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Jim and Alice Vanderhoof

Retired Missionaries to Kenya
"He has prepared us for what He will lead us to do"
By Alex Gergely, Staff Writer, June 2019

Jim and Alice’s WGM story is unconventional—and a reminder that God can call us to serve Him anytime and anywhere, despite our own reservations. “We were the backwards missionaries,” Alice says about their experience being called to Kenya. When then-Vice President of WGM Jim Hosey came to speak at the Vanderhoof’s home church in Pennsylvania in the early 80s, Jim and Alice were struck by his message about serving overseas, but they were hesitant to commit. Hosey convinced them that Kenya Highlands Bible College could desperately use their musical abilities, so they went on a one-year mission trip that evolved into a long career of servanthood, teaching, and leadership.

But the process of becoming full-time missionaries wasn’t immediate. “Although we had fully surrendered our lives to the Lord before we were married and desired to serve Him in ministry,” Alice says, “we had never felt a leading to cross-cultural ministry.” Only once they were in Kenya, serving and ministering to the people, did Jim and Alice feel they were called to continue.

“We always say that we were both called after we went,” Jim admits. “Within four or five months of that initial year, we had such peace and fulfillment in our ministries at Kenya Highlands Bible College. We felt that we were really making a difference.” Jim and Alice truly found their niche as teachers and worked at KHBC for the next twenty-two years—Alice teaching Bible, Christian Education, missions, and theology courses, while Jim taught music and served as an administrator and school nurse.

A common theme for Jim and Alice was “learn as you go.” Early in her teaching, Alice was asked to teach on discipleship and spiritual formation—subjects which required her to do a lot of research on her own. “I discovered so much that has helped me to grow and encourage others in their faith journey. I also had to discover how to apply these principles cross-culturally,” she says. Jim had a similar experience just before he left for Kenya. “A big concern of mine was my lack of knowledge of African music,” he admits. “I visited our small local library to find a book on repairing clocks…but the book next to it on the shelf caught my attention. It had a fancy colorful design with the title An Introduction to African Music…God had somebody put that book right where I could find it.”

God continued to challenge and shape the Vanderhoofs in the next phase of their career. In 2006, Jim and Alice transitioned into WGM Kenya field leadership as field directors. “The transition from being ‘Mr. Music’ was a real turning point. A real shift in identity,” Jim says. “I left my sweet spot of 22 years, but God used so many people, particularly Alice, during the next 11 years to help develop a new sweet spot.” Though if the Vanderhoofs had learned anything from their journey as missionaries, it was that God is able to create new strengths and passions. “We learned a lot about listening, organizing, and developing teams, which we are using now in the church we are attending,” Alice says.

Through all the position changes, learning experiences, and culture shock, Jim and Alice found that their experience redefined their perceptions of God and what it meant to have faith. “Ministering cross-culturally helped me view my own faith and culture with new eyes as I saw how others walk with God and each other,” Alice explains. “I have become less critical of others’ expression of faith when they are different than mine, and I have expanded my own expressions beyond that of my upbringing.” Coincidentally, Alice’s life passage aligns perfectly with this sentiment, a verse she says she will “spend the rest of my life seeking to do.”

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37 and 39b, NIV)

For Jim, God’s promises have become even more tangible in retirement, and he has found solace in the words of Isaiah:

I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (41: 9-10, NLT)

Jim and Alice officially retired 2018 and 2019, respectively, after thirty-seven total years of service. In retirement, they are excited to spend more time with their children and grandchildren, host guests at their home, and enjoy time outdoors—though they have found that there is more work to be done. They plan on helping at their local church in New York by playing music, engaging with unbelievers, and doing what they do best—leading with humility and love. Ultimately, they are resting in the fact that God has sustained them thus far and will continue to carry them into the future, because as Alice says, “He has prepared us for what He will lead us to do.”

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