By Mary Jane Welch
IMB communications office
Faye Pearson, the first woman to serve as an area director for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, died Feb. 20, 2019, following a long illness. She was 78. Her full obituary can be found below this story.
Pearson started her career in the early 1960s as many women did then — working as a secretary, a teacher, a church education director. But how things had changed by 1993, when the world’s largest evangelical missions organization elected her to lead their work in East Asia.
In that role, Pearson supervised the work of approximately 450 missionaries relating to nine countries.
“Faye was a leader who cared greatly about the missionaries whom she led as well as the lost millions with whom they were seeking to share the gospel,” said Clyde Meador, IMB’s interim executive vice president. “She was both firm and gentle in making difficult decisions, and in communicating those decisions to those who were affected by them.”
During the four years they both served as area directors in different parts of Asia, he said, they shared a workspace whenever they were at the IMB’s home office in Richmond. “She was a wise and helpful person with whom to share challenges in our leadership responsibilities,” he said. “I came to know her as a committed servant of the Lord — a student of missions deeply devoted to seeing the Great Commission carried to every part of East Asia and its peoples, whom she greatly loved. She was a joy and an encouragement to all of us who worked with her.”
“Faye Pearson is remembered at the IMB with much love and respect,” said IMB President Paul Chitwood. “She clearly was passionate about serving her Savior, working across the SBC in roles with churches, state conventions, Woman’s Missionary Union, the Home Mission Board, and the Foreign Mission Board. She exhibited the gifts God gave her by nurturing relationships and modeling servant leadership. We thank God that so many fellow believers around the world had the blessing of working alongside Faye.”
Pearson felt God’s call at age 12 to be a missionary. Sixteen years later, in October 1968, she was appointed a missionary to Taiwan by what was then the Foreign Mission Board. While in language school in Taiwan from 1969 to 1971, Pearson taught English Bible classes, worked with children, and was involved in student ministries in Taipei. For the next nine years, she did student ministry in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, relating to students from Jung Shan University, Kaohsiung Medical School, Normal University, and four junior colleges.
Pearson then served a year as administrator of the Taiwan Baptist mission. She also was religious education department head and religious education teacher at the Taiwan Baptist Theological Seminary in Taipei from 1982 to 1988, having served earlier as a part-time professor there.
Pearson became associate to the area director for East Asia in 1988 and held that position, along with serving as IMB’s East Asia cross-cultural resource specialist until 1993, when she was elected area director. After retiring in 1998, Pearson taught at Nanjing (China) Theological Seminary for five years. Then she returned to the Taiwan seminary to assist in writing curriculum for a newly established missions department and to direct the ministry of the World Mission Center.
“Not only was Faye my supervisor as she served as area director for East Asia, but she was my friend for 30 years,” said Gayle Stanley, executive assistant to the IMB president. “Faye taught me the true meaning of friendship and how to love and care for our missionaries. I will always remember how much she knew about the personnel of East Asia, how she enjoyed times in their homes with their families, and how she stood beside them in times rejoicing and times of hurt. In her later years, the love that Faye had for others was returned by missionaries and Asian friends as they served as her caregivers for many, many months.”
Pearson’s work in Taiwan with students considering their place in world missions — and the questions they asked — caused her to write the book, A Link In God’s Chain: Fond Memories. In it, she told the stories of 30 of the missionaries who had served in Taiwan between 1952 and 1976.
A native of Laurel, Miss., Pearson earned the Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from McNeese State University, Lake Charles, La., and the Master of Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. She did advanced studies in missiology at Fuller Seminary, Pasadena, Calif., and received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Asia Baptist Theological Seminary, headquartered in Manila.
Before her appointment, Pearson was education director for University Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ark.; held secretarial positions at McNeese State; and taught elementary school in Lake Charles.
She also worked as state YWA (Young Women’s Auxiliary, now myMISSION) director for Oklahoma State Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and served as a student missionary in Arkansas, Florida and California.
Visitation will be Friday, March 1, from 5-8 p.m. at Memory Chapel, Laurel, Miss., and funeral services will be Saturday, March 2, at 10 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Laurel.
Mary Jane Welch has long written about missions and edited missions publications and websites.
Faye Pearson Obituary
F. Faye Pearson departed this life on February 20th, 2019 at 0:30 a.m. for her heavenly life after a long battle with cancer. She was a native of Jones County, born May 14, 1940.
