JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptists are grieving the loss and celebrating the life of Gene Austin, director of collegiate ministry at the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). Austin, 65, died on May 23 after a battle with cancer.
“Gene leaves a legacy of disciple-making across Missouri campuses, where he led an army of collegiate missionaries and epitomized servant leadership,” MBC Executive Director John Yeats told The Pathway. “Gene was a trusted colleague, friend, and confidant, a dad who loved his children and his precious wife, Vickie.
“A devoted follower of Jesus, Gene made wise decisions based on a deep love of God, God’s Word, and God’s people. He was faithful, kind, gentle, inquisitive, prudent, long-suffering, and loving.
“His vision of a gospel ministry on every college campus in our state continues in the ongoing labors of the mbCollegiate staff. I am deeply grateful for Gene’s friendship, and richer in so many ways for having served alongside him.”
Austin served in Missouri Baptist collegiate ministry for 23 years, beginning in 2000 as a campus minister with the Baptist Student Union at Truman State University in Kirksville. Most recently, as mbCollegiate director, Austin oversaw Missouri Baptist ministry efforts on 26 campuses across the state of Missouri.
After learning of Austin’s death, several mbCollegiate campus ministers expressed appreciation for his life and ministry on social media:
“Words cannot adequately express the impact of the loss of this great man,” Chris Wilson, campus minister at Missouri State University, wrote on Facebook. “There is a hope that one day, because of Jesus, we will be reunited in heaven. At the same time there is overwhelming emotions that come knowing that he will not be here. He helped me through a very difficult time in life to walk through my shortcomings, he prayed with and FOR me, he believed in me. I loved his honesty and the way he would say ‘just to be blunt.’ You are missed Gene Austin!”
Bob Curtis, campus minister at Mineral Area College, urged Missouri Baptists to pray for Austin’s family: “Please be in prayer for the Gene Austin family, who passed away this morning from cancer,” her wrote on Facebook. “Gene was the Director of Collegiate Ministries for the MBC, a good friend and a wonderful leader. I will miss his fellowship and leadership. Pray that God will comfort his family.”
Karin Yarnell, the wife of Northwest Missouri State University campus minister Jason Yarnell, wrote on Facebook, “Sometimes it is difficult to put into words how much a person has meant to you. Gene was one of a kind. He saw potential in people that they might not even know about. He saw the best in others. Gene exhibited a Christ-like love that spread hope and joy.
“He had a profound impact on college ministry in Missouri and on our lives as well,” she added. “Gene, you made this world a better place, and we already miss you.”
Austin was born on May 14, 1958, in Moberly, Mo. to the late Robert Lewis Austin and Janice (Huntsman) Austin, of Cairo, Mo. He grew up on the family farm learning, working, traveling and playing with his parents and three siblings, Kent, Elaine and Brad.
Austin met his wife, Vickie, when they were students. They began to date in middle school and married on July 3, 1977, just months after Vickie graduated from high school. They now have seven children, including five adopted sons and daughters.
After graduating high school, Austin enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served nine years as a Machinist’s Mate Nuclear stationed on board the USS Lafayette (SSBN-616) and at Trident Refit Facility Bangor.
Austin went on to earn his bachelor of science degree in occupational education from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. And, after being honorably discharged from his service with the Navy, he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
While studying at seminary, Austin also pastored at First Baptist Church, Winigan, Mo. He served there for seven years. After this, he served as a pastor for three years at Big Lake Baptist Church in Craig, Mo., before beginning his ministry with college students at Truman State University.
Gene is survived by his wife, Vickie (Moore) Austin of Taos; son Brian Austin and his son Kendrick of Columbia; daughter Kimberly (Austin) Mannebach, her husband Brent and their sons David and Josiah of Columbia; son Drew Austin; daughter Kenya Austin; sons Hunter Austin, Benjamin Austin and Treyton Austin, all of Taos; mother Janice (Huntsman) Austin of Cairo; brother Kent Austin and wife Lori of Longmont, Colo.; sister Elaine (Austin) Jarvis and husband Mark of Columbia; brother Brad Austin and wife Rachelle of Lake St. Louis; five nephews, four nieces, three aunts and uncles and so many cousins.
In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial donations be given to the Endowment for Collegiate Ministry at the Missouri Baptist Foundation.
Words of comfort may be shared with the family at a visitation to be held at the Cater Funeral Home, Thursday, May 25, 2023, 4-7 pm. Funeral services honoring Austin’s life and Military Honors will be held Friday, May 26, 2023, 10:30 a.m., at the Cater Funeral Home Chapel. Private committal prayer and interment will be at Missouri State Veterans Cemetery at a later time.
For more information or to write a tribute to Austin, visit the Cater Funeral Home website here.