Who Were Don & Billie Sexton?
by Adam Clagg
Not many pastors become missionaries at the age of 42. After pastoring in Elizabethton, Tennessee, Don & Billie
Sexton successfully planted the First Free Will Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They had one child graduating high school and the other had just started college when they answered the Lord’s call to become missionaries in France.
As he recalled the day his parents told him and his sister the news, Kyle Sexton recalls, “They could have told us they were moving to Mars and it wouldn’t have been more surprising!” They had never visited France and didn’t know the language, but they knew God was calling them.
From 1972-1979, Don and Billie Sexton served two terms in France. They ministered in the Free Will Baptist churches in Nantes and Lorient. During their time in France, Don and the family began noticing tremors in his right hand and some difficulty with speech and memory while preaching. Billie suffered from chronic back problems that required treatment. After only seven years of their assignment in France, it was obvious that they must return to the states.
Don was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. What can they do with their lives now? Both loved the Lord with all their heart. Both faced health issues. Both were only around 50 years old. But God was not through with Don and Billie Sexton!
They moved to Elizabethton, where they had pastored in the 1960’s. The leadership of Free Will Baptist Foreign Missions and the Sexton’s knew the perfect role for them – promote international missions and raise funds for our missionaries.
If Don and Billie could travel the country and raise money, then the missionaries could stay on their fields longer. So that is exactly what they did.
Even though his health was failing progressively and she was dealing with chronic back pain, they were determined to raise awareness and funds for missions by spreading the awesome stories of what God is doing around with world through Free Will Baptist missionaries. They used that that same determination that helped them start a church from scratch in Chattanooga, learn a brand new language, and become international missionaries.
With great detail, Don would meticulously plan routes and set-up services with pastors. Don and Billie didn’t want to waste any time or money on their many trips to churches. They would be gone two, three, sometimes four weeks at a time raising funds and promoting missions. As the Parkinson’s disease worsened, Billie talked Don into letting her drive the car. Friends and family recall their vehicle being packed full with just enough room for Billie to see out the rear view mirror. They would stay in the pastors’ homes as much as possible to save money, make strong relationships, and for Billie to do their laundry on these long trips.
With their background in pastoral and missionary ministry, the Sextons knew that special offerings and pledges were wonderful, but they were not enough to fully support the missionaries. With creative determination, they helped churches and associations hold “Walk-A-Thons.” Don went to be with the Lord in 1997 and Billie joined him in December 2015. Their legacy lives on each year as the Don & Billie Sexton Walk-A-Thon Project that raises thousands of dollars for FWB international missionaries from Tennessee.
The Tennessee International Mission Board dedicates this year’s awareness and fund raising projects and Walk-A-Thons in memory of Mrs. Billie Sexton. She faithfully served the Lord as in her 81 years on this earth as wife, mother, pastor’s wife, church pianist, teacher, missionary, promotor, and care-taker.
If you would like more information about your church or association raising funds for missionaries from Tennessee through a Walk-A-Thon or any other fund raiser, feel free to contact Jerry Gibbs, chairman of the Tennessee International Missions Board at (865) 310-5433 or firstname.lastname@example.org