In memoriam: Missionary emeritus John Griggs, 1932-2023

John Griggs, 1932-2023
IMB Photo

John Griggs, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Zimbabwe, died April 8, 2023, in Jefferson City, Tennessee. He was 91.

John was born March 14, 1932, in Lubbock, Texas, to the late Joseph Reagan and Euna Knowles Griggs. He graduated from Huntsville High School in Huntsville, Texas, and received the Bachelor of Arts from Sam Houston State College (now Sam Houston State University) in Huntsville, Bachelor of Divinity from Golden Gate Theological Seminary (now Gateway Seminary), and Master of Theology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

While studying in Kentucky, he met and fell in love with Florence Sanders, also a student at Southern Seminary. John loved nothing more than telling the story of how God brought him and Florence together and how she was “the perfect wife for me.” He married Florence on May 3, 1953.

John and Florence went to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, after seminary, where he pastored Caskey Baptist Church.

In 1963, the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed John and Florence missionaries to Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia).

As church planters, John and Florence started over 350 churches in the rural and urban areas of Zimbabwe, working closely with their Zimbabwe counterparts.

In one of their newsletters, the Griggs recounted this story of God working in their ministry:
“There is Amai Nabut, for example. Her husband first found the Lord and then was saved. Though she had been troubled by “midzimu” (evil spirits) in the past, she found victory and power in her new Lord Christ. She returned to her home in the reserve and won her parents, brothers, and sisters to the Lord.

The father has developed into our lay preacher there. Last week as John visited them, he found 22 awaiting baptism, many of them adults and elderly people. It is thrilling to see the power of Christ in transforming lives.”

After 35 years in Zimbabwe, John and Florence retired to Morristown, Tennessee, where John served on the staff as Minister of Prayer for First Baptist Church. For the next 25 years, they would continue to minister and teach, often inviting folks to their home for a meal.

He is preceded in death by his sister, Mary Jo, and his brother, Joseph Wright.

He is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, Florence; children Dottie (Joey) Serio, Ruth (Terry) O’Toole, Mary (Fred) Naude , and Becky (Tab) Jordan, Philip (Nancy) Griggs; grandchildren and great grandchildren.

A funeral service was held April 16th at the First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tennessee.

Read an obituary here.