Bob Finley

May 2, 1922 – March 22, 2019

Robert Van Eaton Finley left his earthly body and entered the presence of His Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on March 22, 2019, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was 96. Born in Albemarle County, Virginia, Bob graduated from Meriwether Lewis High School in 1939. He attended the University of Virginia where he served as undergraduate student body president, chairman of the Honor Committee to oversee the University’s famed Honor System, captain of the boxing team, and won the NCAA intercollegiate boxing championship in the middleweight division in 1944. God used him to organize the University Christian Fellowship as an association of evangelical students, as well as form and lead a gospel team that traveled to area colleges. Bob Finley would be the first to affirm that he was not worthy of the eternal life which he now enjoys, but that it was a gift from God made possible solely by the sacrificial death of Christ for his sins, and by his personal faith in Christ as Saviour and Redeemer. When Bob Finley trusted Christ and was reconciled to God at the age of 18 in 1940, he received a call from God to become an evangelist. So following his graduation from the University of Virginia in 1944 he joined a newly-formed organization called Youth for Christ which sent him throughout the USA to speak in youth rallies and church services. He worked closely with another young evangelist named Billy Graham who was also on the YFC team at that time. Simultaneously Bob worked with another new organization called InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as an evangelist among university students. Then in 1948 Bob Finley went to Asia as a representative of both YFC and IVCF. He conducted evangelistic meetings in several states of India, and also in the Philippines and China. It was his intention to remain permanently in China as a resident missionary, but in 1949, the Communists took over that great country and all foreign missionaries had to leave. In early 1950 Bob Finley went to South Korea where he joined his fellow YFC evangelist Bob Pierce in conducting the largest evangelistic meetings ever held in Asia until that time. On average they preached to crowds of more than 10,000 daily, with some exceeding 20,000. In Taegu, Bob Finley preached to more than 50,000 in the big stadium there. All schools were closed that day and the children were all taken to the meeting in school buses and by other means. These great meetings were ended in June 1950 when Communist armies form the North invaded South Korea and the terrible war began in which many thousands of Korean Christians were killed. After leaving Korea in June 1950, Bob Finley went on to Japan and Taiwan where he continued to conduct evangelistic meetings. The wife of the Minister of Education in Taiwan was an earnest Christian. She arranged special assemblies for all the students in numerous middle schools and high schools so they could hear the gospel of Christ being shared by this evangelist from America. Bob’s interpreter for these assemblies was Rev. Paul Shen, a local pastor who had studied in America. Likewise, his interpreter in Japan was Rev. Roy Hasegawa who had studied in Philadelphia, and two of his interpreters in Korea had studied in U.S. seminaries. These and other examples caused Bob to appreciate the tremendous potential of foreign students in the USA. In China he heard thrilling accounts of the ministry of John Sung who became a Christian while a student at Ohio State, while Bakht Singh, the most influential Christian in the history of India, became a believer while a student in Canada. These examples led Bob Finley to return to America and in 1953 start International Students, Inc. as the first evangelical ministry among overseas students in the USA. He spent 17 years building up ISI as a national organization while he served as President and Chairman of the Board. Today with headquarters in Colorado Springs, ISI continues as the largest of all missions working among foreign students in America. Also in 1953 Bob Finley was led of the Lord to be the founder of Christian Aid Mission to gather financial support for indigenous evangelical missions in poorer countries, and those which are closed to missionaries from America. Originally these were ministries started by Christian foreign students which Bob had known while they were in the USA. Today, with headquarters in Charlottesville, Christian Aid distributes millions of dollars among hundreds of indigenous missions that deploy thousands of native missionaries in “mission field” countries. For 65 years Bob Finley has been an advocate for change in the way foreign missionary work is done. In one of his books, REFORMATION IN FOREIGN MISSIONS, he points out how native missionaries are ten to one more effective in reaching their own people than are missionaries from foreign countries, at a fraction of the cost. Robert Finley was born on a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia, on May 2, 1922, the son of William Walter Finley and Melissa Hoover Finley. He is survived by his loving wife of 30 years, Cynthia Hays Finley. From a previous marriage he is survived by two daughters, Deborah Finley Arcieri, and Ruth Finley Cassidy. He also leaves one grandson, Anthony Arcieri and two granddaughters, Nicole Arcieri LaRochelle and Katherine Cassidy. He is also survived by two sisters, Dorothy Finley Wilson and Hannah Finley Cullen. He was predeceased by three younger brothers: Malcom G. Finley, Allen B. Finley and W.W. (Bill) Finley, Jr. A celebration of Bob’s eternal life with Christ is planned for Saturday, April 6, beginning at 1 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3101 Fontaine Avenue, Charlottesville, Virginia. Memorial contributions may be sent to Christian Aid Mission, 1201 Fifth Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902, or given online at