Unlikely Missionary – Connie Jo Connolly

Author: David Davolt
Published on: September 3, 2020

Connie Jo Connolly didn’t really believe God could use her to further His Kingdom.

She grew up in a Christian home and went from accepting Christ as her Savior at age 11 to leaving home at age 20, to realize at age 40 she had really wandered and messed things up. She knew she needed to come back and asked God for help. He answered through the leaders and members of Montrose Christian Church in Montrose, CO. She sums up, “I decided to make Jesus number one in my life and have never looked back.” Her story had found a fresh start.

The most exciting thing Connie has ever done is to lead people to Christ in her rediscovered faith. That included her ex-husband, Pat Connolly. They remarried, with the agreed-upon premise that Jesus was #1, and each of them was #2, an arrangement they kept until Pat died in 2014.

Pat was on fire for the Lord and frequently called the MCC pastors with questions. One Sunday evening, guest speaker Dr. Charles Crane talked about getting “power tools” for ministry at Boise Bible College. Pat was intrigued and, at the encouragement of friends and pastors, decided to attend. A year later, having gotten entirely out of debt by tithing, which they believed God blessed, they both enrolled.

On their first visit to campus, they took in a class taught by Kenny Beckman. Pat approached him afterward and asked him to hold out his wrist. Wondering what was up, Beckman did. Pat grabbed his wrist, saying, “I want to be handcuffed to you until you teach me everything you know!”

The learning continued and included simple but important things like memorizing the books of the Bible in Chuck Faber’s class New Testament Survey. Dale Cornett’s sayings of the day inspired, and his constant suggestions for improvement in writing challenged Connie’s patience, especially when she got a perfect score, and he still commented with his red pen! She finally decided to get some friendly revenge. She got secretary Linda McGhee to give Dale a message to call a “Mr. Lyon” at a specific phone number. The next day in class, Dale said he’d returned a phone message and had gotten the Boise Zoo. Connie and her classmates got a good laugh.

Humor and fun were part of Connie’s BBC experience; so was being cared for. When her mom died, she told Mr. Beckman. On the spot, he canceled his planned class material for that day and spent the whole hour talking about what happens when Christians die. He explained that some times the best way to teach a class is to speak to a current need. Connie will never forget what he taught that day.

Prayer became a big part of Connie’s life. When she was 40, she found out that her parents had prayed daily for her during her 20 years of wandering. At BBC, she knew the staff and other friends prayed for her, helping her stay on track.

Life After Boise Bible College

Pat and Connie learned about Chidamoyo Christian Hospital in Zimbabwe from then Development Director Larry Woodard. It seemed like a great place to use their God-given skills and passions. They moved back to Montrose after graduation in 1996 and raised all their funds in a record four months – another of God’s blessings. They helped and learned from Stu and Marilyn Cook in South Africa until their Zimbabwe work permit came through seven months later, and they finally moved into Zimbabwe. Pat, who had been a plumber, was the hospital’s maintenance officer, and Connie taught Bible classes for the women’s groups and children. They also held a Bible study in their home every day before work started, with up to 64 people attending. They tag teamed in leading that, making a great team.

After five years, they were home on furlough when Connie was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her mission field changed from Zimbabwe to radiation and chemo rooms. With these new developments, Pat decided they should stay in the states for ten years. They sold their home in Colorado and moved to Orofino, Idaho, so that Pat could fish for salmon on the Clearwater River and Dworshak Reservoir. He bought a jet boat, and they spent a lot of time together on it. They also regularly packed into the mountains on horses to hunt elk. These years were a time of refreshing and bonding together, becoming even closer. They served at Orofino Christian Church during this time also.

They never returned to Africa together. Connie took a short trip to pack up their belongings. After Pat died, she returned to South Africa to help Marilyn for three months, as Stu had also “graduated to Heaven.”

Connie served in a prison ministry in North Carolina then moved back to Boise, where she lives in the Christian Retirement Village and serves as the Treasurer of Boise Christian Homes, which includes the Village as well as the Christian Children’s Ranch. She says it’s a formidable job, but God prepared her for it through her professional experience years prior. Connie is confident she can make a positive contribution, a confidence that hasn’t always been there.

Today, Connie still desires the help and prayers of her friends. She has self-published her autobiography, “An Unlikely Missionary,” detailing her journey to this point in her life. The title comes from her long-held belief that God could not possibly use her to further His Kingdom.

She says Pat put it best, “God can use a crooked stick to draw a straight line.”