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Missionaries lose longtime pen pal, prayer warrior Clarence Richardson

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–On Sept. 29, missionaries lost a significant partner and God gained a mighty prayer warrior.

With his death, Clarence Richardson of Athens, Texas, known to many for his great love of missions, left a legacy bound to be remembered and cherished.

Missionaries all over the world received written cards from Richardson every year on their birthday just to remind them someone was praying for them and their ministry.

He continued his letter-writing campaign for decades and influenced innumerable missionaries.

Bob Tucker, a former International Mission Board journeyman to Kenya, is now the minister of missions at First Baptist Church of Athens, Texas, the same church where Richardson was a member.

Because of his job, Tucker travels quite a bit to meet with missionaries in other countries.

“Every time I went somewhere and told people where I was from, people would say, ‘Do you know Clarence Richardson?'” Tucker recounted. The missionaries were grateful and surprised to receive birthday cards from someone they had not met, he said.

Tucker also was a recipient of Richardson’s prayers and cards.

“It is a meaningful thing to get a card on your birthday,” Tucker said. Richardson always knew how to time the cards just right so missionaries would receive them on their birthday, Tucker said.

“It’s very important [to get birthday cards], especially if it’s from somebody you know,” said Robert Davis, a former IMB missionary and Richardson admirer. “It’s one thing to get one from somebody who just sends it one time in a lifetime. But a person who consistently writes to you through the years, that person becomes a real friend.”

Richardson spent his own money, either salary or retirement funds, to pay for cards and stamps.

“He was not a wealthy person at all,” Davis said, “but he made it a priority.”

Within his birthday cards, Richardson would list a special characteristic, such as joy or good judgment, that he was praying for the missionary. He would ask the missionary to write back if he or she experienced the gift for which he prayed.

Richardson’s love for missions spilled over into other ministry areas. Tucker and Davis both remember attending Royal Ambassadors (RAs), a missions education program for boys, as children and listening to Richardson teach. In church, many considered him the spiritual conscience who would remind members of the importance of missions.

“He was the only guy I knew who wanted to join [Woman’s Missionary Union],” Tucker said, of the missions education auxiliary for Southern Baptist women.

Richardson’s legacy continued even during his memorial service. At the end of the service, friends and family gathered outside to watch dozens of balloons float away. Each balloon bore the name of a missionary who was celebrating his or her birthday that day.

“We need more people like him,” Davis said.

Since Richardson’s death, three members of First Baptist of Athens have approached Tucker about continuing Richardson’s ministry to missionaries.

“His greatest achievement in life was that he was the guy who prayed for missionaries,” Tucker said.
Have a personal, ongoing relationship with an international missionary; see http://www.imb.org/missionaries/adopt_a_missionary.htm.

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  • Brittany Jarvis