In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Bobby Lee Spear, 1928-2024

Portrait of Bobby L. Spear, 1928-2024.
IMB Photo

Bobby Lee Spear, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Thailand, died Jan. 17, 2024. He was 95.

Bobby was born on June 23, 1928, in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, to Silas and Ruby Spear. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and his Bachelor of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

During college, he served as a traveling evangelist around small towns in Oklahoma. He married Jeannie Butler on August 26, 1951. She shared his love for the Lord and for adventure. While in seminary, the couple felt called to missions.

In 1955, the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed Bobby and Jeannie missionaries to Thailand. They served there for 38 years.

Bobby’s career with the IMB was filled with excitement. He was a contributor to the FMB’s Commission magazine. He was also one of three Southern Baptist missionaries who, in April 1978, met with the king of Thailand just before the king’s 50th birthday. His obituary reported: “For nearly four decades, Bob and Jeannie nurtured a legacy of hope and faith by planting churches and sowing seeds of faith and community, their hearts forever intertwined with the land and its people.”

After retirement in 1994, he became an active member and ordained Deacon at First Baptist Church, Shawnee, Oklahoma. The Spears’ home was a refuge for “any weary traveler seeking refuge,” his obituary said. He loved to entertain his guests and grandchildren alike with stories of and artifacts from his many adventures.

His obituary added: “Bob’s life was a tapestry of adventure and impact, woven with threads of faith, devotion, and a deep connection to the world. His love for Thailand and its people knew no bounds and his legacy lives on through the churches he planted, the lives he touched and the generations he has inspired. In honoring Reverend Bobby Lee Spear, we remember the adventurer from Oklahoma, with a heart for the world, who was a testament to the transformative power of a soul committed to Christ and an indomitable spirit unafraid to embrace the unknown.”

IMB missionary Bobby L. Spear teaching a group of people in small village in Thailand. IMB Photo Archives

Bob is preceded in death by Jeannie, who passed away in 2020, after 69 years of marriage, and his youngest daughter, Karen Denise Spear.

He is survived by his daughter, Linda Marcelle Spear Robertson (Michael), his son, Steven Floyd Spear (Crystal), and daughter Cheryl Jean Spear Wilson (Daniel); 17 grandchildren; 21 great-grandchildren and 4 step great-grandchildren.

A funeral service was Feb. 3, at First Christian Church, Chandler, Oklahoma. He is buried in Akins, Oklahoma.