Judy’s Kids

How a children’s worker became a church planter


When U.S. Alliance President John Stumbo challenges our worldwide family to reach overlooked people—of all ages—Judy Gaskin comes to mind.

“I grew up a hillbilly in Alabama,” Judy says, her southern twang still palpable after serving almost 45 years in Asia. “My mother’s death in 1960 left me with lots of responsibility as a young teen. Since my father was an alcoholic, I had to care for my three younger siblings. We had little income, and at one point we four lived under a bridge for a day.”

Caring “Nabors”

After her mother’s death, the family settled in a rural community in south Florida, a “divine move” she claims. An Alliance pastor and his wife, Rev. and Mrs. Bill Nabors, “noticed all these unchurched kids out there on the dairy farm, so they offered to come get anyone who wanted to go to Sunday school,” Judy recalls. “I had no desire to go, but out of respect I agreed.”

Judy’s Kids
Judy as a teen after receiving Christ

After her first visit to church, Judy became a regular. “For the first time, I heard about God’s love; I was like a sponge, soaking up that good news and the love of my beloved Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Nabors.

“I was saved through her witness when I was 16,” says Judy, who recently turned 70. “I was reached because someone invested time and energy to come pick me up and take me to church.”

Ordinary Person, Extraordinary Calling

Soon after her conversion, Judy sensed the Lord’s call to serve Him as a missionary. “For several months, I tried to convince Him that He was calling the wrong person because I was just an ordinary person from a poor family and had no outstanding gifts,” she laughs.

“I thought, Lord, You know there are other young people in the church from good families.” God reminded Judy of how He had called and equipped a resistant Moses (see Ex. 4). She committed to serve Him during her senior year in high school, going on to attend a local community college before transferring to Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. While there, Judy taught weekly Good News Clubs with Child Evangelism Fellowship before sensing God’s call to serve in overseas children’s ministry.

Judy’s Kids
Judy serving in Indonesia as a missionary

When the Alliance church president in Vietnam urgently requested workers to minister to the many war orphans in his country in the late 1960s, “I was so excited,” Judy says. “That was my heart’s desire, and I was in the pipeline to go.”

But then she received a call from C&MA Headquarters. Several missionaries had recently been martyred in Vietnam, and leadership didn’t think it was wise to send a single woman to the war-torn nation. “Would you be willing to go to Indonesia?” they asked.

“I was devastated; I cried. But I never questioned His call upon my life. I said, ‘Lord, You know my heart’s desire.’” She notes that learning more than half of Indonesia’s population was younger than 18 helped her to accept the assignment.

While she was packing, Judy’s father questioned her decision. “It just tore my heart apart,” she says. “I look back now and think: How did I have the emotional courage to leave my family that needed me? But I knew I had to be obedient to Him—He had to be first.”

Why Am I Here?

Challenges continued for the determined young woman soon after her arrival on the field. One of Judy’s coworkers told her: “We really don’t know why they sent you to Indonesia; we’ve never had a children’s worker, and we didn’t ask for one. What are you going to do?”

Judy began questioning: Lord, did I make a mistake? Did You really call me to be here?

Just trust Me, He replied.

During those difficult early years, Judy shed many tears. “But God’s call on my life was so deep and so strong; it kept me going when I questioned: Do they want me? Is there a place for me in the C&MA to do children’s ministry?”

As Green as Could Be

Overseas Alliance workers during that period often were assigned ministry tasks without specialized training, Judy notes. (That isn’t the practice today.) When her leaders asked Judy to focus on church planting, “I struggled with it,” she says. “I had no experience; I was as green as green could be.”

Judy’s Kids
Judy in Indonesia

Her first assignment was in north Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, where two national Alliance families had moved. With no training in church planting, Judy did what she knew—she initiated a vacation Bible school, inviting the VBS kids to attend the Sunday school class she was starting the next week.

“The children invited other kids; they stood on the roadside as I drove around picking them up. I could relate to that,” Judy laughs, recalling her youth in south Florida.

As the children began accepting Christ, Judy sent them home with weekly Bible verses their parents helped them to memorize. “I remember so clearly that first church where mothers came up to me after Sunday school, saying, ‘Miss Judy, we want to learn more about the Bible. Our children are changing, and we want to know how that’s happening. Can you teach us?’” So Judy started a Bible study for those mothers.

A God-Inspired Template

After the ladies began studying together, many became believers and started praying for their husbands to attend church. “When they began saying, ‘Hey, my husband is talking about going to church now,’” Judy says she then called the local Alliance district superintendent to send a pastor.

Judy’s Kids
Judy in Indonesia

“It’s always better to have an Indonesian or a national doing the ministry, rather than one of us international workers up in front,” she observes.

So began a pattern over the next 10 years: About every 16 months, Judy was moved to a new neighborhood to plant a church. In each community, she started with a Bible club or Sunday school class. “Due to lack of space at one location,” she says, “I taught a small group of kids who were sitting in a Volkswagen van.”

“I really thank the Lord that He gave me the opportunity to start seven churches in Jakarta that are still going today,” she says. One of the congregations Judy planted began with two children and has since birthed 10 other churches—all self-supporting and self-sustaining today.

