Dan Coker, the ‘Dean of Latin American Missions’, Dies at 82

Photo by Erik Tryggestad

Dan Coker, a longtime missionary and ministry trainer for Churches of Christ in Central and South America, died Wednesday night in Tyler, Texas. He was 82.

“Perhaps he was the most significant U.S. missionary to Spanish-speaking Latin America of all time in Churches of Christ,” said David Duncan, preaching minister for the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston, a congregation that supports missions across the region.

Coker preached in every Spanish-speaking nation in the Americas and served as dean and executive director of the Instituto Latinamericano de Estudios Biblicos (Latin American Institute of Biblical Studies) in Toluca, Mexico. For the past three years, Coker and his wife, Elise, lived in Tyler.

He earned his bachelor’s and master’s from Abilene Christian University in Texas and a doctorate in intercultural comparative education from the University of Florida.

After a tour in the Armed Forces, Dan Coker and his wife moved to Guatemala as part of a mission team, said Howard Norton, a former missionary to Brazil, former editor of The Christian Chronicle and longtime friend of the Cokers.

The Cokers later moved to neighboring Honduras as self-supporting missionaries. While there, “they used their nights and weekends to establish the first congregation of our brethren in that country,” Norton said.

The Cokers lived and worked in Mexico for two different tours of duty — one in Mexico City and the other in Toluca, Norton said. Between those tours, they served as missionaries in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Dan Coker worked with Continent of Great Cities (now Great Cities Missions) and traveled throughout Latin America “preaching, teaching and encouraging missionaries and national workers,” Norton said. “He recruited teams for major cities of Latin America and often preached in large evangelistic campaigns.”

He also served as a missions professor at Abilene Christian, where he trained missionaries to serve around the world.

For more than 30 years, he served as a director of the Pan American Lectureship, which brought members of Churches of Christ together in a different Latin American city each year. Reuel Lemmons, minister and editor of Firm Foundation, launched the event in 1963 to encourage fellowship and understanding among church members from the U.S. and Latin America. Coker attended the first Pan American Lectureship and spoke at many of the ones that followed.

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Source: Christian Chronicle