Chris Unthank: Give our readers a brief history of your family ministry.
Allen Family: Our family started on the road in full-time evangelistic ministry in 1996 with four small children. Over the years, we had four more children and the ministry developed from the family singing a song or two before Dad preached, to The Allen Family doing primarily Gospel Music concerts, with Dad preaching and teaching at a few revival meetings and bible conferences throughout the year. What has always been unique about our family ministry is that we live on our bus 365 days a year. We’ve never had a house to go back to. In August of this year, we will be celebrating 20 years of living and ministering full-time on the road.
CU: Who currently travels on the bus with you each week?
AF: There are currently eight of us living on the bus. Well, actually that’s not true because we had a bus accident in December of 2015, and the bus was totaled. So, The Allen Family has been traveling with a Ford Expedition truck towing a borrowed trailer, living in hotels and the homes of family or friends along our way since the accident. We’ve just purchased a Prevost bus shell and our guys are converting the inside whenever we aren’t driving or singing. In answer to the question, there are eight of us still traveling full-time together. Our oldest two children are married, but they still join us on select dates throughout the year. At one point, 13 of us lived full-time on the bus for six months, that was all of us plus a daughter-in-law and twin toddler grandsons. That was fun!
CU: How do you guys keep it all together traveling with such a large family?
AF: It really isn’t that difficult; it’s all in what you get used to. We didn’t start out in a 45-foot-bus with 10 people. We started with 6 people in a 36-foot-motorhome. So we just grew into it. You get used to living with less stuff. We don’t need as much as we think we need to live. The old saying is, “The more you have, the more you have to have, to take care of the things you have.” Living on a bus with a lot of people can have its challenges: less personal space, lots of time stranded on the road when the bus breaks down, no room for pack rats. But it also has a lot of plusses: family togetherness, adaptability to any challenge, less stuff to keep up with, and more time to spend on relationships and ministry.
CU: Tell us about your musical choices and what people can expect from an Allen Family concert?
AF: We describe our music as family-style Southern Gospel, and you just can’t beat family harmony. But there’s a lot of variety in what we do. Over the years our music has become a little more progressive, therefore we can connect with a variety of audiences. A typical concert includes familiar hymns sung by the whole family, a couple of male quartet numbers, sometimes a female trio, always the ten-year-old, Christian, singing a solo or playing his harmonica, some worship songs, and a selection of original songs. Todd and our oldest son, Caleb, are both great songwriters. Their songs speak to the needs of those who are hurting in our audiences, and also encourage people to live like followers of Christ.
CU: You filmed a pilot for TLC called Home Sweet Bus. How did that come about and what has the reaction been for your family?
AF: They found us! Literally. They were looking online for a family in ministry together and they liked what they saw in us. It was a great experience working with them and people loved the pilot episode. Millions of people viewed the premier and subsequent reruns, and consequently many people found our web site and booked us at their churches or events. It was good exposure for our ministry, and a great opportunity to show the world that we are just normal people doing our best to live for Christ and affect the world around us in a positive way. We aren’t perfect! But we do have peace and joy and love in our home. For those who did not see that pilot, it will be available on DVD along with a special 20th Anniversary DVD featuring video clips of our family ministry over the last 20 years. We are releasing this on our official 20th anniversary date which is the second Sunday in August. Pre-orders will be available on our website this month.
CU: Tell us about your ministry to the country of Uganda.
AF: We began working in Uganda in 2013 after taking a vision trip the previous year. God connected us with a group of Ugandan nationals who had formed an NGO to begin meeting the enormous physical and spiritual needs of their people. They had a huge vision but not a lot of resources to get the job done. So our non-profit ministry, Hope Missions International, has partnered with their NGO, Christian Development Initiative, and God is doing some amazing things. In 2014, we built the first unit of our orphanage and moved in the first 12 children. In 2015, we added our 13th child. Each year, we bring in large teams of people to do ministry such as pastor’s conferences, family conferences, prison ministry, medical clinics, construction work and children’s ministries. Our surgical team did 90 surgeries in 5 days for people who would never have that need met for them any other way. We’ve provided water filters for villages that will give clean drinking water to thousands of people. And in January of 2016, Hope Missions International sent missionaries to the field in Uganda. They have gone there to live and help build self-sustainability for our work in central Uganda. God is doing such amazing things and we encourage people to pray for our work in Uganda and to follow what is going on by singing up for email updates on our new missions website www.buildingwithhope.com, and also by liking the new Hope Missions International Facebook page.
CU: What’s next on the horizon for the Allen Family?
AF: Some very exciting things are coming up. We are building the inside of our new bus and hoping to have it finished by our ministry anniversary weekend in August. So we decided to film a YouTube series about the bus building. Here’s our pitch, “For years everyone has asked how we all live on that bus. Well, we are going to one-up that and show you how we build a bus for all of us to live on.” That series can be found by typing, “How to Build A Bus”, in the YouTube search bar.
Also, we’ve just released an original song to radio called “God Loves You.” The message is so simple but so strong. It is our prayer that lives will be changed and people will come to know Christ through the message of this song. To spread the message of the song even further, we’ve recorded a music video that can be viewed on our YouTube channel. We encourage people to share the song and the video and help us reach people who need to know there is a God in Heaven who really does love them and cares about what they are going through.
CU: How can fans get in contact with the family?
There are lots of ways.
Our main ministry website is www.allenministries.com.
Our missions website is www.buildingwithhope.com.
You can find The Allen Family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
You can subscribe to The Allen Family’s YouTube channel called allenfammusic.
CU: What has God been teaching you lately?
AF: That’s easy. He’s stretching our faith. He’s been doing that for awhile now, but we must need a lot more stretching! When we started 20 years ago, it was all about faith. We sold everything we had, put four young children on a motorhome and had two bookings to do, one right after the other, and nothing else on the calendar. People said we were crazy, and they were probably right. We just knew without a doubt what God had told us to do and we totally trusted Him. We had His calling and that’s all we needed. He has always been faithful; we’ve never had a reason to doubt. Twenty years later, our calendar is full! We are still on the road here in the United States and He’s given us a thriving ministry in Uganda; and 20 years later it is still the same faith story. Now we aren’t just trusting Him for the needs of our family, we are trusting Him for the needs of 13 children in our orphanage, and a missionary family of 6 working for us in Uganda and a ministry that is growing by leaps and bounds every day. We don’t have the plan all figured out, but God does and we are just going to keep trusting Him for another 20 years.