In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Timothy Dane Cearley, 68  

Timothy Dane Cearley, 1954-2022 . IMB Photo

Timothy “Tim” Dane Cearley, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Zimbabwe, Portugal, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana, died Nov. 5, 2022. He was 68. 

Tim was born June 8, 1954, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Robert and Bonnie Cearley. He received the Bachelor of Science from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas. 

He was an unexpected twin; the doctors did not detect two babies, so his birth seven minutes after his brother was a surprise. Tim committed his life to Christ at age 11 but wrote in his letter seeking missionary appointment that significant growth in his spiritual walk came during his sophomore year in university.  

Tim followed the Lord’s call and served as a Journeyman in Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe. During his two year-assignment, Tim discovered his giftings in teaching and evangelism. He knew he wanted to return to the mission field.  

He met his wife, Charlotte, at SWBTS. They were drawn together by their mutual call to missions.  

Tim wrote during his time at SWBTS he felt a continual leading toward missions and that planting a church with the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) in a suburb of Chicago provided excellent missional training.  

The Cearleys got involved with Gambrell Street Baptist Church’s house church ministry.  

“I feel that work with this house church ministry strengthened my skills in preparation for beginning new work overseas. God has used this time to confirm his call to missions for us,” Tim wrote.  

In 1982, the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) appointed Tim and Charlotte as missionaries to Zimbabwe. 

After finishing their study of the Shona language, they moved to Triangle, the town where Tim served as a journeyman. 

In one of their newsletters, they shared that, every week, and sometimes daily, they saw men and women accept Christ. One chief told him, “We need a church here. You come, the people will build the building.”  

The work continued to blossom. In another newsletter, they wrote of a baptism of 32 people, and church leaders were chosen from among this number.  

“It’s hard to express our joy as we see people who have never heard the gospel respond to God’s love. We feel very privileged that God has brought us here at this time and that He is fulfilling our dreams in these ways,” Tim wrote. “The potential for new churches in this area of Zimbabwe is almost breathtaking.”  

Tim became involved in leadership training, Theological Education by Extension (TTE). In 1995, the Cearleys moved to Mozambique to continue in TTE trainings and to help local missionaries.  

Before moving to Mozambique, the Cearleys studied Portuguese in Portugal for six months.  

Tim and Charlotte later became the regional leaders for Sub-Saharan Africa, serving 600 missionaries in multiple countries. The couple also served in South Africa and Botswana before retiring after 33 years of service as a couple, and 35 years for Tim, including his Journeymen years. 

After their retirement, Tim directed the community ministries of First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, which included prison ministry and English as a Second Language.  

Tim is survived by his wife of 43 years, Charlotte; his children, Matt, Joy, and Sarah; and his parents, Robert and Bonnie Cearley. 

A visitation was held Nov. 18 at First Baptist Church, Andalusia, Alabama, and a family funeral service followed with burial in Andalusia Memorial Cemetery. On Nov. 19, another visitation and celebration of life took place at First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. 

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

Read an obituary here.