Alison and Jacob Kemp have been known and loved in this church for over 3 decades. They met at University at age 4, started dating in youth group during their teen years, and married here a few years later. As part of a Chrysalis weekend when he was 16, Jacob felt a call into ministry, and at Texas A&M, worshipping at Grace Bible Church, he and Alison heard from missionaries as they told their stories each week. By the time they graduated and married, they knew that mission work was part of God’s plan for their lives. But knowing that, even with great clarity, doesn’t mean that every next step is apparent and each new path assured.
Fresh out of college and newly married, the young couple traveled with Pioneers, a church-planting organization that targets unreached people groups, to Mongolia to teach English amongst farmers and shepherds. They spent a year there, feeling like they didn’t know what they were doing, and yet, God was faithful. It was a year of hard lessons, trying and failing and watching God still use their efforts to reach people for Him. As Alison explains, “At the beginning of our call, we thought, ’what can we bring to the table, what can we do for God,’ but God switched it, ‘I am doing amazing things and I will allow you to be a part of that. Are you willing to try and fail, and try again, to show my glory?’”
They knew God was calling them to reach the unreached and work with the poorest of the poor, but they didn’t know where He was calling them.
After a year in Mongolia, they came back to Texas to attend Dallas Theological Seminary, where Alison and Jacob sought degrees in counseling and theology respectively. After finishing their graduate degrees, the couple headed home to San Antonio in order to begin a family and work in ministry. After two years in San Antonio, they began to feel the pull back to the mission field. They knew God was calling them to reach the unreached and work with the poorest of the poor, but they didn’t know where He was calling them.
For two years they listened for God’s voice, a clear word of instruction. Jacob says, “I thought I knew how to hear from God. All of these people who were investing money in us, and we were heartbroken over not being sure.” They visited other Pioneer teams, traveling to Uganda and then Greece, and when they thought Greece was the answer, the door shut pretty convincingly through an inability to attain proper visas for their family.
That was November of 2014, and they heard a pretty clear word from the Lord: “Wait.” Alison says this was a time of grieving, “We were asking God, ‘Did you have to break us this much?’ and we heard Him tell us, “I am with you and I want you to sit in this place a while and then move again; I’m calling you to join me in something I am doing—join me, be with me, and you will be a part of my kingdom coming on earth.’” During this time, they learned to rely on God’s timing, His provision, and finding contentment in Him. And then things happened quickly.
“God’s a wild goose that we were chasing and then we found ourselves caught in His presence. Would I have been disobedient if you hadn’t taken me on this journey? Did I need to be completely dependent?”
In February of 2016, they began talking with a Pioneers team that was working with the Roma people group in Albania. The Roma migrated in stages from the northern part of India, across Europe, hundreds of years ago. Pejoratively referred to as “gypsies,” there are three million Roma in Europe, and they are the most hated, most vilified of all people groups. “Our training is to be with people in their suffering. We felt called to work with the poor, the unreached. We hoped for a big city where our boys (they have three and another on the way!) could be in school. This opportunity was everything we hoped for,” Alison explained. They moved the next month, and within a month of being there, it was clear that this was why doors had closed, and why they had waited. Albania was where God wanted them: “God’s a wild goose that we were chasing and then we found ourselves caught in His presence. Would I have been disobedient if you hadn’t taken me on this journey? Did I need to be completely dependent?” asked Jacob, with a clear understanding that yes, the waiting and discerning were every bit as important as the going.
But going where God has called you doesn’t mean everything is easy. Because only 1-2% of Roma can read, their culture is entirely oral, and storytelling is key. Instead of pulling out a Bible, which automatically puts distance between them and the folks they are trying to reach, Jacob and Alison have found that memorizing scripture and stories to be shared while doing life, drinking tea, and having a meal is much more effective.
Another challenge, Roma do not trust one another—they will not invite each other into their homes, which makes a House Church something of an impossibility. So the team purchased a building to make into a community center, a place where Roma can gather, away from their homes, and hear about Jesus.
Jacob and Alison, their boys, and their fellow team members are making an impact for the Kingdom in a place and among a people much of the world has forgotten. Like the apostle Paul, they are working so that “Those who have never been told of him shall see and those who have never heard of him shall hear” (Romans 15:21).
To learn more about the Kemp’s work in Albania, request their newsletter by emailing Jacob, .