She was a 1958 graduate of Myrick High School. She received the Bachelor of Arts in education from McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA, and the Master of Religious Education degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX, graduated in Mandarin Chinese from the Taipei Language Institute, Taipei, Taiwan, completed advanced studies in missiology from Fuller Seminary in California, and she received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from the Asia Baptist Theological Seminary headquartered in Manila.
Faye had a life filled with rich experiences. She held secretarial positions at McNeese State University while a student there. She taught one year in the Lake Charles School system. She was on the staff of University Baptist Church, Fayetteville, AR as Director of Education before joining the staff of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention, serving as State Young Women’s Auxiliary Director for Oklahoma Women’s Missionary Union, Oklahoma City. She served as a summer missionary under the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board in Arkansas, Florida and California.
Faye was appointed a missionary by the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) in 1968 to Taiwan to work with students on university campuses. After she completed language and cultural studies, she worked with university students in south Taiwan for 10 years before joining the faculty of the Taiwan Baptist Theological Seminary to direct the Religious Education Department. She held various positions in the Taiwan Baptist Mission and Chinese Baptist Convention.
She was invited in 1988 to serve as the first woman as the Associate to the Area Director for East Asia, pastoring and counseling Southern Baptist missionaries in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. In 1993, she was the first woman ever elected to serve as the Area Director (now Regional Leader) for Southern Baptist mission work. She supervised the work of approximately 600 missionaries in East Asia: Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, South Korea, Taiwan, China and two closed countries.
Faye selected to take early retirement from the International Mission Board in 1997. For the next 12 years she was supported by the churches and individuals from the Taiwan Chinese Baptist Convention. She was invited by the China Christian Council in 1997 to teach at the Nanjing Theological Seminary, Nanjing, China. She was the first foreigner to teach full-time in any China seminary in 52 years. She ended a very meaningful missionary career by returning to the Taiwan Baptist Seminary to assist the seminary in developing a curriculum for the newly established Missions Department and to teach in the Missions Department and to direct the newly established World Missions Center.
Faye worked with the Chinese Baptist Convention Missions Department in Bangladesh and Nepal and supervised the Taiwan Baptist Seminary mission majors serving in Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines, India and North Africa.
She retired in 2009 and returned to the Laurel area.
Faye loved the Lord Jesus, life, teaching, her family, her friends, and the Chinese world. Her world was always filled with people and projects. Her hobbies included: traveling and making new friends in various cultures, decorating her home for every season, entertaining friends around the table, cooking, reading, discussing world events, theology, missiology and speaking about God’s faithfulness in her life and the needs of loving and sharing one’s faith in a broken world.
Those who knew Faye knew her as honest, hard-working, humorous and fun-loving. She was sensitive to the needs of others, kind and compassionate, an encourager and sometimes known to be stubborn. She set goals for herself and others but she never expected more of others than she demanded of herself. She was passionate about her missionary calling and treating all people as equals.
She was an active member of Freedom Baptist Church as a child growing up in the Myrick community and joined the church when she returned to Laurel. However, when the Chinese Christian Church was organized in Hattiesburg, she immediately became an active member of this fellowship of believers, where she found a place to serve.
She is preceded in death by her parents Jim and Flossie Harrison Pearson, siblings Howard Pearson and Harold “Boe” Pearson and sister-in-law Mae Cotham Pearson. She is survived by one nephew James W. Pearson of Ellisville, step-brother Mack Tucker (Ann) of Laurel, several cousins, step-nieces and a wonderful missionary and Chinese family.
Family and friends would like to thank the local caregivers: Janice Holyfield, Lora Huddleston and Lynn Porter; the wonderful, caring friends who came from Taiwan, China and across the United States to care for Faye; and the medical team: Dr. Laura Douglas and her chemo team, Dr. Kevin Ivey and Dr. David Sullivan who walked with her with great compassion and professionalism through the cancer journey and for scores of friends from around the world who prayed for her and sent messages of encouragements.
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The pallbearers are: Isaac Chang, Timothy Yang, Jakeb Hosey, Yang Jinhai, Danny Li & Fan Hongbo.
The honorary pallbearers are: Dr. Kevin Ivey, Kelly Lawson, Vernell Watkins, Joe Johnson, Randy Laird, Dr. Ned Hinton & Dr. Laurie Douglas.
Visitation: 5 – 8 p.m. on March 1st 2019 at Memory Chapel, Laurel Mississippi
Funeral services: 10 a.m. on March 2nd 2019 at First Baptist Church, Laurel Mississippi
The interment will follow at the Myrick Cemetery.
To sign the guest book login to www.memorychapel.com