God's love story - dick and betty kay
Dick and Betty Kay have been followers of Christ in extraordinary ways for the past 54 years in the mission fields of the Bahamas and Jamaica. Dick and Betty each were called individually by God to serve His people in amazing ways. Neither one hesitated to follow, and they have pursued Him with a great passion throughout their lives. When the Lord brought them together in marriage, they became an unstoppable duo that has helped to change many lives! But they are not done yet. Their heart cry is to finish strong! They now have returned to Indiana and continue to bless our church family and our community by showing God’s love to all.
Betty’s passion has been working with children and later with teenagers. As the teenagers became adults she saw the need for marriage counseling. Dick and Betty then began to hold marriage seminars and retreats at their home. Betty shared that when she began to follow Christ, she had the strength and energy to follow her passion. After having some strokes she has lost much of her physical ability and energy, but she has never lost her passion which was evident as she worked with the very poor in the ghetto areas and witnessed lives being changed.
On June 24 Dick celebrated his 80th birthday; his passion, strength, and energy have never failed him in his ministry of church planting. Dick has planted eleven churches and one Bible College in the Bahamas and Jamaica, along with building their homes in the Bahamas and here in Indiana. To plant a church Dick would start it, build it up, get it organized and going for the Lord, have the administration in place, and turn it over to a national pastor. The churches were started among the very poor where drugs and alcohol prevailed. So many souls have received hope, transformation, and purpose through Dick’s and Betty’s dedication to the Lord to serve others with all that they had to give.
Betty was raised here at Center Chapel. She was born on a Sunday evening after her mother had been to church. Betty came to the Lord when she was ten years old but walked away from the Lord during her teenage years. Betty was raised in a home where there was always prayer, church, reaching out to and finding God. That is how God met her. God is so awesome; He knows just how to reach each one of us. She recalls when she was ten, missionaries visited the church and spent the night in their home even though they were one of the poorest families in the church. She remembers anyone who visited the church always stayed at their home. These particular missionaries left a book of the Sudan Interior Missions Ministry. She took the book into her closet to be by herself, and as she went through the book she began to feel that God was calling her to what she thought was Africa. Even though she has never been to Africa, those to whom she has devoted her life are of African descent. God is so amazing!
Nine years later, at age nineteen, she returned to the Lord. An evangelistic service was held at Center Chapel, and she was given the opportunity to attend Child Evangelism training. During this time she made a few trips to Mexico with this mission organization, and she began to hear God really speaking to her about missions.
When she completed her training, she and another 19-year-old girl, Sandra, were asked to go to the Bahamas to spread the Word of God to His children. They both agreed to go. Betty giggled as she said, “They took us to the Bahamas and left us there.”
This time in her life was a time of faith-building through God showing her day by day just how faithful He is. The girls traveled by themselves, and most of the places they visited had never seen a white person before. Many times the girls didn’t have anything, but God always provided.
Betty and Sandra traveled to each island by boat. They would take a mail boat, 40-60 feet long, as far as they could; then the men on the boat would hang the girls off the side and drop them down onto a small row boat or dinghy to complete their journey to the island. At this time girls always wore skirts, so being dropped from the side of a boat to the deck hands below with the goats and the groceries could be challenging. Betty laughs as she remembers it was at this time that culottes were introduced which helped some.
Both of the girls were shy, but Betty had no choice but to overcome it. When they would arrive on an island, she would need to find a house for shelter. They always found an abandoned house to stay in which meant rats and no electricity. Everywhere that Betty traveled she carried her guitar, a 26-inch Samsonite piece of luggage, a smaller case that held their child evangelism materials, and a small wooden box that was built for them to carry what they needed to live. It held a two-burner kerosene stove, table service for two (plates, forks, spoons, knives, and cups), a tin tub for doing laundry, and a night pail because they did not go out after dark. Their meals consisted of rice, beans, or peas, and occasionally a fisherman would give them some fish. They took very little food with them but God always provided.
They would spread the word through the settlement that they were going to have Bible clubs at the school. The children, and many times the adults, would come. One school had over 300 children that Betty and Sandra taught at once. They taught with songs and visualized figures and memory verses. The children and adults were fascinated because they had no outside connection. One person in the village might have a radio to listen for storm warnings and for the daily obituary report at noon to find out if anyone from their family had died on other islands. Their child evangelism teachings would last three weeks, and then they would go to the next settlement. After making their way through the island they would return to their handler in Nassau, stay a few days, and then move on to their next destination.
