John David Hopper, who was commissioned in 1992 as one of the first Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel, has died at the age of 80.
Hopper is known widely for his work with the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Rϋschlikon, Switzerland, where he taught from 1965-1970 and served as president from 1988-1997. Hopper and his wife, JoAnn, spent 32 years as missionaries—predominantly in Eastern Europe. Their service with CBF began in 1992 when the couple announced their resignation as missionaries from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Foreign Mission Board.
John David and JoAnn worked throughout their missionary career to be representatives for Baptists throughout Europe, building churches, sharing the Gospel and enabling partnerships with churches behind the Iron Curtain of Eastern Europe.
Hopper was a lover of life, music, languages and people—enriching the lives of those around him.
Those who knew Hopper speak highly of his intelligence, humility and service. Jim Smith, CBF director of field ministries described Hopper as “‘user-friendly’ intellectual who enjoyed conversations with every level individual.”
“John David read extensively and remembered it all. He could interpret multiple cultures and personalities with ease,” Smith said. “His travels throughout Eastern and Central Europe during the Soviet Era could have served as a Hollywood adventure script, yet in many ways he was a low-key person. He didn’t play up his role in many situations despite his obvious leadership in many challenging situations and settings. He taught me to prepare in the slow times to be productive in the pressured times.”
Dr. Earl Martin, former CBF field personnel and Rϋschlikon colleague says, “John David Hopper was a valiant servant of the Lord. His linguistic gift enabled him to reach out to people of many cultures. His love for people in the name of Christ was not simply generic, but specific. He loved the person or persons face-to-face.”
Hopper’s ability to overcome health issues and challenges until his death was a precious gift for his wife, children and grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by many, but remembered for his great works.
A memorial service will be held for Dr. Hopper on Tuesday, February 3 at 11:00 a.m. CST at Trinity Baptist Church, 319 East Mulberry Avenue, San Antonio, Texas 78212.
The family requests that flowers not be sent, but that any memorial gifts should be gifts to the CBF Offering for Global Missions.
Below is the official obituary of Dr. Hopper:
John David Hopper went peacefully to his heavenly rest on Saturday, January 10, 2015 after a long illness. He was born November 30, 1934 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Rev. John Ora Hopper and Murrell Richardson Hopper. John David grew up in Baton Rouge, where his father was pastor of Zoar Baptist Church on Hooper Road. He attended Central School and graduated with a degree in Music Education from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La.
He is preceded in death by his parents, his sister Ruth Hopper Sylvest, and his brother Thomas E. Hopper.
He spent a year after college as a missionary in Cuba, where he learned fluent Spanish and discovered his lifelong interest in working with people from different cultures. He went to Golden Gate Baptist Seminary in California where he continued his work with Spanish-speaking peoples. There he also met his wife, JoAnn Wells Hopper. He continued his education at Southwestern Theological Seminary, where he obtained the Master of Theology and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in church history.
John David and JoAnn went to Europe in 1965 as missionaries. He taught at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Rϋschlikon, Switzerland until 1970 when the couple began their work among Baptist churches of Eastern Europe. He was known for his compassion and love for the people of those lands and for his efforts to further their ability to worship as God led them. He enabled partnership between American churches and the churches of the lands under Communist rule.
In 1988 he was called back to the International Seminary in Switzerland as president. He led the move of the school to Prague in1995. John David maintained his lifelong love of music and language learning until the end of his life. He spoke Spanish, German, French, Italian, Esperanto, Russian, Romanian and Serbo-Croatian.
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, three sons and their spouses John David, Jr. (Barbara) of san Jose, Calif., Joel Andrew (Tracey) of Dallas, Texas, and Timothy Keith (Kristin) of Houston, Texas. His loves were his grandchildren: Chris, Becca, Brennan, Jonathan, Matthew, Katie and Jack. He will be remembered by all who knew him as a merciful, kind and loving person who gave his life in service to others.