In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Donald Heiss, 94

Donald Heiss, 1927-2021
IMB Photo

Donald Heiss, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Japan, died Oct. 22, 2021, at Jefferson Park at Dandridge, Dandridge, Tennessee. He was 94.

Heiss was born Apr. 4, 1927, in Addyston, Ohio, to the late George Joseph Heiss and Anna May Conley Heiss. He served in the U. S. Navy in the Pacific during World War II.

Heiss received the Bachelor of Arts from Carson-Newman College (now University), Jefferson City, Tennessee, the Bachelor of Divinity from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, California, and the Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina.

When seeking missionary appointment Heiss wrote that while in the Navy, he realized he didn’t have God in his heart and began searching for Him. “On March 2, 1946, in Sasebo Bay, Japan, Christ showed me plainly what I must do to be saved. … I confessed my sins to Him and turned my life over to Him.”

When he returned to San Diego, he wrote, God led him into Baptist rescue mission work. Out of the experiences of witnessing to men on the street and seeing them come to Christ, he wrote, “Christ made an indelible call and impression on my heart to preach the gospel in a full-time way.”

Two days after he returned home, he gave an engagement ring to Joyce Sheckler, whom he had met his senior year in high school, and they were married on June 13, 1947. While in college and seminary, Heiss continued his involvement in missions and ministry, serving as pastor of a mission and two churches in California.  During that time, he and Joyce both felt God calling them to international missions.

In 1957, the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed them missionaries to Japan, where Heiss had first given his life to Christ. There they served for 34 years — ministering to lepers and doing evangelism in Aomori, serving in evangelism in Misawa, serving as pastor of Yokohama International Baptist Church, serving as interim chaplain of Japan Baptist Hospital in Kyoto, and doing evangelism in Tokyo.

Heiss was ordained as a Baptist minister at First Baptist Church of Jefferson City in 1950 and was a member and deacon.

Heiss was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Joyce Ruth Sheckler Heiss. He is survived by four children James, John, Paula and Daniel Heiss; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren,

A service was held Nov. 20, 2021, at First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, with burial at Westview Cemetery, Jefferson City.

Read an obituary here.