Dick’s story is very different from Betty’s. Betty had heard God’s call at age ten, but when Dick was that age he was living on a farm near Rochester, New York. His father had died, and he was struggling in his relationship with his mother. She remarried when he was fifteen to such an ungodly, wretched man that his siblings left home. Dick asked his mother to talk to him or he would leave also. She refused to do anything about their situation, so Dick left home at age sixteen. His mother tried to bring him back home, but he hated her and a few months later tried to kill her with his car as she walked across the street.
Dick described himself as a devout atheist and a wretch who was spiritually blind and dead with a filthy mouth. God had to do some special things that were so revolutionary that he just wanted to tell people about Him. In November, 1958, Dick could not sleep so he went out in the middle of the night to take a walk. Of course there was no one around at this time of night, but all of a sudden he heard a voice that said, “I am God.”
This shook Dick up so much that he decided he must try to find out who this God was. He bought a Bible and from November, 1958, until August, 1959, he attended a different church every Sunday morning. During this time he read the Bible through twice, and he still couldn’t see anything or hear anything from God. He had heard the voice of God but couldn’t find Him! So he decided he would not attend church or read the Bible anymore.
Shortly after this a man at work that he had known for two years invited him to church; apparently he had been praying for him. Dick replied that there was no God and no hope there so he wasn’t interested in going, but God gave the man wisdom and he made an offer of a home-cooked meal. After being on his own since he was sixteen and now in college, a home-cooked meal was the hook for Dick.
The man, without his wife and children, picked him up for church. Dick later learned that he had done so to save his family from Dick’s filthy language. When he entered the church he was so spiritually dead and blind that he did not consider himself a sinner. That Sunday, August 30, 1959, was the first time he sat in a church and heard the Gospel message. At the end of the service, the pastor said if anyone wanted to receive Christ as their Savior to come forward, but Dick did not do so. He just sensed that somehow Christ was in his heart. God, in His mercy, spoke to him, and opened his heart to hear the truth and accept it. After all of these years he cannot forget that feeling. He went back to the same church the following Sunday and did go forward. He told the pastor that Christ had come into his heart the week before and he would like to be baptized that day. It is so amazing that God meets us just where we are and He cannot be put in a box!
At this time Dick was in his third year of study to become an electrical engineer. He finished his work block in December just before Christmas, his first Christmas as a believer. He returned to school in January and was miserable for the next three weeks. The Lord told him to leave and go someplace where he could be alone with Him. He thought he would go to the hills of California. So he gave away everything he had and hitchhiked to Michigan where he contracted to drive a new car to a dealership in California. Dick was paid a stipend as well as the cost of gas, and he drove straight through to Los Angeles.
When he arrived, he delivered the car, got a motel, and walked around the block. He noticed a Christian bookstore that had a light on even though it was after hours. He walked directly to the back of the store where he found a lady and very abruptly asked her, “Are you a born-again Christian?” She responded with, “You are the first one to beat me to that question in years!” She had been a missionary in Mexico who had been poisoned three times through spiritual warfare. She was in the United States at this time recovering. Dick shared his story with her and told her he didn’t know anyone there but just wanted to get alone with God to find out what He had for his life. The woman knew just the person to help him. Dick returned to the bookstore the next day to meet a pastor. The pastor said, “I know just the place for you, Bob Jones University.”
This pastor knew the president’s son personally, so he made a phone call to Bob Jones, Sr. With a big booming voice he said, “Send him, we will find a place for him.” So Dick flew to Greenville, South Carolina, to attend university there even though he had never heard of it before. At age 22 he was considered an older student, and they found a place for him even though school had been in session for three weeks.
It was very strict at Bob Jones University; guys and girls weren’t supposed to talk to each other. But one Saturday Dick went to a joint meeting for guys and girls where a professor shared pictures and slides from his trip to the Bahamas. The following Monday at 10 AM, sitting in a very enjoyable history class with a great professor, Dick suddenly heard a voice say so clearly to his heart, “You are going to the Bahamas.” Dick said, “Okay, Lord,” and continued on with the class. When class was over, he went to the library to look at a map to find the Bahamas. He had just learned about the Bahamas the previous Saturday. He looked at the map praying for the entire period because there were so many islands. He asked the Lord, “Where do you want me to go?” The Lord told him to go to Matthew Town, the only settlement on the island of Great Inagua. So he started praying about it and asked others to pray also.
