David E. Lavender
(1929 – 2004)
Working as an aircraft engineer in Wichita, Kansas, in 1953, he heard an appeal by James Walter Nichols for the need of missionaries in post war Europe. In October of 1953, he and his wife Edith and their (then) four children sailed for France with the intent of working in Italy. Though they had great difficulty obtaining a visa for Italy, they were able to work in Trieste because of the American military presence which continued in that city until 1954. They planted the church in Trieste, and worked there until 1961, when the family (now six children) returned to Columbus, Ohio, where David resumed his work as an aircraft engineer.
In 1965, a group of college students from Lipscomb held a spring campaign in Columbus. In their door to door work, they encountered an Italian family. They students returned with David Lavender and enjoyed a great afternoon of study (in Italian). The experience launched the idea of taking a group of students to Italy for campaign work during the summer. David quit his job as an engineer to raise money for this effort. Project Italy 1966 was one of the first planned summer-long campaign attempts in a non-English speaking country. While it was first planned as a one year project, it went so well that the work continued under David and Edith’s direction for thirteen years. During those years, hundreds of young people from Lipscomb, Ohio Valley College, and Harding (among others) participated in this mission effort. Not only did this result in strengthening the churches in Italy, but many workers decided to return to the mission field as full time workers.
Because of the failing health of Edith, David returned to engineering work in 1978. Edith died in February of 1979. David married the former Mary Jane Hostetler and continued his work in engineering until his illness prevented him from doing so.
David was a well-known speaker for churches throughout the mid-west, and was a member of the Natchez Trace church of Christ in Nashville until his death.
Besides his church and mission work, David gained national fame in the airplane community by completing a home-built airplane. It took him 26 years to finish the project. It is featured in an issue of the EAA national magazine. While some pilots have the saying, “God is my co-pilot” David’s plane had written in large visible letters just under the cockpit, “Pilot: Almighty God, co-pilots, David and Mary Jane Lavender.” Wherever David went, his first topic of conversation was always salvation through Christ Jesus.
Days before his death on March 7, 2004, this endowed scholarship was established in his name at Lipscomb University.