Missionary Deaths Mark End of Era

Ann Hill and Dan Coker were the vanguard of Churches of Christ missions to Latin America.

Sixty years after a Churches of Christ missions team first went to Guatemala, two of its pioneering missionaries died within one week of each other. Ann Roberts Hill died in Abilene, Texas, on September 12 at the age of 87. Dan Coker died in Tyler, Texas, on September 18 at the age of 82.

Part of a boom in international missions in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Hill and Coker helped transform the Churches of Christ’s approach to spreading the gospel abroad. They launched some of the denomination’s earliest congregations in Latin America and modeled a new team approach to missions.

As their friends and colleagues reflected on their legacy, however, they also mourned the passing of an age of missions.

“I just have a fear that this is it,” Jim Frazier, a longtime friend of Hill and Coker and a retired Churches of Christ missionary, told Christianity Today. “This generation, the younger generation, missions is not their thing. They don’t go.”

Telltale signs of change

The Churches of Christ don’t have a denominational board to keep track of missionary numbers, but there are telltale signs of the change.

Great Cities Missions, a group that trains and supports Churches of Christ missionaries to Latin America, has not been able to recruit a North American team in the last few years. A series of annual lectures on Latin American missions—run by Frazier, Coker, and fellow missionary Howard Norton—ended in 2018 because of sharply declining interest. A foundation that supports Churches of Christ missionaries has seen requests for funding drop by more than half in the last decade.

The trends within their denomination, which numbers nearly 12,000 congregations in the US, seem to reflect …

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