During the rest of the semester he asked some of the professors if they knew of any students who were in the Bahamas to whom he could write. He was given two names and wrote to both. The first response came back totally negative, and the second came back totally positive. So Dick decided it couldn’t be all that bad and hitchhiked to West Palm Beach Airport but had no money for a ticket. He was sitting at the airport praying that God would provide the money when one of God’s angels came up to him. Dick told him his story, and the man bought him the ticket.
When Dick arrived in the Bahamas, he asked to go where God had called him, Matthew Town; but they had no missionaries there so they sent him to various other places. Dick would go and do what was asked of him, but he continued to ask to go to Matthew Town. They finally said he could go, and the children of a Sunday school class took up an offering to buy his ticket. This delay in going to Matthew Town was in the Lord’s plan because prior to going he visited with a Child Evangelism worker who shared with him the materials she used to teach the children. Dick just cried as he looked on in amazement; he had never seen anything like this. She gave Dick materials of his own to take with him.
Dick shared these materials at a children’s meeting after arriving in Matthew Town. Three little girls returned home afterwards and told their mother what they had learned. She told the girls to have Dick come to their home. So one day he followed them home after Bible club. He went to the door and the mother asked him, “Why did you come here?” He told her, “To tell people how they can know Jesus Christ personally and have Him live in their hearts.” Her eyes got big, and she asked him to come in. He shared with her the plan of salvation, and she opened her heart to the Lord. As she knelt to pray, she began to cry. He was patient for awhile, but she continued to cry. Finally he said, “I understand you are crying because you have invited Jesus into your heart. Is there something else causing you to cry?” She finally said, “Do you know why you are here?” Dick replied, “Yes, I told you why I am here.” The woman continued, “Let me tell you why you are here.”
She told him that ten years ago sitting right there in her home, she was listening to her favorite program on a battery-operated transistor radio. A heavy cloud storm came over the island, and she suddenly heard on her radio, “You can know Jesus Christ personally and have Him live in your heart,” and then the voice was gone. She tried her best to find that station again but could not. Those words were planted in her heart, and she could not forget what she had heard. She then went to the five different churches on the island asking the priest and pastors how to do this, but they all laughed at her and told her she was a fool, that what she was asking was impossible. She asked others besides the church leaders, and they told her the same thing; no one was able to help her.
She told Dick that she had been praying for ten years for God to send someone to this island to tell her how to do this. Dick said he knew then why God had saved him. He saved him because this woman had been praying! God took Dick, a wretch with whom no one could live, saved him, and sent him to bring glory to Him. Dick lives each day with a broken heart realizing he did not change on his own because he knows what he once was. He knows it took a sovereign God and people, whom he didn’t even know, praying in order to bring about the transformation that took place within him!
Dick was now planting his first church on the island of Great Inagua, the farthest island in the Bahamian chain 40 miles from Cuba. In September, 1962, a beautiful young girl, Betty Reece, arrived at Matthew Town to hold church meetings. She met Dick shortly after arriving on the island which set in motion God’s plan that would change their lives forever!
Betty knew right away that this island was very different from the others. First of all, it was the only island that had a salt operation, and the only settlement, Matthew Town, was on a huge cliff. The salt company would swing out their crane and a pallet to the deck of the mail boat where everyone would get on. Once everyone and everything was in place on the pallet the crane would swing back up to the huge cliff. This time Betty and Sandra did not travel alone. An older lady went with them because she had been raised in Matthew Town, and their handler felt like this would be good since Great Inagua was so very far away.
They had just arrived on the island. The entire settlement was waiting at the post office to receive mail when the lady saw an old friend and went to visit with her. The friend told them they had a missionary on the island starting a church. Just then Dick rode up on his bike to get his mail. The friend called him over and introduced Betty and Sandra as two missionary girls.
Betty had Dick describe his thoughts and comments at this point. Dick’s mission board had taught him women wore long skirts, no makeup, and no jewelry. He said these girls landed on the island with their skirts to their knees and appeared to be so worldly. He told others, “These girls say they are missionaries, but they are the mission field!” Dick and Betty were so playful, and both laughed remembering his comments. Betty and Sandra stayed long enough to complete their teachings and then returned to Nassau as they always did.
