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Longtime missionary to Chile dies

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Emeritus missionary Harry Cecil McConnell died March 2 at Shands Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., after more than 40 years of service on the mission field as a pastor, church planter, professor and president of the Baptist Theological Seminary in Chile. He was 93.

Born April 5, 1913, in Monroe County, Ohio, McConnell’s dedication to the Lord was evident at age 5 when he walked two miles to church by himself. On the way to his family’s new home in Monroe County, McConnell had noticed a church along the way. When his parents decided to spend their first weekend unpacking, McConnell set out on his own to attend church on Sunday.

McConnell began his schooling early and received his high school diploma at age 16. He earned a bachelor of arts degree at Muskingum College in Ohio in 1934 and a master’s degree and doctorate in theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in 1937 and 1953, respectively.

McConnell married Mary Elizabeth Buch in 1937, and they spent their honeymoon at a weeklong missions event at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center in North Carolina. Four months after the wedding, the McConnells moved to Santiago, Chile, where Cecil helped establish the Baptist Theological Seminary of Chile in 1939.

During his 40 years in Chile, McConnell planted and pastored several churches in addition to his work as a professor. He later became president of the seminary.

“Work was his recreation, his therapy,” former missionary colleague Connie Andrews said. “The Chileans loved Cecil because they saw how hard he worked.”

In 1977, McConnell transferred to Cali, Colombia, where he taught seminary students before returning to the United States two years later to serve as a volunteer editor at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House in El Paso, Texas. During his time at the publishing house, McConnell served as one of three basic editors for a revision of the Spanish Bible, “Reina-Valera Actualizada,” printed in 1989.

McConnell’s love for hymnology, as well as his books and articles on the subject and his longstanding correspondence with hymn writers in many countries, won him a listing in the 1990 publication of the International Who’s Who in Music and Musicians’ Directory, across the page from Paul McCartney of the Beatles.

Throughout his career, McConnell authored a number of books in Spanish, including “Los Evangelios en Paralelo,” which was awarded a 2002 Gold Medallion by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, Spanish category.

McConnell is survived by his four daughters: Elizabeth Finch, Ann Hollander, Martha Jelsma and Grace Alarcon.

His memorial service was held March 6 in Neptune Beach, Fla.

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  • Kristen Hiller