In memoriam: Emeritus missionary Johnny Nathaniel Burnett, 87

Johnny Burnett

Johnny Burnett

Johnny Nathaniel Burnett, an emeritus International Mission Board missionary who shared the gospel among American Affinity Peoples in Brazil and Tanzania, died Sept. 27, 2019. He was 87.

Born to Elmer Allen and Maury Wills Burnett on June 18, 1932, in Van Zandt County Texas, Burnett dedicated his life as a pastor, music director, education director and administrator in churches in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Brazil and Tanzania.

Johnny received that Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis in religious studies and English from Wayland Baptist College (now University), Plainview, Texas, and the Master of Religious Education, Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

He married Barbara Ann Evans on July 22, 1956. Burnett wrote when they were seeking missionary appointment that he was minister of music and education at First Baptist Church, Dimmitt, Texas, when they participated in a School of Missions in their association and felt the need to investigate God’s will for them concerning foreign missions. Four years later, God pointed them to Brazil.

They were appointed missionaries by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and served more than 30 years, most in Belem, Para, Brazil, and throughout the Amazon Basin, where he was called Joaozinho “Little Johnny,” by his friends, students and colleagues. In 1992, he was named Honorary Citizen of the city of Belem, Brazil, where he dedicated most of his career.

The Burnetts then served two years in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where he was pastor of the International Baptist Church, serving people from around the world who spoke English, often as a second language, and who shared an evangelical faith.

In recent years Johnny and Barbara have been members of Trinity Baptist Church in Texarkana Ark.

Johnny is survived by his wife of 63 years, Barbara; four children, Barry (Sonia) Burnett, Bruce (Sheri) Burnett, Bret (Claudia) Burnett and Belinda (Jim) Hutcheson; nine grandchildren and one grandson-in-law, who survived his wife, Burnett’s tenth grandchild; and two great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life was held Oct. 5, 2019, at Trinity Baptist Church, Texarkana.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Johnny Burnett’s honor may be made to Heifer International or to the International Mission Board, 3806 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230, or online at for the work in Equatorial Brazil.

Read an obituary here.