By Ruth Ann Ruiz
The Post Newspaper Features Editor
Glenda Owens made 10 trips to The Democratic Republic of the Congo and nearby countries in Africa over the course of her sister’s 30-year work as a missionary. “My first trip to Africa, I said to myself, ‘no way I’m not coming back,’ then I got home and couldn’t wait to go back,” said Owens, a Hitchcock resident.
Each visit required she be away from Texas for 3-4 weeks. “When my boss learned why I was asking for leave time, he was very supportive,” said Glenda.
At the urging of her siblings, Glenda committed to writing a biography of her sister’s missionary service.
“I didn’t plan to write a book, if my family hadn’t kept after me, I might not have started,” said Glenda.
She transformed stacks of letters into a narrative of her sister’s missionary work. Titled, The Call to Africa: One Woman’s Journey to Serve God in Africa, written by Glenda Owens was published in 2020. The book includes QR codes for readers to access videos made by Joyce Owens while in Africa.
Because postage was costly, Joyce mailed one letter to Glenda in the United States. Glenda retyped it, mailing it to 200 addresses. Glenda put together numerous care packages for her sister and the people in Africa. Some were mailed, while others were packed in trunks which she personally delivered.
Glenda kept her life simple. She devoted her spare time and financial resources to her sister’s calling.
Their father worked for the railroad while their mother oversaw the children’s spiritual development. The five Owens children were taken to Grace Bible Church, a little country church on a corner in Hitchcock. (the church building remains but is no longer the same church). It was during presentations by visiting missionaries that Joyce Owens felt God’s call to serve as a missionary in Africa.
Joyce’s childhood determination is a vivid memory for Mary Etta Gulotta, a family friend. “She told us when she was a little girl, ‘I want to grow up and be a missionary and go to Africa,’ and she did it,” said Gulotta.
There were roadblocks to Joyce’s journey, with the first one came while she was in Bible college. She was called home to tend to her siblings and nurse her dying mother. After the passing of her mother, she returned to Bible college.
The next obstacle was securing financial backing for her work. Joyce spent three years traveling across America, visiting churches, and gathering the needed support.
Her time in Africa involved living a rugged life and coping with serious health conditions brought on by living in a tropical climate. Joyce had numerous abdominal surgeries. “She had so many scars she used to say my belly looks like a roadmap,” said Glenda. “She wouldn’t quit, she believed in her calling.”
After each surgery, she ricocheted onto the mission field. Her final surgery was a mastectomy performed in Houston. She underwent a year of cancer treatment and then returned to her work in Africa. She was there just four weeks until a doctor told her she needed to go back to the United States.
“An African nurse accompanied her back to Houston,” said Glenda.
That would be her final voyage. Joyce Owens, the woman who wouldn’t let anything get in her way of serving God, died at the age of 60 in February 2000.
City of Hitchcock Librarian Joyce L. Kleimann has had patrons speak of the sisters since hosting a book chat on the library’s Facebook page. “Some patrons remember Joyce and her determination. Others remember Glenda as the glue that kept Joyce together,” said Kleimann.