1963, four months prior to Larry’s discharge from the Army. Following his discharge, they moved to Eaton, Ohio, where Larry said their real spiritual growth began and where Joy added that they discovered real closeness with Christ and unrest in their own doings.

God used this unrest and the trip to Kenya to lead the McPhersons to WGM. Larry and Joy were appointed as career missionaries to Kenya on their 11th anniversary, June 21, 1974. In Kenya, Larry and Joy assisted the town church in Kericho and led Bible studies and prayer meetings. Larry also helped with construction work and Joy taught physical education at Kenya Highlands Bible College (now Kenya Highlands Evangelical University).

“For me, I knew I would be mainly involved in maintenance,” Larry recalled. “I was wrong! God wanted me to serve as a pastor, and the maintenance would be secondary.”

After being in the country less than a year, the Africa Gospel Church Council asked the McPhersons to start a new church in Eldoret. Although there was a church building at the location, there was no shepherd to lead the church.

In 1982, Larry and Joy were asked to start another new ministry, but this time in Kitale. They again said yes to God’s calling and helped develop the AGC Bethany Center, a congregation and reading room in a storefront building.

“Starting new ministries in both of these locations took much involvement in meeting people and visiting in their homes,” Joy said. “We spent hours counseling and operating the non-lending library as we interacted with the public.”

Ten years later, the Lord called on the McPhersons to begin yet another work, WGM’s new outreach in Uganda. They ministered there until October 1999, when they transferred to Tanzania for one year. Larry and Joy returned to Uganda the following year and stayed until their official retirement on July 1, 2004.

During their 18 years in Kenya and 11 years in Uganda, Larry was involved in church planting, discipleship, pastoring, and building and maintenance in addition to serving as field coordinator and treasurer in Uganda. Joy’s main ministries included church planting, discipleship, and serving as Christian education director in Uganda. They both worked their last three years in Uganda in pastoral training.

“The Lord does not promise a smooth road at all times,” Joy shared in a Call to Prayer article while they served in Kenya. “Life has its ups and downs, but with Christ in our everyday walk, the road becomes smoother and easier. Whether we are settled in one location or two, whether the size of a house is adequate or not, or if we have a vehicle to use when it is needed are not of great importance. Our biggest concern is that we can be used in our place of ministry to bear fruit—that many will be drawn to Jesus.”

Although they are retired, Larry and Joy continue to live missions day in and day out as they minister to WGM retirees and alumni as Member Health representatives. When they aren’t traveling, they enjoy spending time with their two children, Twyla and Todd, and five grandchildren.

“My greatest duty, which really is not a duty but a joy, is to love others as Christ loves me,” Joy emphasized. “To love the unloved and the downtrodden, this is my burden to carry as a Christian.”

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