By Kayla Rinker
LIBERTY—Vern Ballard, 83, has always had a passion for missions.
For most of his life, he and his wife, Luella, diligently served God vocationally. Luella was a school teacher and Vern was in a major command as a civil service training specialist for the United States Air Force. He also served in the church as a bi-vocational pastor.
When the couple retired in 1987, they could have chosen to take a break from their many years of service. However, the Ballards, who will celebrate 62 years of marriage in August, decided to use their retirement as an opportunity to expand their lifelong missions journey.
Immediately after they retired, the couple moved to Oklahoma City to take care of Luella’s mother. While there, Vern became the associate pastor at Northwest Baptist Church.
“I did home-bound visits and hospital visits and I helped with their senior adult choir,” he said. “But, all the while, missions was always my burning desire.”
After he resigned his position at Northwest, Vern and Luella became North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries, taking seven different assignments that sent them to Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, North Carolina, Arkansas, and twice to Montana. Vern said while they were traveling across America they knew their work with NAMB was in the center of God’s will. However, Vern began to feel a tug that maybe the Lord had more in store for them.
“After our last NAMB assignment, which was in Arkansas, I went for a walk on a trail in Oklahoma City,” he said. “I was walking and thanking the Lord for how he had used me. But then I prayed, Lord, if you could see fit to give me an opportunity to go on an international mission … that would be like icing on the cake.”
Sometimes the Lord answers quickly.
“It wasn’t even two weeks later and a man pulled me to the side and said he was looking for a couple to help him on a short-term mission trip to Taipei, Taiwan,” he said. “I said, ‘Let me go and tell Lu and pray about it.’ A couple of weeks later we started making plans to leave for Taipei.”
The Ballards were 73 years old when they left for their first international mission. Now, 10 years and five countries later, Vern is scheduled to be the team leader for another mission trip to Asia in October.
“I’ll be 83 and God has blessed me with great health and stamina,” he said. “I’ve always said that God is not through with us until we are 6-feet under and He calls us home.”
In fact, Vern said a senior adult can do more in reaching the people of Asia than any other age group.
“They have great respect and honor for us older people, so the door is really wide open,” he said. “They sit there in awe that a person my age would come all that way just to talk with them. I take full advantage and tell them I have a special love in my heart that I want to share with them. And because of their culture and respect for me, they listen closely to everything I have to say.”
Because the Ballards had already been on several international mission trips and were planning to go on more, in 2004 the couple decided to move closer to their daughter who lives in Kansas City. They moved to nearby Liberty and became members of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church.
“I try to instill in our senior adults at church that God puts the shield around you,” he said. “Then they say, ‘But Vern, what if you get sick over there?’ And I say, ‘Well, I go to the doctor. We would use the doctors and hospitals the missionaries use.’ And then they say, ‘Vern, what if you die over there?’ And I say, ‘What if I die over here? I’d still instantly be with the Lord.’ So, you see, there really is no reason in my mind that a senior adult shouldn’t go if they have a mission heart.
“The Lord has always taken care of me and I praise the Him every time I get to go.”