Posted on March 23, 2022 Karl Karpa ABFMS – Japan alumnus, called home

Karl Karpa, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) alumnus, passed away on January 13, 2022, at the age of 93, at Penney Farms Retirement Community in Penney Farms, Florida.

Karl was born on September 5, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York to Paul and Marie Karpa. Both parents had come to the United States from Estonia after the First World War.  His mother’s father, was one of the first Baptist ministers in Estonia. His mother was intensely proud of her heritage and in 1936 she took her sons to Estonia to visit their forebears and see the country from which their parents came. Impressions were made during that trip which influenced Karl’s interest in seeing and serving people in other cultures.


Karl’s mother was invested in the spiritual development of her children, so on Sunday evenings they all sat in front of the radio to listen to a religious broadcast, the Calvary Hour and Dr. W.W. Ayer was preaching.  During the winter of 1940 they started to attend the services at Calvary and Karl felt a profound desire to become what Dr. Ayer preached about. Karl was 12 when he went forward at the invitation one night asking to be saved.  When he was 13, he followed the Lord through the waters of baptism and became a member of the church.  At his graduation from Boy’s High School in Brooklyn he received the medal for excellence in art and he was contemplating a career in art, but before his last semester, he attended a Christian camp, and it was there, that he felt the strong call to be a minister.

Karl was educated at Eastern College and Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  Karl and Linda Lee met while singing and testifying during street meetings in the Philadelphia area, that were sponsored by Eastern Baptist Seminary.  They were married on November 29, 1952, after Linda Lee had completed her nursing training.

Karl was ordained at the Calvary Baptist Church, NYC on June 22, 1955.  He was the pastor of the Vincent Baptist Church in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania for almost three years.  While in Chester Springs they welcomed a son, Peter Joseph.  In late 1958, Karl joined the Navy as a Chaplain and after his service was completed, he felt a strong compulsion to return to the Orient to minister to the Americans in military service stationed there.

From 1962 to 1974 the Karpas served four three-year terms of service under the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) classified as ‘Special Service Workers.’ Their second son, Karl David was born during this time.  Three of those years were spent at Kanto, a Baptist-related school which had classes from kindergarten through college, and for almost ten of their twelve years they served the Ministry to Service Personnel in the Far East through the Department of Churchmen Overseas of the National Council of Churches, USA.   During these years of their work with American servicemen in Japan, the Karpas were on the staff of the Christian Servicemen’s Center at Iwakuni, Japan.  Along with other services, the Karpas helped to provide participation by groups of servicemen in cultural exchanges which resulted in a better understanding of Japanese life.  After ten years at Kanto Gakuin, they moved to Himeji where in addition to teaching English and Bible and doing student ministry at Hinomoto Jo Gakuin, Karl was pastor of the Megumi church.

On November 18, 1974, the Rev. Karl and Mrs. Linda Lee Karpa were officially appointed missionaries of the Board of International Ministries (also known as ABFMS).  Karl and Linda Lee were assigned to Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama to teach English and Bible.  They also worked with students in English summer camps and worked at the Oppama Preaching Place.  They often had weekly contact with 500 students, not only teaching English, but also introducing them to a knowledge of Christianity.  Karl and Linda Lee also had leadership roles in the Yokohama Union Church.

Karl and Linda Lee retired at the end of 1994 after serving 32 years with ABFMS.  They settled in Pennsylvania and later moved to Penney Farms Retirement Community in Penney Farms, Florida.   During the ten years they lived in Palm Bay, Karl was active in the Seafarers ministry at Port Canaveral.

Besides having a love for sailing, Karl was also an artist.  After high school, he continued to study art through the years, including doing a correspondence course through Famous Artists and learning stained glass. His art was exhibited in Tokyo and later at the Clay County Fair in Florida where he won two awards.   In retirement, summers were spent at the family cottage in Chester Heights Camp Meeting where he taught art and drew 13 pictures to illustrate a calendar, sold as a fundraiser. Those pictures were later exhibited at Penney Retirement Community.

Karl is survived by his wife, Linda Lee; son, Peter Joseph (Rosa) and son, Karl David (Kelly); and grandchildren, Kyle and Kieri.

Karl’s body was donated for medical research and a memorial service will be held at a later date.