NEW PARIS —
Jay E. Benson, 68, president of World Missionary Press Inc. since 1988, died late Saturday afternoon at Lutheran Hospital, Fort Wayne, following an intraventricular hemorrhage Dec. 18.
He had been a resident of Winona Lake and then New Paris since 1976, when he returned from 4½ years as a literature missionary in Indonesia.
Jay Ellsworth Benson was born in Peoria, Ill. May 16, 1944, to John C. Benson and Mary C. (Welles) Benson. The family moved to Winona Lake when Benson was in the fourth grade. At age 11, Jay and his brother, Dale, age 14, made headlines in the Warsaw Times Union when they were rescued from their smoke-filled basement bedroom by Winona Lake Fire Department Chief, Bruce Howe, using the air-pack opened the very day their house caught fire. Local residents followed daily news reports of the two boys’ recovery from this event which almost took their lives.
Benson graduated from Warsaw High School in 1962 and from Greenville College in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree. In his senior year he was chosen by the faculty to appear in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. The following year he received his master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, New York.
Benson married Victoria Raye Goodman Oct. 28, 1967.
He served as managing editor of “Light and Life,” the denominational magazine of The Free Methodist Church of North America. He also served as editor of “Youth in Action” magazine and “Current,” a magazine for pastors.
From 1972 to 1976, the Bensons served as literature missionaries in association with Kalam Hidup, the publishing house of The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Bandung, Indonesia. During this time their son was born. Benson coordinated the publishing of three million copies of the “Help From Above” Scripture booklet in three languages for World Missionary Press, many of which were distributed through C&MA ministries.
In 1976 Benson and his wife returned to the U.S. to work with World Missionary Press, a worldwide donor-supported ministry of publishing Scripture booklets and Bible-study booklets in more than 335 languages for free distribution worldwide.
He first served as assistant to the president, his father-in-law and WMP co-founder, Watson Goodman, in the areas of production and distribution. In 1987, he was named vice president of WMP and 17 months later was appointed president by the WMP board of directors.
During his tenure as president, WMP more than doubled production volume and in 2012 reached the highest level of contributions in its history. His vision was to dramatically increase production to meet the urgent needs around the world, trusting God to “do the impossible” in providing for that increase. In answer to prayer, this increase was in process at the time of his sudden Home-going.
Benson was known as a man of prayer with a passion for the Word of God and the urgent need for it throughout the world. During his years at WMP, he traveled to 78 nations to encourage distributors and overseas contract printers as well as to produce films that are now available free as DVDs to show the need for God’s Word and how it transforms lives.
Benson sought to maintain the founding core values of WMP, including dependence on God through prayer to provide needed resources; focusing on producing God’s Word rather than man’s opinions and providing it free of charge to both recipients and distributors; and maintaining an economy of operation, including paying the same hourly rate for all staff, from janitor to president, and using the donated time of hundreds of volunteers. He had just completed a comprehensive draft of WMP Core Values for use by future leadership.
He is survived by his wife and brothers, Dale (Barb) Benson MD of Indianapolis; Paul (Barbara) Benson of Anacortes, Wash., and Dan (Kathy) Benson of Colorado Springs, Colo.; a son, Jeffrey C. (Dana) Benson of Aurora, Ill., and three grandchildren with a new grandson due in February.
His parents preceded him in death.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Yoder-Culp Funeral Home in Goshen. There will be no viewing, in honor of Benson’s wishes.
A memorial service will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at LifePoint Church, formerly Goshen First Church of God, located at 1006 S. 16th St. Goshen. The Rev. Troy Scott will officiate.
Burial will be at Violett Cemetery in Goshen.
Memorial donations may be sent to World Missionary Press Inc., New Paris, or online at www.wmpress.org.