Linnie Doyle has walked paths of both hardship and blessing during her life. Through it all, she’s kept her faith and spent her life singing gospel songs like the ones she first heard in church. (Courtesy photo)
By Steve Bertel
Some people serve the Lord by speaking to audiences and congregations.
Others, by helping non-profit groups.
And still others serve the Lord by using their creative talents.
Linnie Doyle does all of the above.
Raised in both DeKalb, Ill. and Tacoma, Wash., Linnie – no, that’s not a nickname – is the third oldest of six brothers and four sisters. With a family that large, it was a hardscrabble life for her parents; luckily, the Salvation Army often helped out with food and gifts, especially during Christmas holidays.
Her mother was the family’s “backbone” as Linnie puts it – always taking care of everyone and, as a faithful Christian, always taking her children to church every Sunday.
“Mom didn’t drive. She walked everywhere. When she’d walk to the store to go shopping in DeKalb, she’d be gone for several hours, and we’d be home with our dad.”
Unfortunately, “he drank a lot. And when he’d get drunk, he’d abuse us. In fact, he sexually molested at least three of us kids – that we know of.” Linnie was just a toddler when the abuse began, but says she can still vividly remember the horror. “What’s more, he’d many times threaten to kill us by purposely leaving a butcher knife on the kitchen counter for us kids to see, knowing we knew what it meant.”
For years, her mother wasn’t aware of the abuse. “She had no idea what my dad was doing to us, until my sister finally reached the end of her rope; I really believe God gave her the courage to come forward and tell Mom the horrific things that had been going on in our house all those years.”
Linnie’s mother reported the abuse to authorities, which resulted in her father being arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
Soon after her parents divorced, Linnie’s mother came to know another man – who attended the same church. The two eventually married and moved their family to Washington. “I don’t know if they were actually in love, but I know my mom certainly needed somebody solid in her life at that time. And as far as us kids, we were all excited for this new life with this new ‘dad,’” Linnie remembers.
The family soon found a nearby neighborhood church to attend and, every Sunday, mom and dad and the kids would all head off to the morning service. “It was a little, old-fashioned Pentecostal church in downtown Tacoma,” Linnie fondly recalls. “What everybody today calls a ‘holy roller church,’ where everyone’s rollin’ in the aisles and praisin’ God!”
As a result, Linnie’s faith developed at an early age. “Our pastor’s on-fire messages made you want to have a close, personal relationship with the Lord! So at age 9, I asked Him into my heart; I knew I needed the Lord in my life to get me through each and every day.”
With that early-age faith also came an early-age interest in gospel music … and singing. “Our church brought in a lot of (traveling) gospel singers over the years: duets, groups, even families with children. And wow, they really sang from their hearts! I told Jesus, ‘Lord, I would love to do that someday!’”
Linnie’s mother had already taught her to sing – “I always sat next to her in the pew so that, when we stood up and sang, I could learn from the best!” Linnie says – but she knew if she wanted to sing professionally, it’d be an uphill climb, since she didn’t have any formal music training. “So I’d pour my heart out at altar calls, asking the Lord to somehow, someway – in His time – help me use my voice to be a blessing to others.”
But while Linnie was making a joyful noise in church, things were far from joyful at home. What the family didn’t know was that this new man – this new ‘dad’ – in their lives wasn’t as “solid” as they had first thought. He had been a child abuse victim as well. “So he was still pretty emotionally and physically damaged when he married my mom. And being a prideful man, he had never shared his past experiences with anybody.”
As a result, “He was very abusive to us kids. Not sexually, like my biological father had been. But emotionally abusive: frequently calling us names, and beating us with his leather belt or big sticks from the firewood box.”
Essentially, an iron-fisted man who took his staunch belief in God to the extreme. “He always preached the fear of God into us. And he’d make us ask for forgiveness every day, even if we hadn’t done anything bad,” Linnie recalls.
As such, she found herself often struggling with the Fifth Commandment. “I could honor Mom with no problem. That was easy. But to honor my stepdad, especially for the terrible way he was treating us, well, that was another story. So I had to pray through it each time, relying on the promise in Jeremiah 29:11 where the Lord says, ‘For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.”
In her late-teen years, Linnie met a “big, handsome man” named Jack Doyle. And they soon became close. So close, they fell in love.
But there was a speed bump.
“It was always my intent to marry a fellow believer. I knew Jack was a good man – he was kind, gentle, had strong moral values – but I also knew he was not a Christian. He admittedly didn’t know anything about God at the time, but told me he was open to learning about Him,” she recalls. “And that was good enough for me! Because, even though he wasn’t a Christian yet, I truly believed in my heart he was the man God wanted me to marry. So I took a chance.”
Linnie moved out of her family’s house and, on June 28, 1977, became Mrs. Jack Doyle.
And that “chance” she took on the man she loved? It paid off. Four years after they married, Jack committed his heart to the Lord.
He had been employed with the U.S. Geological Survey, the federal agency best known for measuring annual snowpack levels, a job which eventually brought the Doyles to Boise, where they have lived ever since.
