Lonnie Harold SparksPublished 8:13am Thursday, July 3, 2014
Dec. 14, 1930- June 26, 2014
On June 26, 2014, Pastor Lonnie Harold Sparks, 83, took the last leg of a journey that has taken him around the world. He passed at his home in Edwardsburg.
No one could have foreseen this second child of Lewis and Linnie Sparks, who are now deceased, as well as an older brother, Lewis Sparks Jr., would travel the world working to break the spiritual and financial poverty of those living in the jungles of West Africa (Cote d’Ivorie); in the cities of Europe (Alcala de Henares and Santurce Spain); and in the U.S., (primarily in Elkhart and briefly in Oklahoma and South Carolina) before making his home in Edwardsburg.
He was born on Dec. 14, 1930, in the Depression Era in Davis, Oklahoma.
His 56 years of ministry was precede by a time of rebellion against God, when Lonnie, wanting to escape his own family’s poverty, went to school to assure himself a financially secure future. Ironically, Lonnie, who was studying to be an automobile engineer, was brought back to obedience to Christ by an automobile accident that nearly took his life. Lonnie then and there surrendered himself to God’s will, embracing the cross and whatever sacrifice, financial and otherwise situation, that might cost him.
In the summer of 1954, after having secured a B.A. from Free Will Baptist College (now Welch College) in Nashville, Tennessee and in Winona Lake, Indiana for a summer scholarship course, Lonnie surrendered to a call to the mission field after hearing a message by Oswald J. Smith in the Billy Sunday Tabernacle. That decision sealed the deal for Anita J. Kaminsky, who made the decision to break up with Lonnie and not accept his proposal of marriage, since he had never mentioned the mission field, and she knew in her heart of hearts that she had to be a missionary.
They were married that summer on Aug. 15, 1954, in Elkhart, Indiana.
They pastored two churches in Oklahoma in 1954-1955 before moving to Columbia, South Carolina, where they attended Columbia Bible College (now University) in the 1955-1956 school year, and pastored two churches while Lonnie was securing a Masters in Missions.
On Dec. 22, 1956, they left from New York Harbor for language study in Switzerland, where they spent a whole year learning the French language. In January 1958, they left for the Ivory Coast, studying and learning the Twi language (Ghana) and then Koulango (Ivory Coast).
On Feb. 14, 1959, their son Paul was born (since deceased) in Dembrokro.
During their stay in Africa, Lonnie established a church in Goumere, and had many more preaching points. Also, sensing the need for the Koulango Tribe to have the Word of God in their language, he came back to the U.S. on a furlough, where son Noel was born in 1962, and studied at Wycliffe Summer School of Linguistics on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma before moving on to get his masters in linguistics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1963.
Lonnie, back in Africa, reduced the language to writing, wrote a school primmer so the children could study in their native language, and, most importantly, translated the New Testament into the Koulango language.
From 1974-1997, Lonnie and Anita served as missionaries to Spain, where they opened two churches in Alcala de Henares (Madrid) and Santurce (Vizcaya), and as was the case with Africa, saw many people come to faith in Jesus Christ.
In 1997, Lonnie and Anita came home to “retire,” but through work in the now defunct La Vanture Plastics Corporation, came into contact with a burgeoning Hispanic community. What started as a home Bible study, ended up becoming the Primera Inglesia Bautist Libre of Elkhart, where he served as pastor until Alzheimer’s forced him to truly retire.
Pastor Lonnie is survived by Anita Sparks, his wife of 59 years; his son Pastor Noel (Andrea) Sparks, missionaries to Spain; grandchildren Dominique Parker, Laura Sparks, Elyse Sparks, Paolo Sparks and niece Kaye Morrison and nephew Gary Sparks. Lonnie’s son, Pastor Paul Sparks, passed in 1992, as well as his brother Lewis.
Special thanks go to Hospice and nephews of Anita Sparks, Nicholas Kaminsky (with wife Lori) and Aleks Kaminsky who, through their compassion and help, made it possible for Lonnie to remain at home throughout his sickness until his passing.
Lonnie has been privileged, along with his wife Anita and sons Paul and Noel, to be the spiritual father of hundreds of children, not a few of whom are with him on the other side right now. Many of his children, as well as his physical ones, have answered the call of God, and will continue the work that he began.
Family and friends gathered on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at the Primera Inglesia Bautista Libre (their church), 30461 Co Rd 20, Elkhart, IN. The Service of a Life Well Lived, began at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the church with some of his co-pastors officiating, including, but not limited to, his son Pastor Noel Sparks, the church pastor, Pastor Robert Helms and other associates, Pastor Lonnie Palmer and Pastor Mark Riggs.
It is suggested for those wishing to not send flowers, that in Pastor Lonnie Sparks memory, donations may be given to the Cass County Gideons, P.O. Box 246 Cassopolis, MI. 49103-0246, for the purpose of supplying many more Bibles to families who desire them.
Arrangements are by the Paul E. Mayhew Funeral Home, Edwardsburg, MI 49112-0024.