Notable Missionary Deaths in 2019

Bob Finley (May 2, 1922-March 22, 2019) Founder of International Students Inc., and Christian Aid Mission

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Born in Albemarle County, Virginia, Bob attended the University of Virginia where he served as undergraduate student body president, chairman of the Honor Committee to oversee the University’s famed Honor System, captain of the boxing team, and won the NCAA intercollegiate boxing championship in the middleweight division in 1944. Following graduation in 1944, he joined a newly formed organization called Youth for Christ which sent him throughout the USA to speak in youth rallies and church services. He worked closely with another young evangelist named Billy Graham who was also on the YFC team at that time. Simultaneously Bob worked with another new organization called InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as an evangelist among university students.

In 1948 Bob Finley went to Asia as a representative of both YFC and IVCF. In 1950 Bob Finley went to South Korea where he joined his fellow YFC evangelist Bob Pierce in conducting the largest evangelistic meetings ever held in Asia until that time.

After leaving Korea, Finley returned to America and in 1953 start International Students, Inc., the first evangelical ministry among overseas students in the USA. He spent 17 years building up ISI as a national organization while he served as President and Chairman of the Board. Also in 1953 he founded Christian Aid Mission to gather financial support for indigenous evangelical missions in poorer countries, and those which are closed to missionaries from North America. Today, with headquarters in Charlottesville, Christian Aid distributes millions of dollars among hundreds of indigenous missions that deploy thousands of native missionaries in “mission field” countries.

Steve Smith (March 11, 1962—March 13, 2019) Author of “T4T”

Steve Smith, who filled key leadership roles in Asia with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, died March 13 after a long illness.  Steve and his wife Laura served with IMB for 18 years, always focused on parts of the world where the Gospel was little known. He began his service in East Asia and was later named to direct work among Southeast Asian peoples. He also served as a consultant on church-planting movements for other areas.

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Smith was involved in a church-planting movement in East Asia. He and colleague Ying Kai wrote T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution. The book detailed the biblical principles behind church-planting movements and a process developed by Kai and his wife Grace to pursue such movements. T4T, short for “Training for Trainers,” integrates evangelism, discipleship, church planting and leadership development and is now used around the world, including in the United States.

Born on Hamilton Air Force Base in California, Steve grew up in Lafayette, La. He completed his undergraduate degree in New Testament Greek at Baylor University, and his master of divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He received his master and doctorate of theology from the University of South Africa.

Besides T4T, Smith has written Spirit Walk: The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People and the No Place Left saga comprised of two novels, Hastening and Rebirth, a missions thriller for people who would otherwise be uninterested in missions literature. Smith also wrote a regular column in Mission Frontiers magazine.

Evelyne Reisacher (1956 – March 30, 2019) Missions author and professor

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Evelyne A. Reisacher was associate professor of Islamic studies and intercultural relations at Fuller Theological Seminary. For twenty years, she worked at a French organization called L’Ami, facilitating the relationship between churches and North African immigrants and developing courses, teaching tools, and seminars for sharing the gospel cross-culturally. She trained Christian leaders and church members in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

Reisacher earned a PhD at Fuller Theological Seminary and published several articles on gender issues in Islam and Muslim-Christian relations. She was the general editor of Toward Respectful Understanding and Witness among Muslims: Festschrift in Honor of J. Dudley Woodberry, and the associate editor of From the Straight Path to the Narrow Way: Journeys of Faith. Additionally, she published chapters in the books Peace-Building By, Between, and Beyond Muslims and Evangelical Christians and A Worldview Approach to Ministry among Muslim Women.

Lon Allison (May 11, 1952 – October 21, 2019) Lausanne Movement leader, evangelist

Lon Allison served as the Evangelical Covenant Church director of prayer and evangelism for nine years before becoming executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, died at the age of 67 after a two-year battle with liver cancer.

