Tribute: Allan Turkington

On March 18, 2022, we were shocked to hear of our dear brother Allan’s homecall just before his 60th birthday. These sixty years were packed to the fullest and, as his youngest brother said, “Few could do in 120 years what he did in 60.” Colossians 3:23 describes well his manner of service: “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (KJV).

Allan was born in Portadown, N. Ireland, when his parents, Joe and Ruth Turkington, were there on furlough in 1962. The family returned to Venezuela, where he was immersed in missionary life with all its privileges and experiences. He was the fifth son of seven boys, so along with homeschooling and nightly meetings life was very busy. Allan would always aim for top marks in school and chose Civil Engineering because of his exercise to build gospel halls, building his first one at age 18 with the help of local brethren. He was a leader by example, always the first to start work and the last to stop. Even the catholic priest voiced his amazement at the visible harmony among the workers. He took advantage of frequent university strikes and used the time for practical needs in the work, like perfecting a design for stackable benches used for gospel outreaches. He found an old bus in a scrapyard and restored it for Bible classes, which is still in use today. The Lord enabled him to build twelve halls as well as several houses for Christians in dire need. From drawing up the plans to mixing the concrete, he always strived for excellence. He put into practice his Civil Engineer thesis by building an arched roof gospel hall that seats 3,000 for conferences.

Allan was saved at age 11 during a series of meetings held by his father and his grandfather, Mr. Sidney Saword. His biggest problem was accepting that he was a sinner who deserved punishment in hell just like everyone else. Through 1 John 1:10, he realized that by his attitude he was making God a liar, and so, acknowledging his sin, he trusted in the Lord for salvation. At age 18 he was baptized and received into assembly fellowship. The first time he was asked to preach, the clock stopped ten minutes after he began, and without realizing, he spoke for forty minutes. He evidently was not at a loss for words!

In 1992, Allan married Sandra Elliott from Pugwash, Nova Scotia, who proved to be his ideal helpmeet. Their first home was in San Carlos, where he was an appreciated teacher and elder in the assembly. In 1994, after much exercise and prayer, they were commended to the Lord’s work and moved to Barrancas, in the state of Barinas, where there was a small struggling assembly. Seeing that assembly built up, Allan continued working in the neighboring towns and cities, and after 25 years of laboring with local brethren saw five assemblies planted.

The Lord blessed Allan and Sandra with five daughters and two sons. In recent years the family grew to 20 when the Lord directed them in their exercise and love for children to open their home and take in some who were living in deplorable conditions. With public schools closed due to the economic crisis, they felt led to the opening of a primary school on their property, including over 20 neighboring children from similar circumstances. Also, seeing many Christians suffering from lack of their urgent medication, like insulin and anticonvulsants, their sphere of service broadened to include distribution of medical aid. With the onset of the Covid pandemic, this work further increased, supported by the Venezuela Relief Fund (VRF) based in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Allan seemed to have an endless fountain of energy, which he unreservedly used, both physically and spiritually, for the furtherance of the gospel. There were meetings seven nights a week even when building halls during the day. His Christ-exalting and practical ministry was highly appreciated by all. He was a passionate soul winner, never giving up on someone who refused to accept his invitation to a meeting. His two visits to Cuba left results for eternity. He was also a peacemaker among the brethren and loved to visit the discouraged ones.

The importance of children’s work and getting the little ones under the sound of the gospel was very high in Allan’s estimation, and he did not miss a chance to sow the seed. He stressed the importance of getting down to their level and capturing their attention. An hour before he passed away, he sang “Jesus Loves Me” by video call to his two small granddaughters.

As we remember so many things about Allan, the words Mr. Albert McShane said at his father’s funeral can truly be repeated: “There was not a lazy bone in his body.” When encouraged to slow down a bit so he wouldn’t have another heart attack, he said, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.”

Allan was “often near death” (2Co 11:23). There were countless near-accidents and encounters with armed men. He had his first heart attack at 47, and several months later he fell from the roof of a hall and shattered the side of his skull. An atheist neurosurgeon expressed that this walking miracle made him believe there was a God. He walked away from a burning truck that he was using for hall construction seconds before it exploded. So when the Lord called him home suddenly, the family found peace that it was God’s timing. He had spared him on every other occasion, but this time He said, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

The large number that attended his wake and funeral was evidence of how much he was appreciated by all. A group of unsaved rented a bus to come from over an hour away to be present at the wake, where the gospel was faithfully preached. At the funeral in San Carlos over 700 were present. The family appreciates the numerous expressions of support received.

Allan will be keenly missed by Sandra, his family, siblings, and all the believers that knew him. As a Venezuelan preacher commented, “A giant has left us, a tireless soldier, leaving an enormous void in the work in Venezuela.” What a satisfaction to know that his unique smile that we continually enjoyed is even greater in the land of fadeless day where God shall wipe away all tears. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord … that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev 14:13 KJV).