Rasmussen, John J.


August 11, 1901 - February 4, 1958
John J. Rasmussen was born in Vienna, Austria, on August 11, 1901. He died in Shreveport, Louisiana on February 4, 1958. His father, a native of Denmark, was a Methodist Minister serving churches in many parts of Europe. Dr. Rasmussen’s early education was received in the public schools of Germany. In 1922 he came to America to complete his education at Emory University. Here, too, he received his theological training and came under the influence of Dr. Franklin N. Parker, a native of Louisiana and a longtime member of the Louisiana Methodist Conference. In all probability this influence led the young preacher to come to New Orleans and to join the Louisiana Conference.
In New Orleans he met and married Elise Louise Leinhardt. To them were born two children John, Jr., and Elizabeth Anne. ‘This family was able throughout the years to live up to the high calling of being a pastors family and at the same time maintain their identities as individuals with loyalty to each other, to friends, to the church, and to the community.
A thorough student of books and of life and an inspiring speaker, John Rasmussen’s rise in the ministry in his adopted state was rapid. He served as pastor at Gretna, Delhi, Trout, Bunkie, Mansfield, Minden, Ruston, and Lake Charles before assuming his final pastorate at Noel Memorial in Shreveport in 1951.
He returned to Europe twice, in 1937 and in 1946. On his last trip he represented in Poland the Reconstruction Department of the World Council of Churches. He spent nearly six months behind the Iron Curtain administering relief to the Protestant Churches of war-torn Poland an experience which added greatly to the richness of his ministry, because there he came to know the real meaning of human suffering and stark need.
As a preacher of rare ability he was much in demand as a Commencement speaker and as Religious Emphasis Week Speaker at many of our Institutions of Higher Education. He served as Chairman of the Board of Education of the Louisiana Conference and as a member of the Board of Trustees of Western Methodist Assembly at Mt. Sequoyah, Fayetteville, Arkansas. In 1949 he received the Degree of Doctor of Divinity from Centenary College of Louisiana.
In Shreveport he won the hearts of his members of the entire city. He answered every call to speak or to preach to the full extent of his human capacity. To these calls he gave of himself and of his splendid ability unreservedly. He loved people. With everyone who suffered he too suffered. Where there was grief of any kind his heart too was saddened. He had the compassionate heart of a great pastor.
Finally a heart, that carried so many burdens found its own breaking point. From the first, second, and third attacks his courageous spirit recovered and tried to carry on. Returning to his pulpit in January 1958, after months of convalescence, he preached four great sermons possibly the greatest of his ministry. Into them he put the last of his strength and energy. His nature was such that he could not “take it easy”, however often his friends urged it. Mentally, spiritually, and physically he gave the measure of his strength and ability. From the fourth attack his spent heart could not recover.
John Rasmussen was truly a “soldier of the cross”! His was the supreme sacrifice. He finished with colors flying. He would not have had it otherwise. He was unwilling “to rust unburnished, not to shine in use.”
The Halleluiah Chorus at the close of the funeral service was a fitting end because his life, in reality, ended in victory. That which was mortal in John Rasmussen has passed. That which is immortal lives forever in the tenderest memories and in the hearts of the great multitude who loved him.

Editor’s Note: Bishop Paul E. Martin read the following telegrams to the annual conference on the afternoon of the Service of Commemoration:

“On the occasion of your annual memorial service I would presume as one of your Jewish brethren to lend just a word in loving memory of the late John Rasmussen—a dedicated man of God, a beloved pastor, a Christian gentleman, and a very dear friend. May the memory of this most righteous and Godly man be forever a blessing.”

Rabbi B’Nai Zion Congregation
Sheveport, Louisiana

“In your gracious memorial meditations concerning the several soldiers of the cross who have valiantly served and are now gloriously In the presence of the Lord, we of the First Baptist Church and indeed the united Christian forces of Shreveport join you our brethren in gratitude to our God for the life and service of our beloved colleague, John Rasmussen. He was more than a worthy minister and pastor to a great Methodist congregation who gave himself in the worthy example of our mutual Lord and master as “the servant of all”. Our total community life is indebted to him and shall miss the sound of his voice among us. His healing shadow shall be missed in all our streets and byways. You will graciously allow us to share with you in grateful remembrance of our brother beloved.

Pastor First Baptist Church
Shreveport, Louisiana
Source: Journal of the Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Church, Pages 181-184, 1958 by Bentley Sloane.

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