Local father of five lives life of care and devotion
By Beth Giuffre
Father’s Day Spotlight
Joshua Allen: Christian Missionary, special education educator and all-around ‘super-dad’
–Atascadero resident Joshua Allen is what you would call a super-dad, but not just to his own children. As a missionary in Mexico, he has been caring for the less fortunate for nearly a decade, and now plans to devote himself even more to special needs kids. Allen is a caregiver and an educator, a spiritual man whose wardrobe remains loyal to strictly St. Antonio Spurs team colors.
Joshua grew up in San Antonio, Texas, as the oldest son of a nurse and a pastor. You may have seen his family at the local Costco. He says he has way too much fun loading all five of his kids on a flatbed cart—an outing his wife says is equally as exciting as Allen family day trips to Morro Bay and Avila Beach.
Allen’s six-year-old daughter Cheyenne sees her dad as a silly guy who builds forts out of blankets and sings Jesus Loves You before bed. His seven-year-old Sam will say his dad rules at hide and seek and sometimes takes him to A&W as a special treat—just him and dad. And his wife Jenell gets all choked up when she says that Joshua was never disappointed or even ruffled when his first child, nine-year-old Tiana, was born with Down syndrome. Tiana is also Autistic.
“She just adores him,” Jenell, an Atascadero native, said, “She doesn’t show a lot of affection, but she does to him. He seems to connect with her in a way others can’t. He understands her disability, yet treats her as equally as the other kids when it comes to all aspects of parenting.”
Jenell knows her husband is not like most people.
“He has a real servant heart. Being faithful to serve, the opportunities have come to him. He’s kind of quiet. He doesn’t talk about himself. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a man quite like him,” said Jenell.
Joshua moved his family to Atascadero after working almost eight years as a missionary in the city of Veracruz and the state of Michoacan, Mexico. He is an ordained minister with World Indigenous Missions with two degrees from University of Texas in history and american studies. Janell and Joshua met while studying Spanish together at the Kings Way Missionary Institute in McAllen, Texas.
When Joshua was 20-years-old, he was in a near fatal car accident and unable to walk for several months. More than 15 surgeries slowed him down to a point when Jenell said, he came to a spiritual reckoning, deciding that his life needed to mean something. “It was at that turning point when he decided to take the steps to become a missionary.”
Jenell and Joshua birthed and raised four of their children in Mexico, but Jenell said in addition to the living situation becoming dangerous, her father’s health started to decline. Jenell’s father suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, and her mother had to work to keep the family afloat.
Joshua then felt a new calling. He told Jenell he wanted to care for her father and that they needed to move back to the states to be there for him. But moving to Atascadero wasn’t easy. Due to the lack of jobs available it was tough finding work, even with his two degrees and bilingual ability. But Jenell said Joshua remained determined to make it work. He took a job as a teacher’s aide in special education.
The Allen family was hit with a terrible tragedy in 2013 when their fifth child, Sienna, died on her first day of life from complications due to a surprising second case of Down syndrome. Jenell tears up talking about how hard it was for her, but Joshua’s support was solid, even after his own appendix burst a week after their baby’s death.
“My husband had to watch all these things happen to me. He had to be really brave and patient, tender and comforting to me.”
What is remarkable about Joshua is his incredible understanding of how to make it through the tough times. He said his first priority is making time for his wife. Jenell said she is spontaneous, and wants to help with everything at their children’s schools and is very involved in the community, including her work as co-founder of the special needs park in Atascadero. She told us Joshua is always there for her to pump her up, to give her time and support, and he keeps her organized so she can accomplish everything on her to-do-list.
It’s been quite a journey, and now Joshua will be Atascadero’s newest member of the special education community, working on obtaining a teaching credential to be a special education teacher. Recently Joshua has been substitute teaching for Atascadero School District’s Special Education Department.
Jenell said Joshua’s passion for special education came from the experience of being Tiana’s parent, but also from the work it takes to maintain a balance with the rest of his five children. In a special education classroom, part of the skill set is attending to a wide spectrum of needs.
“You need to have a special awareness that the other kids aren’t being left out,” said Joshua, who said other families have children with much more severe disabilities than what he and his wife are challenged with. He feels lucky Tiana is so easy going and loves to be out and about with the family. “It’s easy to give all the attention that your special needs child requires, but sometimes the other kids feel like they’re not being included. We try to take each one of our kids individually on dates.” In addition to Tiana (age nine), Sam (age seven), and Cheyenne (age six), the Allens also have Savannah, (age four) and Selah, who is 15 months.
He hopes to be in his own classroom next year.
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