By Allen Palmeri
BRANSON—When it comes to Branson’s live entertainment shows, The Allen Family fits a certain stereotype.
Todd and Michelle Allen have eight very Anglo children who sing in duets, trios, and quartets. For their first two years in town, some in the audience did not know what to make of them. The murmuring went something like this.
“Are you like them? Do you believe the way they believe?”
Todd, 42, and Michelle, 39, have been married for 21 years. Their union has produced: Caleb, 18; Gabrielle, 16; Joshua, 14; Jared, 13; Danielle, 12; Abigail, 10; Zach, 8; and Christian, 4.
To some they look like Mormons. The patriarch just laughs.
“Branson is a good, wholesome, Christian environment, especially November and December,” he said. “Whereas these people might go to their shows and enjoy their shows, I think there was a little bit of concern about what we’re putting our money into and what we’re actually supporting. So there was like a relief on their faces … when they found out we’re not. It was almost like a relief that there is a family in town that’s not Mormon, that is Christian (and) that does believe the same way they do.”
The Allens are members of Skyline Baptist Church. They rely on the church to help keep them singing across the country as music evangelists who live out of a touring bus for 10 months out of the year.
“They take care of all of our correspondence—mail, bank deposits,” Allen said. “We kind of stay connected with them weekly by talking to them on the phone. They are a main source of prayer support for our family, and then we are able to connect with them at least two months a year. Just to have that—a church that you can trust to take care of your personal things—goes a long way.”
The Allens (www.allenministries.com) come out of the Gospel Music tradition. Their breakthrough came in 2000, when they won the Talent Contest at the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, Ky., which is billed as Gospel Music’s largest annual event. Now they do concerts across the nation, 275 in all (which includes Christmas in Branson at The Circle B Theater), with many friends who anticipate their arrival.
“It’s almost like having a homecoming, or a family reunion, with people that you know around the country all the time,” Allen said.
Todd is a pastor who followed a call into evangelism in August 1996. Michelle brings a missionary heart to her roles as wife and mother. Together they have equipped their children in a manner where the family is satisfied to minister, Todd said. An example of how this abundance can bind 10 people together as one unit can be seen in the way they educate.
“We don’t have a set, strict program,” he said. “We actually school our children year-round. Here in Branson, they got somewhat of a break because their regular schooling is kind of set back and we have an extended vacation break, but they do things on the computer, they keep up with their writing and all of that.
“It’s a big push before we get to Branson. They’ll double up and they’ll have guidelines on how much they need to have accomplished so they can take that time off. My wife is the teacher and I’ll help whenever I can, but a lot of it is whenever we’re traveling, because we’re so mobile.”
Caleb was 5 when their touring began. Now he is a young adult of 18 who aspires to be a Christian filmmaker. He’s matured to the point where he is pursuing that vocation for a month or so, off and on, while the family is on the road. They then need to smooth over the spots or fill in where he would typically play harmonica or guitar.
“When he was gone for five weeks on an apprenticeship program, some of the other ones had to step up and start doing some of the things that he was doing,” Todd Allen said.
All of the children sing, with some dance and comedy. The whole family basically witnesses on stage. In their Branson shows alone last year, they counted 94 conversions.
“We want people to know that not only can we laugh with them, but we can cry with them, and we share some of the same hurts, and we go through some of the same storms in life, but there’s a reason why we do what we do, and that is to communicate the Gospel with people and make sure that they understand that there’s a God who loves them,” he said.
Concerning the Mormon acts in Branson, Allen said they are very moral and good people who are easy to get along with in a culture that values God, family, and country. His main concern about them is that the community’s church-going youth tend to be impressionable.
“Some of the Mormons who are here in the Branson area would even minister in a lot of Christian churches, and they would present themselves under the guise of being Christians,” Allen said. “So there’s an element of deception there in my opinion. Not that we’re in competition with any one group, but Mormons believe in Jesus, not Jesus who is God Incarnate, but rather a Jesus who is a brother of Satan. When the foundations are wrong, everything else is wrong.”
The Allens are looking forward to the summer of 2010 when the entire family will go on a month-long mission trip to Zambia. The plan is for them to help International Mission Board Career Missionaries Jeff and Robyn Lowe minister to the bush people through storytelling and song as well as helping the Lowes and their three children move into their home.
Their prayer for that time is “to be able to recognize that to whom much is given, much is required. We just believe God’s going to do a great work in the hearts of our children while we’re there.”