“Tell me, do you like stories about things that really happened? Wonderful things that the Lord did? Really, the things He does in lives are far more wonderful than things in made-up stories, aren’t they? Well I want to tell you about something that really did happen…”
Those are the words of Allegra McBirney, a missionary, author, and speaker born in 1927. Allegra authored over fifty books for children and adults. Some, like A Shepherd Psalm for A Freeway Culture, were full-length, hardback books. Others, like Jesus, friend of boys and girls and Little Stories From Mike’s House were published by Zondervan and Moody Press, among others. But many of the titles I know and love the best are tiny books of 15 to 30 pages each that she wrote, illustrated, and self-published throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s.
Allegra had a degree in Creative Writing from Stanford University, but she liked to say that her greatest writing credential was her deep love for Christ. It was her heart’s desire to make known His reality as personal Savior, and His power and love as they’re demonstrated through the amazing and actual things that He does in the lives of His children.
And she spent her life doing just that. Years on the mission field with her husband and six children. Cross-country speaking tours in the U.S., driving and sleeping in her one-ton van, guarded by her Great Pyrenees dog Snow Bear. (Snow Bear rode shot-gun in the van with Allegra for 11 years and an estimated 125,000 miles.) Allegra spent over twenty years of ministry to military families. One trip took her to 15 U.S. military bases in Europe (including one meeting in the basement of an old, abandoned hospital in what had been the hospital’s morgue!). When her husband’s health forced her to retire from speaking and travel, Allegra continued her ministry and writing from home while she cared for him. In her later years, Allegra’s own health often kept her confined to her home but she still continued her efforts to extend the Gospel–oftentimes from her bed.
Allegra often wrote of a strong sense of urgency of “being about the Father’s business”. She liked to say, “Heaven is our home–Earth is our business address.”
“Today I want to share with you a true story about a very real little girl…”
I grew up listening to cassette tapes of Allegra McBirney’s stories and reading all her little books in my grandma’s collection. Because, you see, my Grandma Jessica and Allegra have been dear friends ever since they met at a Christian Women’s Club where Allegra was a speaker in the 1960s. Grandma and Allegra wrote many letters through the years and shared a mutual love of good books and our Savior.
One day, I wrote to Allegra to ask if I could hear her radio program “A Time for Sharing” where I lived. She wrote back and said that she wasn’t on any stations in Oregon but that she was sending me some cassette tapes to listen to.
That was the beginning of a precious correspondence between a girl around age 12 and an author nearing 70 years old. I sent her copies of the magazine I published for teen girls. She sent me copies of her daughter’s 1 Corinthians 13 for Teenagers. I told her about my life as a big sister. She sent me her ministry update newsletters, always with a personal note somewhere in the margin. And then, before we knew it, she was retiring from her speaking ministry and saying goodbye to her beloved husband of 61 years–while I was getting married and moving to a new home. Allegra continued to write me letters, sending me copies of her books like Little Stories from Mike’s House and even little outfits for my babies.
One day, when I was writing a blog post, I realized how well Allegra’s books would fit into the book list I was compiling. It was then I discovered how few of her titles were available for purchase–and how little could be found online about this precious saint who was then almost 90 years old.
I wanted to introduce my friend and mentor Allegra McBirney to a new generation. Not just to my own children–but to my friends and their children, as well.
“Do you know what I’d like to share with you now? A very special story about something that really happened…”
I wrote a letter to Allegra asking about sharing her books with more people. She responded with a box of books. And now I have the privilege of helping Allegra’s children sell her books so that others have the opportunity to enjoy the blessing of Allegra’s true stories.
Much to my children’s delight, I had transferred our precious cassette tapes by Allegra to digital so that they could listen to them whenever they wanted. And with the permission of Allegra’s family, I get to share these audio stories, too, with you.
“It’s a true story and don’t you agree that they’re the very best kind?”
Because He Lives,