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Lon was born in Bozeman, Montana on May 11, 1952. As a high school student, Lon was invited to attend Young Life, a Christian youth organization. There he learned that God would never leave him or forsake him. In the midst of teenage angst, Lon claimed that promise and asked Christ to come into his life.

He said one of his greatest influencers was Billy Graham and was thrilled when hired to be the executive director of the Billy Graham Center in 1998. He served in that position for 15 years until 2013. He was subsequently awarded the lifetime title of honorary director for the center. Allison went on to serve as teaching pastor and pastor of evangelism and development at Wheaton Bible Church.

Lon was a key member of the Lausanne Movement, serving on various committees and contributing to the success of the Cape Town South Africa global conference in 2010.

Allison wrote three books on evangelism: Going Public with the Gospel; That the World May Believe; and Possible: Discover the Joy of a Prayer, Care, Share Life.

His most recent book, Billy Graham: An Ordinary Man and His Extraordinary God, was published in 2018.

Reinhard Bonnke (19 April 1940 – 7 December 2019) International evangelist

Reinhard Bonnke was a German-American Pentecostal evangelist principally known for his gospel missions throughout Africa. He had been an evangelist and missionary in Africa since 1967.

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Reinhard was born during WWII on 19 April 1940, in East Prussia, Germany the son of an army logistics officer. With his mother and siblings, he was taken to Denmark during the evacuation of East Prussia and spent some years in a displaced persons Center. He became born again at the age of nine after his mother spoke with him about a sin that he had committed. After war service, his father became a pastor.

Founder of Christ for All Nations Bonnke was known for his large-scale evangelistic events held in Africa. His final crusade event was held in 2017 in Nigeria, with an audience estimated to be around 1 million.

Bonnke’s Autobiography, Living a Life of Fire, is a collection of stories of his life including accounts of his childhood growing up during the Second World War and living in prison camps to his early years in ministry and how he believed God used him to bring the gospel of salvation to Africa.

Robert “Bob” Breuker (December 10, 1942 – December 19, 2019) Missionary bush pilot

(Note: This mention is made as representative of the thousands of unsung missionary heroes, those in-the-trench missionaries, who seldom receive recognition for their faithful service in hard and difficult places.)

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Bob was born in Holland, Michigan, in 1942.  After graduating from the aviation program at Moody Bible Institute, Bob and his wife Pat joined Mission Aviation Fellowship to serve as a bush pilot. In the early 1960’s Bob was sent to what was then called Dutch New Guinea, to serve remote missionaries who depended on the mission plane for survival. Bob was the sole lifeline to dozens of interior mission stations, flying floatplane from a remote  MAF river base on the south coast, of what is now called Papua, Indonesia. For many, he was the only connection to the outside world. Bob flew for 37 years, and eventually became the MAF Papua Program Head. He was highly respected as a leader, yet never lost his love of serving others.

In recent years Bob and his second wife, Pat, lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. This past November Bob developed a heart problem and died from complications just before Christmas. Many grateful missionaries whom he served mourn his passing while celebrating his life of service.

Dr. Rick Love  (October 9, 1952 – December 29, 2019), Expert in Christian-Muslim relations

Rick was an internationally recognized expert in Christian-Muslim relations. He and his wife, Fran, began their service as missionaries to Indonesia. He was an ordained pastor, and a consultant on reconciliation between Muslims and Christians. After 9/11 he was an adjunct professor at the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies and Columbia International University for several years. 

Rick initiated the founding of Vision 5:9 in 2002, to create strong partnerships among those who shared a vision of building the Kingdom of God among Muslims. He established the values of Vision 5:9 as a network, and set a high standard for unity among Christians and love for Muslims around the world. 

Rick went on to found Peace Catalyst International, an organization with a heart to build bridges and “wage peace,” to unite Muslims and Christians through a common word. He was author of the book Grace and Truth: Toward Christlike Relationships with Muslims. Rick had been battling cancer and died of a heart attack early on December 29. 

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