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Carpentry, caring, and a lifetime calling

Staff writer

Newlyweds Jesse and Tara Allen were seniors at Tabor College when they were inspired to devote their lives to serving and loving others, whether it be at home or in other countries.

“We grew up in homes with parents who loved us and taught us to love Jesus,” Jesse Allen said. “This last year, it took root in us what Jesus was all about.”

They decided in March 2016 to become involved in Mennonite Brethren Missions. Tara had felt called to missions a year earlier, but Jesse had been hesitant.

“I said, no, for a lot of selfish reasons,” Jesse said.

But he came to learn about walking in freedom, he said.

“The power of the Holy Spirit broke us,” he said. “It’s dying a constant death, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead. It’s an all surpassing love that encapsulates your whole life. Our life is but a short span on this earth, and it is our desire to not live for this life but to love people while looking forward to our heavenly home.”

Their first assignment was a 7-month mission to Thailand after several months of training in Canada. The only problem? Where to get the $24,000 they would need for the trip.

“We didn’t have jobs and we were still in college,” Allen said.

That’s when his grandfather, Leon Schmidt of Halstead, stepped in. He had a woodworking shop in Halstead and suggested helping Jesse build something to sell. That was the beginning of a small side business that Allen operates to this day with tools he acquired from his grandpa.

The two men built 60 patio coolers in Schmidt’s shop. Tara painted logos on them. They advertised the coolers online and by word of mouth and sold all of them.

“I spent lots of time with Grandpa,” Jesse said. “It was a special time. He taught me everything I know.”

The couple went to Thailand in November 2016 with four others – two men and a woman from Germany, and a man from Canada.

Their mission was to help establish a fledgling church in a Thai village. It was the first church in the community. They conducted weekly meetings and taught English to children and young people in a nearby orphanage and ministered to people at a cancer center. Once a week, Jesse went with the other men to teach English and minister to inmates in prison. Their visits were cut off after eight men accepted the Gospel.

The couple returned to Hillsboro in May. Both began their first year as special education teachers this fall – Jesse at Hillsboro High School and Tara at Marion Elementary School. They like working with small groups of students and having one-on-one relationships with them.

“Kids face challenges, and we saw this as a way to help them,” Tara said.

Jesse also is proving to be a successful coach of junior high boys’ basketball. They’ve had one loss so far.

“They learn to know you, and they respect you,” Jesse said. “It gives me a chance to teach them about life.”

Jesse used his woodworking skills to help one of his students learn math skills. They spent two hours a day together building a table. The table was sold and its proceeds sent to an AIDS/HIV orphanage in Thailand. Jesse said the project motivated the student to pursue a life of service.

Jesse has built numerous items of furniture for their home. His first project was a coffee table/hope chest he gave his wife as a wedding present. They also have an entry table, dining room table, and several benches. He cut out wood circles for tree ornaments, and Tara painted them. He also made a rectangular wall hanging that Tara painted and lettered.

He calls his business, “New Creations Custom Woodworking.” to reflect the change they have experienced in their lives.

“Our life doesn’t look like we thought it would be when we got married,” Jesse said. “We are new creations, like it says in II Cor. 5:17: ‘Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and all things are become new.’”

The Allens are hoping to go to the Ukraine for 1½ months next summer. Jesse said he was excited to learn that they would be living in the area where his Mennonite ancestors lived before coming to America.

“We love missions,” Tara said.

“We want to live our lives serving and loving people locally and also globally,” Jesse added.

Last modified Dec. 20, 2017

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