Howard Norton, missionary to Brazil and former editor of The Christian Chronicle, passed away today in Searcy, Ark. His wife Jane passed away Oct. 6. Their son Tom sent the following message:
“Today, Sunday, our dear father joined our mother in the presence of God, surrounded by witnesses to his faith. We thank all our Brazilian brothers and sisters who loved him so much and support us with their prayers.”
Howard and his wife Jane were members of the 1961 São Paulo mission team. They remained on the field until 1977.
When I first came to Brazil in 1978, he preached at an evangelistic campaign in the new Itapoã congregation in Belo Horizonte. That was my first meeting with him.
Though I understood almost nothing of Howard’s sermons, I was impressed by his easy manner in the pulpit, by his command of Portuguese, and by his personable nature in relating with others.
In 1978 or 1979, I was returning to the USA from Brazil alone, after three month in the country. At the check-in counter, I encountered Howard returning by himself as well. He must have worked it out with the ticket agent for us to be seated together. Thus, I had the blessing of chatting with hm during the flight. One of the questions I remember asking him was how to best prepare for returning to work in Brazil. He recommended I go to graduate school after finishing my undergraduate degree. I followed his advice and never regretted it.
In 2015 Howard and I spoke together at two separate events in Brazil. He joked in one of his messages that he loved Brazil and the Brazilians, in spite of campaigning among his fellow mission team members in favor of Singapore. Even his wife voted against him. This story is typical of his humility.
When Howard became president of Baxter Institute in Honduras, he emailed me and asked me, as an editor and publisher in Brazil, to assure the Brazilian brethren that his appreciation and love for them was not diminished.
Howard always showed concern for the maturation and faithfulness of the Brazilian church.
When the discipling movement, or Boston group (now known as the International Church of Christ), first came to Brazil, he and others visited São Paulo and held meetings to show the dangers of being overly influenced by the group.
Eddison Fowler, a fellow mission teammate at the time, and I drove from Belo Horizonte to São Paulo to be present. (We had earlier visited the discipling group when they came to study Portuguese for a few months.) The meetings were held at the Butantã church building and, in a sign of respect, not a few were in attendance. I especially remember witnessing an intense personal discussion between Howard and a missionary still on the field at that time who defended the Boston group.
Later, Howard, Don Vinzant and others came to Brazil during an annual lectureship in the northeast to share their concerns about the progressive movement. They spoke about issues such as instrumental music and women leadership.
Howard contributed the entry, “Ascension of Christ,” to the first part of our dictionary of Biblical vocabulary published in 2019.
In the picture above, are Jane and Howard Norton, Yvonne and Frank Steinbaugh, and myself. My wife Vicki and I had the privilege of sharing a meal with the two couples a few years ago, in N. Little Rock, Ark. Frank grew up with Howard. He was an elder with the Somers Ave. congregation, which supports us. The Steinbaughs had been invited to join the mission team.