Last week we lost a dear friend, wife and mother, Lynn Alice Owen, who was affectionately known to many simply as “Lynn”.
Born in Dodge City, Kansas USA on October 7, 1947, Lynn completed her BA in English and Education in 1969 at Southern Nazarene University. During her youth, Lynn played classical piano and was an excellent aerobatic water skier until a nasty accident left her with severe injuries.
On May 31, 1969 she married Sam Elwood Owen after which they both joined Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), an interdenominational Christian parachurch organisation for college and university students and worked on university campuses in Oklahoma before moving to the United Kingdom with the same organization.
In 1971, Lynn and Sam relocated to Uganda, where in conjunction with the Anglican Church, they established Life Ministry East Africa as an offshoot of CCC operating on Makerere campus.
During their stay in Uganda, Lynn and Sam made the acquaintance of Joe Church who is considered to be the father of the East African Revival Movement and they were deeply influenced by his work in the region.
Unfortunately, due to the human rights excesses of the Idi Amin regime, Lynn and Sam were forced to flee Uganda in 1974, moving to Kenya where they had extended the work of Life Ministry with Sam serving as the first Regional Director. The work of Life Ministry expanded to other East African countries.
By 1987 Life Ministry had established strong institutional structures and Lynn and Sam moved on to launch what would become the National Prayer Breakfast, in partnership with the National Parliament of Kenya.
The annual event was modelled on the US National Prayer Breakfast which has been running since 1953 with the aim of bringing together political, social, and business elite for prayer and fellowship, recognising Jesus in the corridors of power.
Other than her pioneering work with the National Prayer Breakfast, Lynn was a proven leader, an instigator, spiritual mentor, and confidant. She established several women’s groups who met and prayed together. She was equally at home with spouses of leaders in the public and private sector leadership in Kenya as well as the mama mboga in the slums of Nairobi.
Out of some of these groups were born several ministries to serve the most-needy in Kenya, including, the creation of Light and Power, which was a mentoring project for street children in Gatina, Kawangware, and many small women’s income generation groups in various needy parts of Nairobi.
Friends described her as thoughtful, caring, honest and one who enjoyed life to the full. She eschewed stereotype thinking and would often openly challenge those who displayed double standards. Lynn was multi-talented and loved beauty especially in handicrafts and art.
Lynn loved her children unconditionally, giving erself completely when her daughter Amy was diagnosed with cancer five years ago. She was a pillar and valued companion to her husband Sam.
But she was also a gracious hostess in her home and welcomed visitors across cultural, social, and religious boundaries.
One Kenyan couple recalls being hosted by Lynn in 1993 at the family home in Virginia and they cannot forget her superb cooking, especially of succulent chicken breasts accompanied by her humour, wit and humility.
They discovered that her father was a wealthy motor vehicle dealer in Kansas but, they would never have guessed it because of her down to earth character.
In May this year, Lynn was told by her oncologist that she had only six months to live after being diagnosed with a very aggressive type of pancreatic cancer last year.
The doctor advised that she could take chemotherapy and if it worked, probably, she could extend her days. Lynn accepted her predicament and decided against chemotherapy choosing to spend whatever time was left in the company of her family.
She did not want to be smothered with pity and put her family in constant fear of death. Lynn went to be with the Lord on July 22, 2020 surrounded by her family. She was cremated on July 28, 2020 in Fairfax, Virginia.
The Owens came to Kenya and fell in love with our beautiful country almost 50 years ago, leaving the comforts of a western type lifestyle. Lynn loved spending time with her family on the clear sandy beaches at the coast and in our enchanting game parks. Lynn and Owen came to Kenya not as paternalistic missionaries preaching dogma but as Jesus-led mentors building capacity for transformative leadership and creating alternative livelihoods for the needy. Their track record of achievements speaks for itself.
More than 10 years ago Lynn and Owen purchased a property in Nairobi and two years ago, sold their home in Virginia having decided to spend their retirement in Kenya.
They discovered the jewel in the crown in Kenya and in so doing found their purpose in life.
We need to appreciate what a beautiful country we are blessed with notwithstanding our shortcomings in how we manage ourselves. Kenya is endowed with a wonderful climate, fauna and flora, wildlife and is a melting pot of peoples and cultures.
I know that Lynn is in a better place where there is no pain. May the Almighty rest her soul in eternal peace.