In 1986, Betty McKeehan looked back on a life of missionary service and thought about her complete lack of “regular missionary talents.” She could not sing, teach, or play the piano, but she knew that the Lord requires faithfulness. As she stood before the students of Cedarville College relating her testimony, Betty recalled how the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:7 became meaningful in her own life: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
After graduating from Cedarville, Betty spent her entire adult life as a missionary in Brazil—a plan that
was not evident to her as a young girl. Born in the hills of Kentucky, Betty grew up in a rural household that had little time for church. After graduating from high school, she moved to Galion, Ohio, to live with one of her sisters, who happened to attend First Baptist Church. It was there that Betty accepted Christ as her Savior, October 1956. Her intention was to attend Cedarville for a year, but she ended up staying for four and graduating. During that time she heard a sermon from missionary evangelist
Bill Fusco, who concluded his sermon with a call for missionary service. “If the Lord were to call you to the missionary field, would you be willing to go?” Fusco asked. Betty responded and later wrote a note to herself in the flyleaf of her Bible: “On this day (April 9, 1962), I promise the Lord, that if He were to lead me, I am willing to go to the mission field, and I will forever keep this promise.” She signed her name—and then asked two other students to add their names as witnesses. The students had to write that in their Bibles and then sign it, and have two people sign as more witnesses.
After Betty graduated from Bible college, her father asked her, “Well, you have gone to college for four years. What are you going to do?” He wanted her to say she was going to be a schoolteacher or something like that. “I want you to have a job where you will have money,” he told her. Betty said she was
thinking about being a missionary. He responded, “Oh no, a missionary never has money. They never have anything.” Then Betty answered, “But they have the Lord.”
Betty McKeehan tried to join Baptist Mid-Missions in November 1963, but she was not accepted due to some complications. However, Baptist Mid-Missions wrote her a few months later and asked her to come before the mission board again. Twenty years later, her sister told her that her father had written a letter to Baptist Mid-Missions because he did not want her to go to the mission field. He wrote, among other things, that Betty was not fit to be a missionary.
Having joined Baptist Mid-Missions on March 20, 1964, Betty McKeehan entered Brazil in Belém, Pará, on April 4, 1964. She studied Portuguese in the BMM Fortaleza language school, then began ministering in a long succession of Brazilian towns. She would have a direct part in establishing a dozen churches.
The remarkable woman who worried about her lack of “regular missionary talents” taught Sunday School, organized Bible clubs, ran a Christian bookstore, led Bible studies, and kept the accounting books for the field council and a seminary. She officially retired from active service at age 69, and passed away in 2007.
Reflecting on her many years of hardship and service, Betty used her 1986 Cedarville testimony to remind students of the joy in serving Jesus. “I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, because I loved every minute of it.”