In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Anneli Valtonen Dotson, 92

Anneli Valtonen Dotson, 1929-2021

Anneli Valtonen Dotson, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Zimbabwe and Namibia, died Oct. 4, 2021. She was 92.

Dotson was born on March 3, 1929, in Uusikaupunki, Finland, where, as a young adult, she felt a call on her life to missions. She attended the Deaconess School in Helsinki, Finland, getting the education necessary to become a registered nurse and a deaconess, a position within the Lutheran church that provides medical and benevolent ministry. She later attended midwife’s school and qualified as a midwife in 1960.  Later that year, she boarded a ship and headed to her first missionary posting to Namibia in the Kalahari Desert.

On her journey, she met Clyde Dotson, a widowed Baptist missionary to South Africa. Although she had felt God wanted her to be single, she wrote when seeking appointment with the Foreign (now International) Mission Board, she could not forget her friend. She prayed and studied Baptist doctrine and became convinced that it was God’s will for her to marry Clyde.

They were married in 1962 at the Gwelo Baptist Seminary in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).  She studied further at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and joined Clyde in his work as a Southern Baptist missionary in Zimbabwe.

According to an article in The Alabama Baptist on Jan. 6, 2000, the Dotsons ministered to 30 to 100 Zimbabweans daily at medical clinics and in churches.  Anneli was the only medical help within 100 miles and remembered parents arriving at the clinic with sick children after walking in the rain for three days.

The Alabama Baptist said that before Clyde’s death in 1982, the couple moved 16 times, lived in 36 places and stayed in mud houses with grass roofs in the bush. While in Africa they had no electricity and went 18 miles for bathwater and 100 miles for drinking water. Twenty-six churches were built, more than 126 were baptized and a witch doctor professed faith at the end of the Dotsons’ 12 years in Zimbabwe.

After leaving Africa, Anneli promoted missions in both Finland and the United States.

Anneli Dotson was preceded in death by her husband, Clyde Dotson; stepdaughters, Lolete Dotson Little and Margaret Dotson Church; and stepson, John Dotson.

She is survived by stepdaughters, Ruth Dotson Beeler of Cleveland, Tennessee, Betty Dotson Messick of Atlanta, Georgia, Grace Dotson Warren Webster of Forest City, North Carolina, and Joy Dotson Potter of Woodstock, Georgia; niece, Raija Reittamo of Finland; 19 grandchildren; 34 great-grandchildren; and six great-great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life was held Oct. 21, 2021, at First Baptist Church, Pell City, Alabama.

Donations in her memory may be made to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®, IMB, 3806 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230, or online at Generosity Resource Center – IMB Generosity

Read an obituary here.

More on the Dotsons’ life and ministry, can be found in Under the Mopane Tree by Grace Webster and The Power of God in My Life by Clyde Dotson.