January 7, 1928 – November 9, 2009
A fellow football player invited 17-year-old Fay to church in Clarksville, Arkansas. Over the next year Fay returned to church again and again; he eventually accepted Christ as his Savior. Fay made a promise that he would do what God wanted him to do. He spent a number of years in school and worked as a pharmacist, pastor, maintenance man, school teacher, builder, and 22 years after his promise, Fay became a missionary.
Fay met Jean Buckner while he was opening a new church near Norfolk, Virginia. They were married June 6, 1959. After earning his doctor of theology degree in 1963 at Southwestern Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, Texas, Fay and Jean decided to study Spanish. They moved to Los Angeles where they took classes at Biola University. Fay worked as maintenance supervisor at the university while Jean took Christian education courses. On weekends the Bennetts drove more than 200 miles to Mexicali, Mexico, where they worked with an independent mission group. They noticed that in the border towns many people would accept Christ, but often these new believers had no one to help them learn how to live a Christian life. Fay and Jean wanted to be involved in training.
In 1968, the Bennetts arrived in Mexico as Free Methodist missionaries and were involved with the work of the Bible Institute and Student Hostel in Hermosillo, Sonora. They helped train young people for pastoral ministry. They also travelled to churches, counseled pastors and held evangelistic meetings.
In 1971 a three-week visit to churches in the state of Sinaloa gave Fay and a team of nationals opportunity to give testimonies and teach Sunday school classes. They showed a Christian film in the middle of town. Almost everyone came. Today there are four established Free Methodist churches in the state of Sinaloa.
The Bennetts returned to the United States in 1978. Fay taught at Columbia Bible College, South Carolina. Then in 1983, Fay and Jean were appointed to serve the Free Methodist Church through education ministries in the Dominican Republic. Fay taught courses including Hebrew and Greek.
Dr. M. Doane Bonney, fellow-missionary to the Dominican Republic, says of Fay, “I remember the faithfulness of Fay and Jean in traveling from Santiago to Santo Domingo on a weekly basis to carry on with the seminary classes held in the capital city. They filled a much-appreciated slot in our pastoral preparation programs.
“Everybody in the Dominican Republic knew him as ‘David,’ since ‘Fay’ did not translate well into Spanish. Fay had an outgoing personality and loved to visit with everyone he met. My wife, Ruth, joins me in wishing God’s special sustaining power to be with Jean during these days.”
In 1988 the Bennetts returned to the United States where Fay resumed pastoral ministry until retirement. Even then Fay and Jean made a difference for others. They served as members of the Johnson County Multicultural Committee, helping to orient and integrate new Hispanics who moved to the Clarksville, Arkansas, area.