In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Robert R. Stewart, 92

Robert R. Stewart, 1928-2021

Robert R. Stewart, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among the Southeast Asian Affinity Peoples in Thailand, died June 6, 2021, at his home in Anniston, Ala. He was 92. 

Stewart was born June 28, 1928, in Chadron, Nebraska, to the late Robert E. Stewart and Sybil Stewart (later Gay). He graduated from Chadron High School and enlisted in the United States Army in 1946. He had basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and completed his military service at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. While at Fort McClelland, he began attending church in Jacksonville, Alabama, where he met Maxine Ashburn. They were married in 1947.  

 Stewart entered Howard College (now Samford University), Birmingham, Alabama, where he received the Bachelor of Arts. He later received the Bachelor of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Stewart was pastor of churches in Alabama from 1949 to 1958, his last pastorate being the Eulaton First Baptist Church in Anniston. Bob wrote when seeking missionary appointment that he began to feel God’s call to international missions while taking a missions history class in seminary. The feeling only grew as he promoted missions in churches he led. But Maxine didn’t feel a similar call until the last day of the Week of Prayer for international missions in 1957.  

“As Maxine practiced the song, ‘How Long Must We Wait,’ for the Sunday morning service, the Lord spoke His call to her heart,” Bob wrote. “After waiting a few days to be sure it was the Lord calling …, she answered ‘Yes’ and we immediately contacted the Foreign Mission Board.” 

In 1958, the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed the Stewarts to serve in Thailand, where they served until retirement in 1994. In Thailand he served as a field evangelist, church advisor, hospital chaplain, preacher, seminary teacher and writer of Thai-language books, gospel tracts, Bible study lessons and a church newspaper.  

After retirement, they returned to Anniston, where Stewart was a member of Parker Memorial Baptist Church and was the teacher of the BYKOTA Sunday School for several years until failing health forced him to give it up. From 2009 to 2017, said his family, he was the full-time home caregiver for Maxine after she was stricken with dementia. Maxine died in 2017 after 70 years of marriage. 

Survivors include two daughters, Ruth Latham of Rome, Georgia, and Beverly Shelton of Anniston; one son, Robert K. Stewart (Penny Shelton) of Athens, Ohio; a sister, Joan Stewart of Omaha, Nebraska; a brother, Bruce Stewart of Kearney, Nebraska, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

A private graveside service was held June 8, 2021, at Eulaton First Baptist Church cemetery.  

Donations in his memory may be made to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, c/o Parker Memorial Baptist Church, P.O. Box 2104, Anniston, AL 36202. 

Read an obituary here.