by Andrea Johnson
It is profitable to learn from those who have known Jesus Christ and relied on Him for everything in this life and the next. Walter Jespersen lives with eternity in mind and has spent his life making Jesus known throughout the world. His is an ordinary life made extraordinary because of faithful obedience and trust in an amazing God!
Walter was born March 12, 1913, on the family farm in Stony Plain, Alberta. His parents not only taught him the value of hard work and perseverance, but also brought him up to know the Lord. At age 18, Walter surrendered to the lordship of Christ. His life was forever changed. He enrolled in Prairie Bible Institute and developed a vision and passion for China and the need for Chinese people to hear the gospel.
In 1936 Walter boarded a ship bound for China and missionary service with China Inland Mission. He spent several years in language and cultural studies, learning both Mandarin and Tibetan, as he prepared to move to Mowkung, a remote village on the Tibetan border. Walter worked in Mowkung for three years, doing evangelism and medical work. In 1942 he married Helen Cope, a missionary from the United States whom he had met during a trek over the Himalayas. The newlyweds settled in Pengshan where they helped a local church, ran a mission home in Chengtu, and spent summers in the mountains caring for missionary children.
The couple’s first two children were born while Walter and Helen were on an extended furlough in Canada. During this time China was in turmoil. Still reeling from the devastation of World War II, China’s government fell to Communism. Chaos, destruction, and lawlessness followed.
When the Jespersens returned to China in 1947, their new assignment took them further inland to work with a church in Suyung. The church thrived with children’s ministry, prison outreach, and English Bible studies for two years before the area felt the effects of Communism. In November 1949 the Red Army stole into the city through a breach in the wall next to the Jespersens’ house. The situation changed drastically as terror, intimidation, and spying replaced trust and openness among the people. It became harder for Chinese Christians to be associated with the missionaries. Eventually the Jespersen family was placed under house arrest and soldiers moved into their home. Two more children were added during these tense years. God’s Word and presence continued to be the anchor of their souls.
On Christmas Day 1951, a long-awaited exit permit was granted and the family set off across China to freedom. When Walter and Helen returned to North America, God opened a new assignment for them as Northwest Representatives for Overseas Missionary Fellowship, the former China Inland Mission. They settled in Seattle and began representing the mission in churches, at Bible schools, and at missions conferences. The Jespersens also hosted missionaries, held prayer meetings, conducted youth retreats, and taught Bible classes.
Helen battled cancer for years before graduating to her heavenly home in July 1988. Walter continues faithfully sharing his love for Jesus with everyone he meets and challenges people with their need for a Saviour. He lives daily with the anticipation of meeting the One he loves and serves as he continually reminds people that “the best is yet to come.” He is a great example of an ordinary life made extraordinary because of faithful obedience to the Lord.
Walter was the first Chairman of the Board of Action International Ministries (ACTION USA). He continues to be a Trustee emeritus and the Chaplain of the ACTION Board. Walter’s son-in-law, Doug Nichols, is the Founder & International Director emeritus of ACTION, and another son-in-law, L. Nelson Reed, is the current International Director.
Sources: Walter Jespersen, the Making of a Godly Man, One Ordinary Life Made Extraordinary by Linda Reed, daughter of Walter and Helen, and Under His Wings by Agnes Lawless