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Veteran of Indonesian revival, missions leader Ed Sanders dies

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (BP)–Edward Owen Sanders, who led Southern Baptist missionaries in Indonesia during a time of miraculous harvest, died June 17 in Broken Arrow, Okla. He was 70.

Born in Cleveland, Okla., and reared in Tulsa, Sanders and his wife, the former Jaletta Davis of Newcastle, Okla., were appointed missionaries to Indonesia by the International Mission Board in 1959.

Sanders distinguished himself during his first seven years of missionary service in Yogyakarta, Java, with his passion for winning new believers and starting churches. After a bloody but failed communist insurrection, Sanders continued his church planting work in the capital, Jakarta. In 1972, he was selected to lead Southern Baptist missionary work in the country.

In that position, he had the privilege of coordinating Southern Baptist missions efforts as revival swept through Indonesia. More than 2 million people were baptized in churches of all denominations, and Baptists quadrupled in number.

“Ed Sanders was a pioneer who opened Southern Baptist mission work in Yogyakarta and then led in the harvest that followed the attempted coup in 1965,” said IMB President Jerry Rankin, who served with Sanders as a missionary in Indonesia. “As mission administrator for more than 20 years, he was a mentor and encourager to his colleagues.”

But Sanders’ influence went far beyond leading an organization, Rankin said.

“He exemplified a passionate commitment to missions and a walk with the Lord that was readily recognized and respected by missionary peers and national co-workers in Indonesia. Those who worked and traveled with him were touched by his pattern of early morning prayer times and desire to walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit in relationships and ministry. I am grateful for his model, example and influence in my own life as a new missionary and through the years.”

Another Indonesia missionary colleague, Avery Willis, said Sanders never lost his missionary heart.

“Ed Sanders was the epitome of a missionary. He was an evangelist at heart and was always focused on all missionaries being soul winners,” said Willis, IMB senior vice president for overseas operations. “He never lost the passion, although he was in an administrative role for 20 years. He was a leader among leaders and looked up to by both missionaries and Indonesians.

“Ed Sanders’ legacy will live on as long as there are people alive who knew him, but his greatest legacy will be in heaven where so many people will gather because he led them to Christ.”

Perhaps the best evidence of Sanders’ influence on others for the cause of missions is the fact that all three of his children are serving overseas as Southern Baptist missionaries, Rankin said.

Sanders was a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Prior to missionary appointment, he served as pastor of Denman Avenue Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas; Valley View Baptist Church in Nocona, Texas; and Woodford (Okla.) Baptist Church.

He is survived by his wife; two daughters, Jana Seaborn of the Philippines, and Jennifer Townsend of Indonesia; one son, Stephen Sanders of Indonesia; and nine grandchildren.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Ed Sanders Memorial Mission Fund at Indian Springs Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: EDWARD OWEN SANDERS.

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  • Mark Kelly