By Allen Palmeri
ST. CHARLES—Vivian McCaughan, a missionary who left a vast footprint on Missouri Baptist life, died April 18 at her home after a long battle with cancer. She was 62.
After previously serving as an international missionary with the Foreign Mission Board, McCaughan began her state missionary work in 1988. She used to joke about how hard it was to keep up with the numerous titles she held in her 22-year tenure, but Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director David Tolliver said she managed to do it all with diligence, wisdom, and passion.
Leader of the MBC Missions & Evangelism team, McCaughan’s assignments included ministering to women, the hungry, and those living in multihousing. She followed in the footsteps of her father, former MBC staffer Billy Hargrove, and stayed true to her call to missions at the age of 13. Among her many accomplishments was her effort with Missouri Woman’s Missionary Union (MWMU) and the MBC’s Women’s Ministry which helped produce the last four unified “M-Counter” events.
“It is taking five people to replace her,” Tolliver said. “We will go forward, but we will sorely miss one of the most effective members of our team.”
Three contract workers will be needed to maintain the current level of women’s missions education and ministry in the state, he said. A staffer will take over the coordination of hunger relief evangelism; still another will work in multihousing/church planting,
McCaughan served as a journeyman in Ghana from 1969-1970. She then attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, where she graduated before returning to Ghana as a career missionary, where she served until the end of 1977. Sent by First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, she was hired by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as a missionary in January 1988 when she began her multi-housing ministry in partnership with the MBC. She then worked as a church planting strategist, a weekday ministries director and as state ministry evangelism director for the MBC from 1990 until May 2003. She served as a multi-housing church planting missionary and as a church multiplication specialist for the MBC from May 2003 until her death.
Down through the years in the Baptist Building, she had the unique ability to go toe-to-toe on ministry matters with strong male leaders while at the same time maintaining her friendships with several ministry assistants.
“She just held her own,” said Betty Benz, a ministry assistant with the MBC since 1983 who was one of McCaughan’s closest friends.
When called upon to strengthen the MBC’s ties to historic missions education work, McCaughan worked closely with then-MWMU President Lorraine Powers from 2004-2009 as more conservative leadership took control of the MBC. She is credited with playing a significant role in restoring the relationship between the two organizations.
“She is irreplaceable,” Powers said, noting that McCaughan, as a former elementary school teacher, chose to emphasize children’s missions education as a key part of the whole.
In 2007, McCaughan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and kept on going with her work, which involved serving as treasurer and Sunday School teacher at Parker Road Baptist Church, Florissant. In 2010, she was one of only eight NAMB missionaries featured in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering prayer guide. A final tribute to her while she was battling cancer came April 15 at the Baptist Building when staffers viewed a 4-minute video of her life before MBC Associate Executive Director Jerry Field led in prayer.
Visitation will be April 22 at Parker Road Baptist, with a celebrative funeral service at the church April 23 and another service set for April 24 at First Baptist Church, Jefferson City. Tolliver will officiate both services.
She is survived by her husband, Jim, three stepchildren, her mother, Imogene Hargrove of Jefferson City and two sisters, Theresa Blanchard of Atlanta, Ga., and Karen Smith of Rolla.