They don’t have biological children due to a genetic hemophilia disorder on Linnie’s side of the family, a disorder in which blood does not properly clot, leading to excessive bleeding, especially following any injuries or surgeries. “I’m so blessed to have found a husband who was okay with not having children of his own,” she says. “Because, at age 16, I had made the hard decision – a decision I’ve never regretted – to stop the disease from being passed down.” (The couple chose instead to adopt; their son, Jonathan, is now grown, married, and has children of his own.)
The Doyles soon settled into a church in Boise and Linnie, given her vocal talents, was invited to sing with the worship team. There, she became close friends with two fellow singers, twin sisters Mary Shada and Martha Stubblefield. And it wasn’t long before the three formed their own gospel music trio. Billing themselves as “Melodies of Joy,” the three – with Linnie as lead singer and Jack as sound engineer – took their show on the road to Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana.
The good news: “For us, those weekend trips were like going on vacations; we’d always stop and visit friends and family along the way.”
The better news: “When we’d be performing on stage and looking out at the audience, we could see by people’s expressions they were being touched and inspired by our songs. After the shows, we’d meet-and-greet the people who came, shaking their hands, hugging them; and they’d tell us how they had been really blessed by our music. So we got to minister to total strangers we would have never met if we had not followed God’s calling.”
The group especially loved performing local annual holiday benefit concerts for the Boise Rescue Mission. “I’ll always remember when the Salvation Army helped my family during those rough times. Those acts, those memories led to our decision to give back to our own community through our Rescue Mission benefit concerts. That way, we gave to others in need just like God had provided for us,” Linnie explains.
But in 2003, after five years, three record albums, and five Rescue Mission benefit concerts later, health issues forced Mary and Martha to leave the group.
“When that happened, Jack and I had to really pray about it. We asked God, ‘Are we done at this point? Or do You have more for us to do?’”
As it turns out, it was the latter.
“I never thought of myself as a soloist, but I knew that’s where the Lord was leading me. After all, you never know how a song may touch someone who might be on the verge of taking their own life or thinking about having an abortion. And I wanted to be a blessing to them.”
So Linnie Doyle became a solo act … with her husband again on the sound board … often ad-libbing her testimony between songs, letting God speak to her “in the moment” as she says, “so that they’re His words, not mine.”
And they travelled throughout the country, often being on the road for months at a time, performing in big city churches, little country churches, auditoriums and banquet halls. “We even performed in a little Amish church way out in the middle of cornfields!” Linnie chuckles.
Not to mention producing seven more gospel albums along the way.
But then came May 22, 2019 … what Linnie calls “the worst day of my life.”
“We were home and Jack had been very sick that day; he felt exhausted and had been dry-heaving, so I told him to go into our bedroom and rest.”
Awhile later, Linnie was in the den when she heard what sounded like her husband gasping for air. Racing into their bedroom, she found him lying in bed. Eyes closed, motionless.
She tried to wake him, but he was unresponsive. He wasn’t breathing.
She felt his heart. No pulse.
“So I hit him directly on the chest with my fist, trying to get his heart going again.” But it didn’t help. “I then tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.” That didn’t help either.
Desperate, she snatched up the phone and called 9-1-1.
“Even though, at that point, I knew he was gone … I didn’t give up.”
Paramedics arrived and couldn’t find a pulse either. So they pressed the paddles of their portable defibrillator to Jack’s chest. And shocked him.
His body lurched up. But no heartbeat.
As Linnie stood nearby, watching, “I prayed to God to help me stay together.”
They shocked him again. Still nothing.
Then a third time.
And finally, a faint blip on the EKG screen! Then another. And another.
And soon, a rhythmic “beep … beep … beep.”
“Praise God! Jack was alive! It was a miracle!” Linnie exclaims.
After being rushed to a hospital and treated, doctors concluded her husband had suffered a major heart attack, exacerbated by previously unknown health issues.
He underwent bypass surgery to open clogged arteries. “And today, Jack is eating right, exercising – in fact, he’s healthier now than he was before. The doctors say he’ll likely live a long life!” Linnie beams. “We’re just so grateful to God I was right there at the time and the paramedics got there so quickly.”
So what’s her future hold? “Lord willing, I want to continue being a vessel for Him; singing songs that uplift people, songs that give them courage, hope, strength, confidence, and help them through whatever struggles they’re facing,” Linnie says. “And I want to continue sharing my life story, sharing how God can help us overcome anything. After all, I’m living proof of that! I’m a survivor – an overcomer – through Christ Jesus.”
Recent COVID concerns have put a temporary kibosh on her benefit concerts and live performances, but she hopes that will soon change. She looks forward to the day when, with the Lord’s help, Linnie Doyle Ministries will once again travel our nation’s highways … and, like those gospel groups who visited the church where she grew up, she can once again continue singing from her heart.
Steve Bertel is a multi-award-winning professional radio, television, print media, and social media journalist, who recently retired after a 30-year broadcasting career. Now a busy free-lance writer, he recently released his debut suspense novel “Dolphins of an Unjust Sea”, available on both Amazon and Kindle. Steve and his wife of 39 years live in Meridian, Idaho. He CAN be reached at [email protected].