When Wendell Kempton became president of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism in 1971, the organization had 338 missionaries working in 11 countries. By the time he retired 30 years later, ABWE had tripled in size.
“ABWE was blessed with administrators and missionaries who were visionaries,” wrote Kempton in 2005. “Their passion was to lead people to Christ, train them, and establish local churches. I watched carefully as administrators and missionaries teamed up to open 62 new countries during my leadership. It was exciting!”
Dr. Kempton, 75, president of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism from 1971 to 2001, died of complications related to melanoma on Sunday, January 6, in Lititz, Pa.
Kempton was headed for a baseball career after graduating from North High School in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1950. Torn between offers from semi-pro teams and the possibility of a college education, he wandered into a service at Saylorville Baptist Church, Des Moines, where Clark Mann was preaching. Responding at the end of the service, Kempton professed salvation and soon enrolled at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He later graduated from Baptist Bible Seminary, Johnson City, New York (1957), earned a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary (1961), and was honored with a Doctor of Divinity degree from Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary (1973).
Returning to BBS in 1961, Kempton worked as a coach, then director of athletics, and eventually director of development. He was instrumental in helping the school locate and purchase a former Catholic property, Venard Maryknoll Junior Seminary, Clarks Summit, Pa., in 1967. He was named Baptist Bible College’s Alumnus of the Year (1974) and selected to BBC’s Athletic Hall of Fame (2006). He began serving on BBC’s board of trustees in 1976.
He was a leader in the GARBC, speaking at eight annual conferences and serving on the Council of Eighteen for sixteen years between 1975 and 1996.
“He made us believe it was our obligation to reach the world and that we could make a difference for the cause of Christ,” said Dr. John Greening, national representative of the GARBC. “Dr. Kempton taught us how to evangelize. He was never satisfied with the inaction of bench sitters. He always wanted us in the contest, giving it our all. His passion translated not only into words which exploded from his lips but also into his actions.” [Read “John Greening’s Tribute to Wendell Kempton. “]
Active in ministering to professional athletes, Kempton spoke at three Super Bowls and a World Series. Mike Schmidt, Hall of Fame third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, began a Bible study with Kempton in 1978 and trusted Christ later that year. One of Dr. Kempton’s final speaking engagements was a November 2007 sports outreach to the Dominican Republic with SCORE International.
A funeral service for Dr. Wendell Walker Kempton will be held at 2:00 PM on Friday, January 11, 2008 at:
1051 Landis Valley Road
Lancaster, PA 17601
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorial gifts be given to the “Wendell Kempton Memorial Fund.” Memorial donations should be made out to “ABWE” and mailed to PO Box 8585, Harrisburg, PA 17105, designated to the “Wendell Kempton Memorial Fund.”
Read these Baptist Bulletin articles by Dr. Wendell Kempton:
- “Rekindling Our Passion for Missions” (Aug/Sept 1994)
- “The New Missionary and Church Support” (September 1981)
- “Keepers of the Heart” (October 1992)
- “Athletes as Ambassadors” (June 1963)