The following article appeared in the November 2004 edition of Lipscomb's Torch magazine.
Lavender Scholarship encourages Christian education
by Katera Bolander
David E. Lavender was one of 1,500 Christians gathered in Wichita, Kansas in 1952 for the Wichita Forum. There, Lavender heard James Nichols telling about the desperate need of missionaries to go to post war Europe, specifically to Italy. Lavender was working as an aircraft engineer at Cessna Aircraft Company at the time and gave that up to answer the call of doing mission work in Italy.
Lavender and his wife, Edith, were encouraged to go to Italy by several of their close friends. The next day Lavender's boss, Earl Lauer, who attended the Wichita Forum with Lavender, told him that he "should leave engineering and go and help the people in Italy to know of the Christ who died for them." Encouragement also came from Maurice and Marie Hall, who visited and prayed often with the Lavenders about their decision to go to Italy and even postponed their own trip to France so they could all sail together.
In October of that year, Lavender, his wife and their (then) four children sailed to France then went on ti Italy. They were in Milano for six months, but the government would not issue them a visa. In March 1954, they went to Trieste, which was still under Allied Military Government making it possible for them to stay there. They worked there for two years, planting a church and working out an agreement with the Italian government when Trieste was given back to Italy in October 1954 that allowed the church to function and to display a sign outside their building. As a result, all congregations in Italy were allowed that privilege.
From 1956-58 the Lavenders returned to the United States. For their second trip to Italy, they went to Udine and worked until 1961 when the family (now six children) returned to Columbus, Ohio due to schooling issues with the children. Lavender resumed working as an aircraft engineer and he returned to Italy to conduct gospel meetings on two occasions.
Then, in 1965, a group of college students held a spring campaign in Columbus and met an Italian family while doing door to door work. The students enjoyed that experience and it launched the idea of taking a group of students to Italy for a summer campaign. Lavender again quit his job, this time to raise money for this effort. As a result, the 1966 mission trip to Italy became one of the first planned summer-long campaign attempts in a non-English speaking country.
Lavender and his family led the group since they had lived in Italy for six years. While planned as a one-time project, it went so well that the work continued under the Lavenders’ direction for 13 years. The project became known as "Project Italy" and was a highlight in their lives. He hoped that eventually, it would serve as a basis to supply new missionaries to the work force in Italy. He said that they would do all they could to inspire youth to think in terms of mission service to God. During the "Project Italy" mission trips, hundreds of young people participated in the mission effort. Many of the students who went on "Project Italy" trips have returned as full-time missionaries.
Lavender died in March 2004 after a lengthy illness. Just before his death, an endowed scholarship was established in his name at Lipscomb University. The David Lavender Missions Scholarship was created to assist students with their Christian education at the university. The minimum endowment level for the scholarship has been set at $25,000. Lipscomb officials hopesto achieve that goal by summer 2005 in order to award the first recipient in the fall of 2005, said Earl Lavender, son of David and Edith Lavender and professor of Bible at Lipscomb.
"Contributing to this scholarship is a great way not only to honor my father, but to continue his vision of proclaiming the good news of Jesus to every person alive," said Lavender. "My dad was passionate about this up to the day he died. He spent his last few weeks, knowing he was dying, trying to convince everyone he knew to obey Jesus Christ. Of course, he received his passion for this work from the Father of us all."
To contribute to the David Lavender Missions Scholarship, send donations earmarked for Lavender Missions Scholarship to the following address:
College of Bible and Ministry
3901 Granny White Pike
Nashville, TN 37204-3951
For more information on the Scholarship or to request a hard copy of this Torch edition, contact Mark Jent at 615.279.6261 or Mark.Jent@lipscomb.edu.