EDMOND, Okla. (BNc) by Howard Norton — Leon E. Tester, one of the two oldest members of the 1961 Sao Paulo Mission Team, died Nov. 8. He was 90 years old. Jerry Campbell, a fellow team member, preached his funeral in Edmond, assisted by Kent Risley and Leon’s two sons, Claude and Jon, and their wives.
Leon was a career Navy man with some fourteen years of service. After his conversion to Jesus Christ, he became a conscientious objector and left the Navy. Desiring to prepare himself for the ministry, he enrolled at Abilene Christian University and graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree that emphasized Religious Education, Bible, and journalism.
Leon and his wife Marion joined the Sao Paulo Mission Team during their student days at ACU in the early days of the team’s formation. Some of the team members wondered how it would be having a long-term Navy veteran who was 13 or 14 years older than most of the other team members. They had nothing to worry about. Leon and Marion were kind, patient, and provided exemplary leadership to the younger couples. They fit in perfectly by providing stability and wisdom for both the men and women on the team and for the new converts on the field.
Leon’s greatest contribution, however, was in the field of writing, publicity, and public relations. Not only did he constantly produce materials for the work in Brazil, but he also taught the team members the importance of keeping the brotherhood back in the United States informed concerning what the missionaries were doing in Brazil. He taught his fellow missionaries how to improve their writing and reporting and helped organize them so that there was a regular flow of information from Brazil to Christian journals, supporting churches and individuals in the United States.
Leon Tester also had a keen awareness of the need for the entire team to stay in touch with each other. He published a small, mimeographed newsletter each month for the team itself in which he simply listed and briefly explained the different works that had been accomplished the previous month.
Each year, the team would have a banquet near the time of their arrival in Sao Paulo on June 17, 1961. Missionaries would sometimes arrive tired and discouraged at the annual celebration. Leon would then read a review of the key events that had happened in the years since 1961 and especially emphasize what had been accomplished through the power of God during the year just past. We would leave the banquet excited and inspired — ready for another run at the massive task of evangelizing Brazil, South America, and the world.
Leon was quiet, disciplined, consecrated to God, honest, tenacious, open-minded, loving, forgiving, and kind. He was in the greatest sense of the word a “man of God” — an unsung hero in the annals of the missionary history of churches of Christ.
Howard Norton is president of Baxter Institute in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. For Leon’s obituary, see this link.