April 5, 1924 – October 22, 2012
Lavern was born April 5, 1924, on a farm in southeastern Ontario, Canada. Although he grew up in the depression years, Lavern’s parents never lost their faith and confidence in God to care for their nine children.
Lavern was converted at the age of 14 and at age 15 felt God’s call to missionary service. He attended Lorne Park College, Port Credit, Ontario, for two years, then graduated from Victoria College, Toronto University in 1947.
Lavern met Lois Grant while she was a student at Lorne Park. They were married in September 1948 and moved to Wilmore, Kentucky, where Lavern graduated from seminary in 1950.
Believing he was preparing for educational ministry in Africa, Lavern accepted a teaching appointment at Lorne Park College and then became the principal of the college. He continued his studies, earning a master’s of theology degree from Knox Divinity College, Toronto, then a doctorate of philosophy at Michigan State University.
Lavern and Lois were open to other fields beyond Africa, and on June 13, 1956, they were appointed to Japan. They began their work there in November 1957.
Lavern served Osaka Christian College and Theological Seminary in a variety of roles including: college president, chancellor, seminary dean and professor. The school was established in 1903 to train Free Methodist ministers. Following World War II, the school rebuilt, received government accreditation and formed two departments – the college and the seminary. The primary focus of the private junior college has been teacher training. The seminary is a graduate school of theology for training pastors. Lavern taught a wide range of subjects at the seminary including: Bible, theology, counseling and pastoral psychology, and church administration.
After serving in Japan 25 years, on the 30th anniversary of the college, the Sniders wrote: “Through teaching and administration we have had the privilege of touching the lives of many Japanese youth who have come to the institution to train for full-time Christian work or for their teaching profession.” By this time the college’s student body had grown from 30 to 900. The two laboratory kindergartens had an enrollment of 200 children. Faculty and staff of both institutions numbered 140.At times, the Sniders chose to live off campus in order to share their Christian faith in the community. Lavern was also involved in many phases of evangelistic outreach: home Bible studies, extension courses, personal evangelism training, church planting and the utilization of short-term VISA personnel to teach English/Bible classes.
Lavern authored four books on church growth. Some have been published in Japanese and Chinese, as well as English. Beginning in 1974, Laverne also served as Area Administrative Assistant for Asia, overseeing Free Methodist work in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Lavern’s Colleagues Write
Carol Watson Ogden writes, “Lavern Snider was my senior missionary, boss and mentor for two years as I served in Japan under VISA in the late 1970’s. He and Lois welcomed me in their home and hearts. Lavern always had big ideas; as his secretary I was privileged to share in them while taking dictation. He was extremely optimistic — I remember the first day we moved the church plant out to a building in their neighborhood. He set up 40 chairs, even though only a handful of folks had been attending the meetings in their home! A few years ago one of those early attendees finally gave her heart to the Lord (after 30 years) and flew to Toronto to be baptized by her first pastor, Lavern Snider. Lavern felt I had potential in mission administration and arranged for me to work in the missions office in Winona Lake following my term in Japan. Thus began a lifetime of service with FM World Missions.”
“Lavern was a great friend and stalwart missionary,” writes colleague Henry Church. “He was a real statesman and had good missiology. He was a great asset at our area director meetings and his thoughts were worth listening to. I will miss him.”
Dan Parry writes, “My wife, Jill, and I served in Japan alongside Lavern and Lois two years as VISA missionaries and two years as career missionaries. We were impressed with their love for Japanese people and their dedication to serving God here. Lavern taught by example how to be an effective leader and at the same time have a warm heart for those around him. God used him to encourage us in our Christian walk and ministry. We have missed him and Lois in Japan. But we are looking forward to meeting again in God’s kingdom and rejoicing together in what our Savior has done!”
Susan Yu and Dorothy Raber have many fond memories of Lavern when he served in Asia. “He had a keen interest in all our Taiwan ministries and a sincere concern and love for all our missionaries,” they write. “His positive approach to all matters, wise advice and kind encouragement were outstanding. He was a great, godly leader filled with the Spirit of God which poured out unto all who knew him. Heaven is so much richer now that he is there, but we honor his life and will try to follow his example.
Holy Light Theological Seminary president Dr. Daniel Chen, and the faculty and staff in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, have conveyed their sincere sympathy: “We were blessed to have Dr. Snider as the Free Methodist World Missions Asia Area Administrator for a number of years. As an educator, himself, he was one hundred percent in support of our seminary ministries, development programs and fund raising. He was very helpful in so many ways. Most of all was his concern for the spiritual life of the seminary. He had a strong emphasis on sending out to the world the best educated, Spirit-filled pastors, missionaries, teachers and leaders. In 1988, at the dedication of our new eight-story seminary building, he was the keynote speaker and delivered an excellent and challenging message. It was that we be victorious through Christ, and go forward in the power and guidance of our Almighty God. We honor him as a dedicated, faithful and Spirit-filled servant of the Lord.”