Today’s Eastern European Mission stands on the broad shoulders of the young pioneer men and women who ventured out in faith from Abilene Christian University in 1961. Of those original team members, all agree that one man in particular was a visionary beyond his years. Gwen Hensley was a man who listened to the calling of God and followed the stirring in his heart.
Samuel Gwen Hensley was born October 26, 1937, in Victory, Oklahoma. Gwen and Gayle McDermett were married in 1959 and sailed for Vienna in 1961.
Gwen was an ambassador for Christ wherever he went. He was a humble man, equally at home with the “common man,” diplomats, government officials and Austrian nobility. Gwen was a man of great faith – an eternal optimist – and a man with a mission.
In the late 1960s, Gwen visited villages where only one copy of the Bible was found in the entire village – and sometimes it was just a handwritten portion. With tears in his eyes, he said, “Gayle, if it is the Lord’s will, and I believe it is, I am going to see that these people get the Bible in their own language.” He called this mission the “Impossible Dream” – the impossible dream of providing Bibles for the lost souls behind the Iron Curtain. His great faith was evident in the fact that he went forward with total confidence the Lord would provide. And He did provide – a Heidelberg press – a building to house the press – Bibles in the hands of the people behind the Iron Curtain.
Gwen died of cancer on March 6, 1985, at the age of 47. He had finished the good works God had planned in advance for him to do, and God called him to his reward.
As a tribute to Gwen and his fellow pioneers and to honor the donors of today who continue to make Gwen’s vision possible, we created the Hensley Legacy Society.
The Hensley Legacy Society honors individuals who support EEM through one or more planned gift arrangements.
Specifically, the Hensley Legacy Society includes those who have designated revocable or irrevocable planned gifts of any amount to EEM. A gift must be documented by EEM for membership. "Planned gifts" include documented bequests, trusts, gift annuities, remainder interests in a residence or farm, life insurance, retirement accounts and more.
To honor society members, EEM will present each member with a special-edition Hensley Legacy Society Bible. These treasured keepsakes are a representation of the original Bibles that were printed and smuggled behind the Iron Curtain. The original Bibles were traditionally referred to as “Marlboro Bibles” since their size was about that of a pack of cigarettes and easier to smuggle.
Continuing The Legacy
Below is a list of the Hensley Legacy Society members who are committed to see the mission of EEM continue. For more information on the Hensley Legacy Society please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-486-1818.
Roger & Karen Pritchett
Robert L. Paschall & Ramona M. Chapman, MD
Jack & Becky Reed
Dirk & Wendy Smith
Jim & Sue West
Estate of Lucille Grave Calhoun
Estate of Howard A. Buckley
C. Wayne Nance Estate
Estate of Geralene Morrison
Estate of Ann Hayes Craddock
Estate of Matty Giles Danford
Stanley W. & Lois R. Daulton
Marshall & Erin May
Drs. Bobby & Bonnie Grigsby
Don & Nell Bone
Bob & Joan Burckle
Phil & Nedra Hartley
Kenneth R. and Penny J. Cornett
Martin D. and Donna L. Mitchell
Sam & Holly Calhoun
Matthew T. and Pattie A. Blake
Carolyn J. Dell
Linda N. James
Charmaine E. Barker
Donald J. and Maria N. Fuller
Ralph and Mary L. Reese
David K. Rickelton Sr. and Aleda H. Rickelton
Paul M. and Marcy C. Gardner
“Eternity alone will reveal the unnumbered lost and searching souls who found their way to the Lord because of Gwen's dedicated sacrificial devotion to the production and distribution of the Word of God behind the Iron Curtain. Fearless and optimistic, stubbornly believing in the power of the Gospel, he firmly considered it “better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. In the day of judgment countless thousands will rise up and bless his name because he pointed them to the Lord.”
Dr. B.E. Davis, Director of Communication Research Center, Abilene Christian University
“In loving honor and memory of our beloved visionary for Eastern European Mission, who as faithful evangelist, confident of all things in the strength of the Lord [Philippians 4:13], helped us more than any other in our generation to prepare for the fallen walls and open doors in Eastern Europe.”
The International Bible College