VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 3/21/11)—Dr. Gustavo Parajón, former American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) missionary who served in Nicaragua, died March 13, 2011 at the age of 75 in Managua, Nicaragua.
Gustavo “Gus” was born on November 22, 1935 in Nicaragua. His parents, Arturo and Beatriz Parajón were pioneer Baptist leaders in Nicaragua. He often traveled with his father, who was the founding pastor of the First Baptist Church of Managua, to rural areas of the country to share the gospel. While on these journeys, Gustavo recognized the need for medical help among the poor. As a result, he decided to study medicine at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where he received a B.A. degree. He also received his M.D. from Case Western Reserve University and an M.P.H. from Harvard University before returning to Nicaragua to help meet the needs of his homeland.
While studying at Denison University, Gustavo met Joan Morgan. They were married June 8, 1959. An accomplished musician, her musical background and talent opened many doors of opportunity throughout their ministry.
Gustavo and Joan were appointed as missionaries of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society on May 15, 1964. In 1968, after Gustavo completed his medical education he and Joan returned to Nicaragua where he began seeing patients at the Baptist Hospital of Managua. In January 1973, they became missionaries of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society when this Board assumed responsibility for the work in Latin America. The Parajóns’ ministries always integrated social and spiritual concerns.
Gustavo founded two organizations, which led to healing and reconciliation in Nicaragua. PROVADENIC, founded in 1967, was started in partnership with the First Baptist Church of Cleveland, the Nicaraguan Baptist Convention and the First Baptist Church of Managua. This primary health care program served rural communities by training local health promoters to treat and prevent common illnesses.
The second organization, CEPAD, was founded in December 1972 as an interdenominational relief committee to aid earthquake victims. More than a relief agency, CEPAD quickly evolved into a vehicle for cooperation in long term development, leadership training and many other facets of gospel ministry throughout Nicaragua. CEPAD has become The Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua.
Gustavo was awarded the Dahlberg Peace Award for his work by the American Baptist Churches USA in 1980. He was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters by Denison University in 1981. In 2002, Gustavo was honored during Managua, Nicaragua’s 150th anniversary celebration with the Sesquicentennial Medallion as an Outstanding Citizen of Managua. In 2006, he received the Baptist World Alliance Human Rights Award in recognition for outstanding relief and development work as well as his contribution to the evangelical movement and Baptist witness in Nicaragua. Gustavo was honored by the representatives of the Central American Parliament in October 2006 with the distinguished Francisco Morazán medallion in honor of his courageous work for peace and reconciliation during the war between Nicaragua’s revolutionary government and the Contras during the 1980s. The ceremony was held in the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Managua, the first time that a session of parliament had been convened in a Protestant church. The Nicaraguan national anthem was sung not by Nicaragua’s military choir, but by the Parajón-Domínguez choir of First Baptist Church, which was directed by Mrs. Joan Parajón.
The integrity and effectiveness of Gustavo’s work for peace throughout the 1980s was so widely admired that he received an invitation to be one of the four members of Nicaragua’s Committee of National Reconciliation.
After retirement from missionary service Gustavo and Joan continued to be active in ministry, especially at First Baptist Church where Gustavo was the senior pastor until the end of June 2010.
Gustavo’s integral witness to the reconciling love of God in Jesus Christ has been a shining beacon in the midst of extraordinarily dark and difficult situations.
Gustavo is survived by his wife, Joan, daughter Marta Parajón and husband, Denis Cuellar and children Cynthia, Debbi, Raquel and Annie; daughter Rebecca (Brian) Clark and daughter, Lauren; son David (Laura) and children Cristina, Scott and David who, serve as missionaries with International Ministries in Nicaragua.
A celebration of Gustavo’s life was held at the First Baptist Church of Managua, Nicaragua on Tuesday, March 15, 2011. Rev. José Norat-Rodríguez, International Ministries Area Director for Iberoamerica & the Caribbean preached at the service.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.