Ordinary People

Ray and Jill

By Mike Delorenzo
On Field Media

Ray was born in Kenya in 1945, raised as a third generation missionary kid into a family legacy. Ray’s grandfather came to Kenya as a pioneering medical missionary in 1911. In 1938, Ray’s father returned as a teacher to Kenya, and would later establish Scott Theological College. And in 1971, Ray himself returned to serve among the remote Turkana people in Kenya’s wild frontier. It would seem that Ray was destined for a life in Africa.

Jill, on the other hand, was running from it. As a child, she made a commitment to someday become a missionary, but by college, the call was all but forgotten. She was looking for a safe and comfortable life and instead found Ray.

They met at church while Ray was home working on a graduate degree at Fuller Seminary. There was a spark between them, but also a chasm. Jill’s own father, who knew Africa as a board member with Daystar University, cautioned Ray. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing? Do you know how this girl spends money?” To which Ray replied, “In Turkana, there’s no money to spend and nowhere to spend it.”

Ray declared to Jill that he was, and always would be, a “missionary for life.” She thought, “Well, it’s been nice knowing you.” Surprisingly, this wasn’t the end of their story.

God worked a miracle and they married in 1973. “We said goodbye to everyone in the reception line,” Jill recalls. They moved to Kalokol, Kenya—a land of unimaginable heat, vicious scorpions, and sweeping sand dunes. It was a life neither safe nor comfortable.

Here they labored in church planting and community development among the Turkana—a hardened people living on the margin of life. But they came “at the harvest time,” Ray says. In their eleven years, he baptized a thousand Turkana. From Kalokol, Ray and Jill, now with two children, moved to the land of the Pokot and spent sixteen years engaged in the same kinds of ministry with a people even more resistant to the Gospel. And in 1997 they moved again, taking their field-tested gifts and experience to a new assignment at the AIC Missionary College in Eldoret. Here they mentored and trained young Africans to go make disciples. After twenty-seven years in the field, and fourteen in the classroom, one might have expected the Davis’s to be finished.

Jill laughs. “We were supposed to retire. Instead, we moved to South Sudan.”

And here they are today: In South Sudan’s war-torn country, aged sixty-something, learning Juba Arabic in order to challenge the fractured Sudanese church with a mission vision.

“Our vision was—and still is—to see the church in Africa take up the baton of fulfilling the Great Commission among the peoples of the African continent,” writes Ray on his blog.

Ray wasn’t kidding when he styled himself a lifelong missionary. And through the challenges and joys of forty-plus years of ministry in Africa, it turns out this was God’s design for Jill as well.

Ordinary People: Ray and Jill

Jun 17, 2015 | Articles, By OFM, Central Region, Ordinary People