Noted Adventist singer, evangelist, and youth pastor John Thurber passed away on Sunday, February 3, in Lincoln, Nebraska. He was 87.
Thurber was a second tenor in the King’s Heralds quartet with the Voice of Prophecy from 1961–1967. He then began working in the youth ministry field.
In youth ministry, Thurber and his brother Wayne Thurber were known around the Adventist denomination for their innovative youth programs, such as “Adventist Youth in Action,” or AYA. Thurber established AYA teams in Texas in the late 1960s and the Carolina Conference in the early 70s.
Many young Adventist kids met their eventual life partner in AYA, in some cases, John Thurber performed their wedding ceremony. One such young lady, Cheryl St. Clair, reminisced as follows:
In the summer of 1968 [John] brought a group of young folk from around Texas to the Houston area, settling on Rosenberg to open a youth outreach center called "The Gate". . . . Using graphic artistry and using some young men that came from Kansas after academy graduation to do colporteur work, this became the place for young people to be. Leaders talking about God and His love and grace for all turned hearts and lives around toward a positive relationship with Jesus. . . . A youth ministry in Texas was born and exploded around Texas’ young people, and the man that facilitated this movement—John Thurber—oh, how we loved him!
During his long career in ministry, Thurber served as a teacher, pastor, conference and union youth director, family life educator, and conference president.
Faith for Today speaker/director Mike Tucker wrote:
“I just learned that John Thurber passed away yesterday. John and his brother Wayne, are the reasons I am a Christian and a minister today. Wayne passed away years ago and now John's passing has caused me to remember my teens and early 20's when these two men had such a powerful impact on my life. I could never repay them for the difference they made for me. Tonight I pray for John's family, I mourn for this wonderful man, and yet, I cannot help but be tremendously grateful for having had him in my life.”
Thurber is survived by his wife of 65 years, Patsy Fogg Thurber, and by sons Mic and Gary, both of whom are Adventist ministers. Mic Thurber was senior pastor of the Keene SDA Church and is currently ministerial director of the Mid-America Union, and Gary Thurber is the president of that union.
A celebration of John’s life and ministry will take place at the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, on March 2, 2019, at 4:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family invites memorial gifts to the Voice of Prophecy, a ministry that was dear to John’s heart.
Cards of condolence may be mailed to The Thurber Family, c/o the Mid-America Union Conference, P.O. Box 6128, Lincoln, NE, 68506.