Photo courtesy of Wheaton College
At 10 p.m. on July 28, at his home in Shell Point Retirement
Community, Ft. Myers, Fla., Robert Philip Evans died at the age of 93. Just hours
before, his daughter, Alyce, read to him passages from Angels, God’s Secret Agents,
a book written by Billy Graham, where he describes how the angels would
soon come and carry him away in their arms to be with his heavenly
Longtime friend and colleague Billy Graham said of Evans, “Our close friendship goes way back to our days at Wheaton, and I
am grateful for all our meetings throughout Europe that Bob organized.
He was one of the greatest Christians I ever knew.”
Baltimore on Feb. 21, 1918, Evans grew up in the jungles of
Cameroon, West Africa, where his father, Roland Evans, served for
decades with his wife as one of the great pioneer missionaries of his
time. Evans graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois, in 1939, where he
met and married Jeanette Gruner. After completing his studies at Eastern
Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer Theological Seminary),
Philadelphia, Evans joined the Navy as a chaplain and traveled with U.S.
combat troops in North Africa, Italy and France.
Notably, he was
the first chaplain in the history of the Navy to be allowed, at his own
insistence, to accompany the landing of assault forces under combat
conditions. While riding his motorcycle along the beach to minister to
troops, Evans ran over a land mine, ended up in a French field hospital
and soon returned to the USA.
In the years following the war
Evans served with Torrey Johnson and Billy Graham in the newly founded
movement, Youth for Christ. After conducting evangelistic rallies
throughout the USA and Canada, the YFC team travelled to Europe, a
continent still reeling from the devastation of war, to bring a message
of hope. There they conducted scores of highly successful evangelistic
campaigns from Finland in the north to Italy in the south.
been deeply moved by the spiritual needs of the vast continent of
Europe during the war, and the YFC campaigns, Evans was convinced of the
need to train and equip Europeans for the ongoing work of evangelism.
Consequently he and his family returned to France in 1949, to establish
the European Bible Institute in the suburbs of Paris. Soon opportunities
opened for missionary work in many other European countries, giving
rise to the establishment of Greater Europe Mission in 1950.
founding GEM, Evans served for more than three decades as its Europe
Director. Under his field leadership the mission established Bible
institutes in France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Greece and Austria.
Graduate level seminaries were set up in Germany, Belgium and Holland.
Most of these institutions continue to this day. Church plants and
evangelistic ministries were initiated in many areas of Europe,
including camps in Spain and the French Alps.
In 1962, Evans
wrote Let Europe Hear, a widely-read and influential book exploring the
spiritual needs of Europe. Later Evans served as one of the key
organizers of the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism, Berlin, Germany.
This congress was the first of the great post-war gatherings of
evangelical leaders followed by subsequent congresses in Lausanne and
In 1972 Evans was awarded a Ph.D. in history from
Manchester University, England, for his research on the contribution of
foreigners to the spiritual revival that occurred in France during the
post-Napoleonic years of 1815–1850. Evans also served for years as a
member of the board of Christianity Today.
In 1986 Evans
retired from Greater Europe Mission but remained in Europe for several
years serving as the special Europe representative of the Billy Graham
Evangelistic Association. In 1991, they returned to the USA to reside in
Navy chaplain, pioneer missionary, mission
leader, journalist, author, scholar and educator, Robert Evans never
lost his first love as an evangelist. At the age of 83 he and his wife
joined a team to travel for two weeks down the Volga River in Russia
conducting evangelistic campaigns. Then three years later, in the
immediate aftermath of the second Iraq war, they participated in a
two-week campaign in Baghdad to witness, encourage the beleaguered
Christians and distribute Bibles.
Evans is survived by
his wife, Jeanette, and daughter, Alyce (Evans) Johnson and
granddaughter, Jennifer (Johnson) Rowan. A private family memorial is
Used with permission of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.