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IMB missionary dies unexpectedly in Malawi

ZOMBA, Malawi (BP) — International Mission Board missionary Susan Sanson, 67, died of malaria in Zomba, Malawi, on May 18.

She developed a sudden onset of malaria on May 17 and began treatment. However, early the next morning her husband Billy woke to find her unresponsive. He rushed her to the hospital, but she passed away as medical staff were examining her.

“This was sudden, tragic and quite unexpected,” said Kevin Rodgers, an IMB strategy leader in Africa and a friend of the Sansons. “Susan was a unique, godly, precious child of the King, and while I know she is in His presence in perfect peace and joy, there is still a great burden of sadness that we will all have to work through in the days to come.”

The Sansons, who do not have children, moved to Malawi as IMB missionaries in 2000. Susan Sanson was involved in reaching out to, discipling and counseling university students, and also worked in Baptist churches in Zomba. Billy Sanson is a chaplain and university minister at Chancellor College in Zomba.

Upon news of her death, Chancellor College students set up a Facebook page, “Tributes to a Mother: Susan Sanson.”

“A charming lady a mother to all,” posted one student. “Surely as she used to say … even though she had no children of her own, she didn[‘t] feel the gap because we were all [her] children.”

Students organized a prayer campaign, encouraging intercessors to pray at least 15 minutes a day. Prayer requests will be distributed via phone messages twice a day.

Susan Sanson was born in New York and raised in Ohio. As a young adult, she spent time in Manhattan as a model and fashion magazine editor. “She had an amazing testimony of … moving to New York and living the high life as a fashion model and mover and shaker in the fashion world … and then God arresting her heart and bringing her back to Him,” Rodgers said. “She quit her job, sold her things, moved to New Orleans and enrolled in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.”

She met Billy Sanson at the seminary, where he was a Ph.D. student. The couple married in 1992.

“She was a jewel for Jesus,” Rodgers said, “and I can assure you that when we get to heaven it won’t be easy to run into her because she has a seat reserved about as close to Jesus as you can get…. She had one of the purest hearts I have ever known.”

A memorial service will be held in Zomba at Chancellor College on May 24 at 2 p.m. Burial will be in the United States, but funeral details are not finalized.

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  • Melanie Clinton