Kids’ Camps

During those first years of ministering in the 17,000-island nation, Judy also initiated kids’ camps. “She started from zero; summer-camp ministries are unknown here,” says Krisy, the Alliance Indonesia team leader.

After about 14 years of renting facilities for the camps, Judy shared the dream with her colleagues of building their own campground: Camp Good News. She raised money from among her U.S. supporters, had the blueprints drawn up, and created a budget and a working plan to ensure children could spend a week at camp learning about God’s love for them. “About 350 children still annually attend Camp Good News,” Krisy notes.

Double Blessing

Several years into her church-planting assignment, Judy realized, “Hey, I’m actually doing what I came out to do: I’m planting churches, but I’m also doing children’s ministry—it’s a double blessing. I have the joy of not only reaching children but their parents as well.”

Although it’s not the way she would have chosen, she says, “God put it all together. And I was doing what others have struggled to do—many in this culture have spent years trying to get one church planted.”

Evangelism Explosion

Once the children’s camps were established, Judy and one of her former Sunday school students, Ivone, began adapting Kids’ Evangelism Explosion materials. The two traveled the Indonesian islands, instructing adults in how to teach children to share their faith with their friends.

Judy’s Kids
Judy initiated a national Awana ministry in Indonesia, which now has 500 Awana clubs across the country. (Photo by an Alliance international worker)

“One way to reach children is for them to reach each other, especially in Indonesia where Christian adults accused of proselytizing are imprisoned because it’s illegal,” Judy says. “As far as I know, there are no Christian kids who have been incarcerated for sharing their faith here.

“Children are the largest unreached people group in the world today,” she adds, citing the 4/14 Window movement. “That’s what I want to leave with the Church: don’t forget the children and youth. If we don’t reach them, we may lose two or three generations.”

Who’d ‘a Thunk?

“Judy is passionate about loving children into the Kingdom,” Krisy says, recounting a recent national church event the two attended together. “I sat in a packed church where everyone around us was pressing across the pews to say, ‘I’m one of Judy’s kids.’ It’s safe to say that she has impacted thousands of lives.”

“Sometimes we think we have to have special skills, but I think God delights in using the simple things, someone simple like me, to do something great for Him. He chose me; I never would have chosen myself to do this,” Judy says.

“Who’d ‘a thunk that a hillbilly from Alabama from a dysfunctional family—with no outstanding gifts—could be used of Him in Indonesia for almost 45 years? That’s a miracle!”

For Generations to Come

Krisy, Judy’s Indonesia team leader, notes another of her colleague’s accomplishments: initiating a national Awana ministry in Indonesia 10 years ago. Today there are 500 Awana clubs across the country; more than half are associated with C&MA churches.

In addition, Judy and Ivone developed a BA and an MA program in Holistic Child Development at Jaffray Theological College Makassar (an Alliance college in Indonesia). “I had to wait 36 years for that dream to come true,” says Judy, who continues to teach intensive modules at the school.

“One day,” Krisy says, “we may recognize this program as Judy’s greatest legacy—fostering children’s workers for generations to come.”

—Janet Root

8 responses to Judy’s Kids

  1. Judy, thank you for answering God’s call to ministering in Indonesia and introducing so many to Christ! Paul and I remember with great fondness the time we spent with you in Jakarta (Christmas 2003) and also at Camp Good News. You have been such a great blessing to the children and everyone there! May God continue to pour out His blessings on you! Janet Pollock

  2. Hello Judy,
    thanks for listening to Jesus and is there any thing that we can pray for you for. this coming Sunday 8/13/2017 in Rochester, NY. any questions please let me know.

  3. Greetings in the name of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
    I am Nehru Naik, I am native of small and backward village
    , Nalagonda District, telagana .st India. I am
    born in a very poor family, my parents were daily wage labours. I
    belong to Schedule Tribe community which is most neglected community
    in the society.

    Voice calling me ” I NEED YOU MY SON”, I looked here and there but no
    one was there. I opened the BIBLE, God spoke to me through the
    scriptures, Nahum :1:15. According the Scripture I decided to search
    the Gospel to the unreached areas of our society. And started
    preaching the gospel in the year 1992 till now preached 96 villages of
    our surroundings after taking Bible Training in collage and
    established achurch, where saints are worshiping regularly.

    One day while mediating the God’s word, God spoken with me by the
    Scripture James 1:27 to care of orphan children. Hence, we have
    started small orphanage with 13.orphans by providing food, shelter,

    We request you to kindly pray for these children as they need of
    school books, bags & fees. We love you to invite you to come to our
    children home whenever you visit India.

    With much love &

  4. Miss Judy was one of the founder to help me in Bekasi west Java Indonesia to start a kids ministry in November 1987 and through that small ministry, now become a great church which has been planted 7 other churches.
    She loves the Kids ministry, and some other churches around us are established through Kids ministry.
    Praise be to God and miss you Miss Judy….

  5. Judy, your obedience in the face of so many unknowns is truly a faith without seeing. Thank you for loving God and his children! It is encouraging to hear how he made a way for you.

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