Joseph Ronald Gschwend
(1934 – 2023)
Campobello, SC– Reverend Joseph “Ronald” Gschwend was born in Bethlehem, Orange Free State (Africa) on July 2, 1934. He was the son of the late missionaries Joseph Reinhard Gschwend and Evaline Mahon Gschwend, and the husband of the late Louise Owens Gschwend. As a young man, Ronald worked his way to America on a cargo ship alongside his close friend, Kenneth Benson, to attend Holmes Bible College in Greenville, SC in 1952. It was at Holmes Bible College where he met his beloved wife, Louise Owens. Ronald and Louise were married on February 6, 1955 and celebrated 61 years of marriage before her passing in 2016.
After graduating from Holmes, Ronald served in the United States Navy from 1956 to 1967 as a helicopter mechanic, while Louise worked faithfully as a teacher in public education for 13 years. In preparation for the time God would lead them to the mission field, Ronald became an ordained minister in the Redemption Ministries Conference of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), and served as a pastor in Norfolk, Virgina.
In 1971, both Ronald and Louise became IPHC ordained missionaries. They faithfully served on the mission field from January 1972 to December 1996 to help spread the word of God to the remote regions of Africa. Their teachings were not just words; they were messages of love, hope, and salvation. Ronald oversaw many tent campaigns and revivals, often lasting for three weeks at a time and resulting in a church plant, as well as the construction of approximately 15 churches. Other forms of ministry included leading Christian education conferences, hosting retreats for pastors and their families, distributing books & literature, establishing a headquarters for the churches planted, and supplying resources to needy families. Their legacy will continue to live on in the hearts of the countless individuals whose lives were touched by their selfless service.
Ronald was more than just a missionary; he was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, and a confidant to many. His warm smile and compassionate demeanor made him approachable by all. As we mourn the loss of this remarkable man, we also celebrate a life that touched so many who had the privilege of knowing him. His unwavering faith and deep commitment to God’s work shone brightly through every action and word.
Ronald is survived by a son, Phillip Joseph Gschwend and his wife, Freda Sheehan Gschwend; a daughter, Margaret Gschwend Gilmore and her husband, Aaron Gilmore; four grandchildren, Phillip “Joseph” Gschwend, jr., Adrian Gschwend Hammond, Khristina Kitchen (Kenny), and Gloria Gilmore Matthews (Noah); and 13 great grandchildren, Kayla, Kendra, Khloe, Kelton, Kaiden, Kaitlynn, Kamron, Kinsley & Kooper Kitchen, Isabelle, Anya & Alphonse Matthews, and Noah Joseph Hammond. He is survived by his brother Edgar Gschwend (Betsie), and predeceased by one brother, Manesseh Gschwend (Pricilla), and two sisters, Eldad Gschwend Bosch & Dorothy Gschwend Spykerman (Harry).
A celebration of Rev. Joseph “Ronald” Gschwend’s life will take place on Sunday, October 8 at McFarland’s Funeral Chapel in Tryon, NC at 3:00 pm. The family will receive friends prior to the service from 2-3 pm.
The graveside burial, with Military Honors conducted by the Polk Veterans Memorial Honor Guard, will be at Polk Memorial Gardens immediately following the service.
A Note from World Missions Ministries
Reverend Ronald Gschwend, served as an IPHC Career Missionary for twenty-five years, from 1971 until he and his wife Louise retired in December 1996. Louise’s service began a year later than Ronald’s in 1972.
Ronald was licensed in 1965 and ordained in 1967 as a minister and member of the Eastern Virginia Conference known today as Redemption Ministries.
Ronald and Louise arrived in South Africa for their first assignment in 1972. They were stationed in what was then known as Krugersdorp. Their ministry was to distribute Bibles, books, and literature in the languages of the different tribes. The Literature Board decided that the name for the program would be AGLO (Africa Gospel Literature Outreach). This developed into literature distribution combined with Evangelism.
The literature consisted of tracts, church registers and Christian Education records and other helps for the pastors. The Gschwends recorded distributing 1,000 Bibles during their ministry. They also distributed several hundred books of different kinds, and more than 500,000 tracts.
