In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Norman Frederick Lytle, 86  

Norman Frederick Lytle, 1936-2022. IMB Photo

Norman Frederick Lytle, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Israel and Russia, died Sept. 9, 2022. He was 86.  

Norman was born Feb. 5, 1936, in Akron, Ohio, to the late Edwin Guy and Margaret Jansen Lytle. He graduated from Gadsden High School in Gadsden, Alabama, and received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, and the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.   

At a summer camp in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, Lytle felt the Lord calling him to missions. That calling led him to first serve in missions domestically as a student missionary in Alaska with the Baptist Student Union.  

In 1957, Noman married Martha Yocum. The following year, the couple sailed to Israel to teach for a year and a half at the Baptist Village, a 75-acre conference center. The Lytles also studied Hebrew and biblical geography. After their departure, the Lytles knew they wanted to return.  

Norman pastored Zion Baptist Church in Reynolds Station, Kentucky, and substitute taught at Ohio County Public Schools, Hartford, Kentucky.  

In 1964, the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) appointed Norman and Martha missionaries to Israel. The Lytles once again boarded a boat and set sail for the Holy Land.  

Norman served as the pastor of Jerusalem Baptist Congregation, which had members from Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, Poland, Romania, Russia, the United States and Israelis of Jewish and Arab backgrounds.  

For many years on Palm Sunday, Norman led a group on a walk from Bethany to their home and on to the Mount of Olives. As they hiked, Norman led the group in reading Scripture as the sun rose.  

Norman taught biblical geography at Nazareth Baptist High School. He enjoyed taking people who lived locally or visited from abroad on field trips to biblical sites. 

The Lytles trained believers at the Christian Service Training Center to develop a student ministry in universities in the area.  

Norman and Martha returned to where they initially served, the Baptist Village, as directors. They hosted many conferences — some led by Messianic Jews, Arab Baptists, Southern Baptists missionaries and Christians from other countries. The Lytles and their staff also led summer camps for youth. Two hundred volunteers from 17 countries worked with the Lytles. 

Their ministry frequently saw the coming together of Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis. This was no easy feat and was possible because of the common goal of serving Jesus, the Lytles shared in an article in the Western Recorder in 1991. One woman who visited was so amazed at the unity and harmony — it was nothing short of a miracle — she accepted Christ as her Savior.  

“We have learned during our four and a half years at the [Baptist] Village, a time when our whole beings have been stretched, to recognize the miracle of God in our lives through simple acts of kindness done in Jesus’ name—what we often consider as ordinary and unimportant may be the very act which opens the door of faith for one who is searching,” the Lytles wrote in a newsletter. 

The Lytles moved to Moscow, where they served for five years. Norman served as the coordinator of mission work and supported Baptist leaders in their desire for leadership and discipleship training. They were involved in the opening of houses of prayer and saw the beginning of a partnership between Kentucky Baptists and Russian Baptists. 

Norman and Martha serving for 33 years before retiring.

After their retirement to Louisville, Kentucky, Norman was involved in a ministry to furnish apartments for the homeless. He pastored a Japanese congregation and was involved in serving a Karen congregation.  

Norman is preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Martha. 

He is survived by his children: Beth Holthusen (Greg), Ted Lytle (Amy), and Nathan Lytle (Linda); 12 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. 

A visitation was held Sept. 18, 2022, at Arch L. Heady-Cralle Funeral Home in Louisville. A funeral service was held Sept. 19, 2022, at Crescent Hill Baptist Church, in Louisville, with burial in Cave Hill Cemetery. 

Read an obituary here.