In March, 1963, a national convention was held where all missionaries from the islands would come into Nassau for one week. Betty and Sandra spent most of the week attending the meetings and visiting with the missionaries. What they did not expect was a “Cupid” among them. The wife of the founder of the mission had decided that Dick and Betty would be her next match. So she began to work her scheme to get them together.
Dick had been working so hard building the church he had developed sores all over his body from sugar. He didn’t want to spare any money for food, so he had been living on candy bars. Instead of leaving after the convention Dick stayed in Nassau for an additional week, and it was then that their Cupid invited the two of them to her home for dinner. When Dick arrived to pick Betty up, Sandra said she wasn’t feeling well and that Dick and Betty should go without her. When they entered Eleanor’s home, she had a beautiful table prepared for the two of them with candles and music playing. Eleanor’s husband was an invalid after having had some strokes. When they arrived, he was sitting in his chair. Eleanor then said, “Come on, Honey, I need to get you ready for bed.” She turned to Dick and Betty and told them to go ahead while she put her husband to bed; she never returned. Betty said, “Honestly, I didn’t like him. I really didn’t! He was so egotistical, in your face, and everything had to be about God.” She wondered how she was going to spend the whole evening talking to just him.
Dick asked Betty if she would like to do something together before she left for another island, so they walked the beach together. When their time in each other’s company was coming to an end that day, Dick simply said, “I believe God has told me that I am supposed to marry you.” And Betty responded, “Well, He hasn’t told me yet, and I will have to pray about that!” Dick then added, “We need to get married tomorrow because I am leaving on the boat Tuesday.” Even today Betty is giving Dick a hard time over his nonromantic proposal of marriage. Betty then waited to hear from God herself while Dick returned to Great Inagua and she and Sandra went out to the northern islands. Dick and Betty began to write each other over the next four months, and then the Lord spoke to Betty’s heart. Yes, she was supposed to marry him. They returned to each other and on June 30, 1963, they were married in a double wedding ceremony with a Bahamian couple. The bride had attended Dick’s first Bible club at Matthew Town and was saved there. She then met a young man in Nassau, and they were called into the ministry. The groom later became the pastor of Dick’s first church, and they all lived together for awhile.
Betty recalls those years being very rough as they were working hard planting a church, and every cent of their money had to go into the building. If Betty ever needed rice, bread, or flour Dick would always say, “RTBF~Remember the Building Fund!” At that time they might have had $125.00 in monthly support. Financially, it was very difficult.
Dick’s and Betty’s relationship was very strained that first year of marriage. Dick shared that his heart had been hardened towards women. A girl from school had broken his heart in the past, and so had his mother. He added, “As you can tell from my proposal.” Dick didn’t think much of marriage and just needed to be working. It was years after he had been saved that Betty simply questioned Dick, “You haven’t forgiven your mother, have you?” He had buried that hate so deep.
Christmas was especially difficult that first year as Dick had no desire to celebrate as a family. Christmas was a warm, family time, and that part of him was dead. Betty shared that she would have left him the day President Kennedy was killed, but she was stuck on an island with no money and no way to leave. She had to stick it out.
When their baby girl Lori arrived, the Lord used her to start breaking down those walls built up in Dick’s heart. It took a baby girl for him to let down his guard and allow his heart to love again. They later had a son, Bud. And what a beautiful loving family they are with their own love stories from God in each one of their lives.
In her marriage counseling sessions, Betty is able to tell young people that it is best to marry someone because the Lord has told you to do so. If the Lord tells you to marry, the love will come.
Now as the Kays are limited in what they can do, they look back at what the Lord has allowed them to do. They will forever thank Him for giving them the privilege of serving Him and His ministry.
The Kays have lived an extraordinary life for the Lord. But that did not exclude them from hardships over the years. We all experience them; be it either financially, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Don’t give up! Let the Kays life of following the Lord with no hesitation, walking and talking with Him each and every day, listening for His voice and then being obedient to what He has to say, loving and serving His children, and bringing glory to His Mighty Name become an example to us all. They have spent their lives sharing with others that we have an awesome God that longs for us to know Him personally, and He wants to live in our hearts. He wants to strengthen us during those hardships. Open your heart to Him today and you might just find yourself on a mail boat on your way to an island clear across the world! Don’t be afraid; God has a plan just for you! Follow Him on your amazing journey and experience life beyond anything you could ever imagine. God Bless.