Author, speaker and mission statesman Don Richardson has ended his battle with brain cancer at the age of 83. His life was marked by undaunted faith and dedication to sharing and advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He leaves a legacy rich in the fruit of his prayerful perseverance.
Don is survived by his wife of 13 years, Carol Joyce; his sons Steve, Shannon and Paul; and daughter Valerie Powers; brothers Doug and David; 12 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
Born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, Don attended a one-room schoolhouse in “Anne of Green Gables” country before moving to Victoria, British Columbia. The oldest of four boys, Don was 11 when his father died. He gave his life to Christ at a Youth for Christ rally in 1952 and pursued training for ministry at Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta. He was lovingly married to Carol Joy Soderstrom until her death 43 years later in 2004.
In 1962, under sponsorship of the former Regions Beyond Missionary Union (now World Team), Don and Carol embarked on a missionary career in Netherlands New Guinea (now Papua, Indonesia). They served for 15 years among the Sawi, a Stone-Age tribe of cannibal-headhunters who idealized treachery. Don and Carol designed an alphabet suited to their language, taught the tribesmen to read, and translated the New Testament into their native tongue. As a registered nurse, Carol was known as “the woman who makes everyone well.” In time, and with the involvement of several missionary co-workers (including John and Esther Mills, Jim and Joan Yost and others) many of the Sawi came to Christ, engendering a major cultural shift as the Gospel replaced warring and headhunting with peace and good will.
From 1977 until his illness surfaced in March 2018, Don served as World Team’s minister-at-large. In this role he spoke at dozens of churches, conferences and other venues each year, in North America and worldwide. Don was a frequent instructor in the “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” course and on various college and seminary campuses. He was an ordained pastor and held an honorary doctorate of literature from Biola University. Seventeen months after Carol Joy’s death in 2004, Don was remarried to Carol Joyce, with whom he enjoyed ongoing fruitful ministry.
Perhaps best known for the concept of “redemptive analogies,” Don’s books and teachings have helped shape missions discourse and inspire two generations toward more thoughtful engagement in the Great Commission. His best-selling first book, Peace Child, tells the dramatic story of how the Gospel broke through among the Sawi people. His second book, Lords of the Earth, documents the work and martyrdom of two colleagues among the Yali, a Papuan mountain tribe. Eternity in Their Hearts, Don’s third book, presents compelling case histories of how God has prepared cultures around the world for the arrival of the Gospel. Subsequent titles, including Secrets of the Koran, Heaven Wins, and A Man from Another World, have also received wide readership. A short film called “Never the Same” portrays the ongoing impact of the Gospel 50 years after Don and his family entered the Sawi domain.
In addition to his biblical and missiological teaching, Richardson enjoyed a variety of other interests including painting scenes of tribal life in New Guinea (See www.peacechildlegacy.com), tournament chess, running, and summiting 33 “fourteeners” (peaks rising above 14,000 feet) in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.
A memorial service is planned for 10:00 a.m. on January 12, 2019 at the USA headquarters of Pioneers – 10123 William Carey Drive, Orlando, FL 32832. Contact Pioneers at 407-382-6000 for details.