Bobbye Rankin — who spent 23 years along with her husband, Jerry, serving as a Southern Baptist missionary in Asia — died Monday (Jan. 2) at 78.
The Rankins shifted from the missions field in 1993 to International Mission Board staff housed in Richmond, Virginia, when Jerry was named president of the then Foreign Mission Board. The name changed to IMB shortly after Jerry became president.
They retired in 2010 and moved to Clinton, Mississippi. Bobbye’s funeral service will be in Clinton this coming weekend, according to their son Russell via Facebook.
‘Rare composure, consistent kindness’
Current IMB President Paul Chitwood remembers first meeting Bobbye more than 20 years ago.
“I was a new IMB trustee and, as was her custom, Bobbye hosted new board members in her home for breakfast,” he said. “My first impression of her was of a graceful southern woman who maintained a rare composure and consistent kindness.
“Over the past 20 years of knowing the Rankins, including a visit in their Mississippi home this past summer when she was struggling with health challenges, I found the same to be true. She never wavered in her loyalty to Jesus, her husband, or the IMB. I count it an honor and privilege to have known her.”
Bobbye and Jerry met at the top of the library steps at Mississippi College, Clinton, in 1962, when she was a freshman and he was a junior. They began dating the next year and were married on the last day of Bobbye’s final exams with members of the Baptist Student Union choir singing “O Zion Haste” as their recessional.
They spent the rest of their years focused on bringing God’s Kingdom to parts of the world where few had heard the name of Jesus.
Challenges on the field
But they got off to a rough start as young missionaries in Indonesia with two young children.
Bobbye often shared with missionaries and their families how God helped them through those early years when the family suffered from repeated infections with boils, including one that caused them to rush their young son to the hospital.
Doctors told them he might have died had they not come so quickly. But they also told Bobbye she needed major surgery. While she was still recovering, the family received word that Bobbye’s parents had been in an auto accident back in Mississippi. Her father had died, and her mother was in serious condition.
Sitting in her mother’s hospital room still reeling from all she had been through, Bobbye said she felt God’s assurance that He was there. “Within my Spirit I saw God was on His throne,” she shared in testimonies.
Later, when talking to parents of missionaries who might also be going through difficult times, she reminded them that many of their children were in places where people had never held a Bible or heard Scripture in their own language. But because their children were there, she said, new believers will be able to share the gospel with their children, who could then share it with their children down through generations.
She knew because she had been there, serving with her husband in Indonesia and later elsewhere in Asia when he was named to administrative positions with IMB. She resigned as a missionary in 1987 and worked alongside her husband when he became area director for Southern Asia and the Pacific and then president of the organization in 1993. After he retired in 2010, they returned to Clinton.
Passion for the word of God
The Rankins shared a passion for the word of God and Bobbye memorized Scripture as a part of her daily devotional practice. She was known as a speaker whose talks were laced with the Scriptures she quoted at length from memory.
Bobbye was originally from Brookhaven, Mississippi, and received her undergraduate degree from Mississippi College and attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
While in college, she served as a Baptist Student Union missionary in Hawaii. She later taught in the public schools of Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas.
Appointed to Indonesia in June 1970, the Rankins served across the country. As her husband served in administrative positions, Bobbye served as a church and home worker living in Bangkok, Thailand. Part of that time she also served a special assignment in Bangalore, India.
She is survived by Jerry, two children (Russell and Lori), six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
A family obituary and service arrangements will be published through Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home, Clinton.
This story will be updated as more information is available.
To read a recent story on the newly named Rankin Mission Center at Mississippi College, click here.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by The Baptist Paper and updated with reporting from the International Mission Board.