Evans was wintering in Florida and was preaching a sermon Tuesday night called “The Step of Death” at the First Freewill Baptist Church in Seffner, Fla., when he became ill and was transported to a local hospital. He died there around 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
“It's a tremendous loss for us,” said Brian Baer, a full-time associate with Evangelistic Outreach Ministries Inc. He added that Evans had been preaching to 800 or so people at a camp meeting when he became sick.
“His sugar was elevated and they were treating him for that,” Baer said. “He just kept failing.”
Evans had a history of heart problems and had a valve replacement a couple of years ago. Baer said they don't expect to know how he died.
“We figure his heart just gave out,” Baer said, adding that an EKG was done Wednesday morning and Evans seemed to be OK. “I think it was just one of those things where it was his time.”
“To be honest, I don't think he would have wanted it any other way,” Baer added. “To be able to preach the night you pass away, that's really rare.”
Baer said Evans' wife, Doris, and his friends were by his side.
“She said he went very peacefully, that it was like he just went to sleep,” Baer said.
Evans, 75, had just entered his fifth decade as an evangelist. He preached his first sermon in 1956 and pastored in churches in Ohio and Kentucky.
He was nationally known for founding the Evangelistic Outreach Inc. 48 years ago with a $250 love offering. It grew to spread the word through the Internet, a weekly television show and a daily radio show in numerous markets in the tri-state and throughout the Midwest. He was also well-known for his revivals, one of which lasted 13 weeks. Evans started the Spring Jubilee which is held every spring at the Scioto County Fairgrounds. He had worldwide crusades in the past decade in Jamaica, Uganda and Haiti.
His son, Dr. Calvin Ray Evans, has been the pastor of the Rubyville Community Church since 1983 and is the director of Evangelistic Outreach Inc. When called for comment, he had Baer speak to the Portsmouth Daily Times.
Baer said the loss of Evans was huge, but that his message would go on.
“He has carried a banner for 50 years and has never wavered once in his message,” Baer said. “His goal for his entire life was to reach the unreached for Jesus Christ and he has done that with everything in his heart.”
Baer said he feels that the mantle has fallen to Dr. Calvin Ray Evans and he should now “pick up the heritage (his father) has left us.” He referred to Enoch in the book of Genesis.
“The Bible refers to Enoch. It doesn't say much about him but it does say that he left a testimony that pleased the Lord,” Baer said. “If there is anything I can say about Calvin is that he left a testimony that pleased the Lord. It is our job and an opportunity to take his message and tell other people about it.”
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized and will be handled by Phillips Funeral Home in Ironton.
MARK SHAFFER can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.