Famous Evangelist Ron Halvorsen Dies at Age 76
By AT News Team, May 17, 2015: Pastor Ron Halvorsen Sr., the well-known evangelist who baptized more than 11,000 converts during his career, died Friday after battling cancer. He had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma last November. On three previous occasions over his life he had been successful in fighting off cancer and he “believed that he would land on his feet again,” the Adventist Review quoted Ruthie Jacobson, a prayer ministries leader for the Adventist denomination who prayed with Halvorsen just an hour before he passed away. He was planning an evangelism campaign in Norway later this year.
“Just before they closed the door to the plane in Dayton, I received news that my dad has passed away,” his son, Pastor Ron Halvorsen Jr., wrote on Facebook around 8 pm Eastern Time on Friday. The son is president of the denomination’s Ohio Conference. He asked for prayer for his mother, Carrol, and sister, Diane, a chaplain with Adventist Care Centers. A global network connected on Facebook has been praying for the senior Halvorsen’s health since late last year.
Halvorsen grew up in Brooklyn in New York City and as a teenager he was a leader in the Beachcombers Gang, “always in trouble.” He went with a friend to visit a third friend at an Adventist high school and there heard Pastor Charles Kremer preaching for a Week of Prayer. He skipped school to come back each day and at the end responded to a call to conversion. The friend from the neighborhood who was with him did not respond and later ended up in prison for murder.
The young Adventist friend who first introduced him to the gospel and invited him to the Week of Prayer was Jim Londis; Dr. James Londis, a Bible scholar and theologian who served the denomination as a professor of theology and later president of Atlantic Union College, senior pastor of Sligo Church in Takoma Park (Maryland) and a faculty member at Kettering College and senior official of Kettering Medical Center Network. Londis conducted Bible studies with Halvorsen while they were both teenagers.
Halvorsen’s story was told in a biography entitled From Gangs to God published in 1973 by Review & Herald Publishing Association. He also shared his testimony on hundreds of occasions over the years, often using it as the basis to appeal to others to give their lives to Christ.
After completing a theology degree at Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts, Halvorsen served as a pastor in the Southern New England Conference and the Carolina Conference, as well as in Tennessee, Maryland and back in New York City. He was senior pastor for the Keene, Texas, congregation on the campus of Southwestern Adventist University, director of the Ministerial Association for the Mid-America Union Conference, and an evangelist for Faith For Today television ministry. The last 17 years before his retirement in 2003, he worked for the Southern Union Conference in the United States as an evangelist and conducting training programs.
Halvorsen conducted evangelism field schools for ministerial students for more than 40 years. He also trained more than 4,000 lay pastors for the Southern Union Conference. His last evangelism campaign was in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2013.
Because he grew up in an inner city neighborhood, Halvorsen always had an interest in the needs of low-income families. “When we go out fishing for Jesus we often want to catch beautiful, tropical exotic fish to put into our church aquariums,” he explained. “But often God sends us dirty, stinky, common fish that need a lot of cleaning up and helping.” He was one of those rough people when Jesus found him, and he has always had a heart for reaching people for Jesus who did not seem to hold much promise until Jesus changes them. For example, one of the projects he started was a drug mobile unit to help street people.
Despite the fact that he was a regular on the independent Three Angels Broadcasting Network, Halvorsen was listed by a fundamentalist splinter group among “corrupt Seventh-day Adventist leaders” because he taught “prayer walking” and trained “prayer warriors.” It is unclear precisely why the group thought these things were not orthodox.
“A giant has fallen. A true giant,” John Bradshaw, director of the It Is Written television ministry, was quoted by the Adventist Review. Halvorsen worked with the ministry for more than a decade after he retired. “Ron believed in preaching the power of the gospel,” Bradshaw said. “It had changed him, and he knew it could change others. And as God worked through Ron, it did so many times.”
Evangelist Mark Finley told the Adventist Review that Halvorsen left an enduring legacy as a Christ-centered, fearless biblical preacher who loved people and had a passion for evangelism that was undimmed through the years. “He was consumed with the overwhelming desire to see men and women, boys and girls won for Christ,” said Finley, who called Halvorsen a dear friend whose life was intertwined with the Finley family for decades. “He was one of a kind but would to God we had 1,000 preachers like him whose whole life was consumed with winning the lost.”
Halvorsen is survived by his wife of 57 years, Carrol LaMountain Halvorsen; son Ron (Buffy Vercio) Halvorsen Jr. of Mount Vernon, Ohio; daughter Diane Halvorsen (Peter Tsichlis) of Apopka, Florida; grandson Ron (Josie Thamas) Halvorsen III of Glendale, California; William (Donielle Anavitarte) of Keene, Texas; granddaughters Kelsey Halvorsen (Ricky) Berkihiser of Inverness, Florida and Stephanie Halvorsen (Doug) Parrish of Sequim, Washington; great-grandson Noah Grey Halvorsen; great-granddaughter Katelynne Diane Halvorsen; brothers Bill (Ann) Halversen, Warren (Judy) Halversen, Richard (Mary) Halversen, and Elliot Halversen; sister Adele (Richard) Solimine; and nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Adele Halversen, sister-in-law Grace Halversen and beloved nephew, Jimmy Halversen.
A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Sabbath, June 13, at the Forest Lake Church in Apopka, Florida, a suburb north of Orlando. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to Ohio Evangelism, c/o the Ohio Conference, P.O. Box 1230, Mount Vernon, OH 43050.
Video and audio recordings of Halvorsen’s preaching are available many places on the Web. Many sermons are at adventistpreaching.com and a piece from his last evangelism campaign can be seen on YouTube.