Together with this ministry, eventually, a tent was purchased, a utility trailer and other necessary equipment. Campaigns of at least three weeks were conducted. Children’s services were held in the afternoon and revival services at night. At least 80% of these revivals resulted in church plants.
In addition to the AGLO ministry, the Gschwends filled many other roles. Ronald served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Transvaal-Orange Free State Conference. He was Missionary Adviser to the Northern District of the Transvaal. At the same time, Louise was Advisor for the Woman’s Auxiliary Program in that area.
Ronald was a prolific builder and built many churches in addition to supervising the building of the Africa Headquarters’ complex in Krugersdorp that was known as “The All Africa Office.”
In 1987 the Gschwend’s were asked to transfer to Zambia. Rev. Carl Lee Campbell and the Ray of Hope church in Richmond, Virginia donated a new diesel truck for their ministry. It took from April to July to get all the equipment and house furnishings, etc. across the borders and into Kitwe, Zambia. The next few months after getting settled in their new home, were spent visiting the various areas to acquaint themselves with the country and the congregations scattered across this vast area.
Rev. Gschwend continued his ministry with the AGLO Van, conducting campaigns in many areas of Zambia helping to plant churches. In November of that year he took the equipment to Chilenji Township, Lusaka. for a revival. He was assisted by Rev. Wilson Chisha, Conference Evangelist, the Sowells and Patrick Phiri. There were over five hundred conversions, eighty baptized in water with many joining the church.
The fruitful ministry of Ronald and Louise Gschwend ended with their retirement in August of 1996.
Bishop Lemmy Chilekwa, the recently elected National Overseer of the Pentecostal Holiness Church of Zambia, sent Southern Africa Regional Director Rev. Joe Delport the following note when he received our communique that Rev. Gschwend had passed away:
“What a great loss of such a great saint and missionary to our country!!! I worked with Rev. Gschwend in many ways and areas; we planted churches in Luapula conference (Kazembe, Kawambwa and Mbala) which are still winning souls today. He built churches in Mbala, Kazembe and Mpika, which buildings are still great worship centers and keep bringing souls into the kingdom. His Evangelist work across the country is still bearing fruit!!
On behalf of the church in Zambia l send heartfelt condolences to World Missions for sending such a great missionary whom l knew personally as a hard worker in the vineyard of the Lord and played a great part in growing the work especially in the Northern conference which has resulted in the birth of three conferences in Zambia namely Northern, Muchinga and Luapula.”
Bishop Festus Mwila, Zambia’s National Conference Secretary, responded by saying:
“Rev. Gschwend helped the Church in Zambia. He was selfless and was not intimidated by rural Zambia in the delivery of his duties. The time of very poor road networks and no communication facilities in some places he ventured out reaching every-one from all walks of life, the poor, the marginalized, the rich and so on.
Notable in his work in construction of Church buildings, with minimal help from nationals, which many times was just labor.”
Joe Delport responded by saying:
“Maggie and I always enjoyed being around Ronald and Louise when they were serving as missionaries in Zambia. When they travelled to South Africa, from Zambia, they would stay at our home in Zimbabwe. Maggie always tried to prepare mealie pap and boerewors which he was fond of eating. It was times of refreshing as they shared their passion and commitment to the people of Zambia. Ron built numerous churches in Zambia under difficult circumstances. Being away from home for periods of time to complete a project. Every time I visit Zambia, the leaders always mention his name with deep respect and honor the sacrificial investment that he made.”
We honor the life and ministry legacy of this extraordinarily selfless missionary whose footprints are still affecting generations in Southern Africa.
Phillip and Margaret, you have a wonderful Godly heritage. Phillip, your fathers’ evangelistic, church planting and building mantle anointing was imparted to you. Those of us that labor alongside of you, recognize it and are so grateful that you serve as a member of our missionary family.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” You will remain in our thoughts and prayers!
On behalf of IPHC’s World Missions family,
Bishop J. Talmadge Gardner
Executive Director, IPHC World Missions Ministries