Ray Hutto Sanders died on November 17, 2023.
He was a church pioneer; a man of great wisdom, legendary faith, extraordinary compassion, the highest of integrity, and exemplary work ethic; a model of servant leadership; and an evangelist whose life’s direction was determined by his unwavering passion to win others to the Savior whom he loved and served so faithfully.
Born on October 5, 1936 in Bath, SC to Darlin and Lillian (Hutto) Sanders,the third son of six children. As a young boy he contracted rheumatic fever and was not expected to live. After a Sunday prayer visit from members of the Langley Church of God, Ray heard the voice of God, “I’ve healed you for a testimony,” and after almost ten weeks of being bedfast, he marched up the steps of the church that evening, completely healed. Rebelling as a young man, he was dramatically saved when his father drove almost three hours to enter through the doors of the barbershop where he was working, hands raised and speaking in tongues, saying: “Ray, it’s going to be alright! I’ve heard from the Lord and everything is going to be alright!” That night in a rented apartment Ray knelt by his bed and surrendered his life to the Lord: “If you will save me, I’ll spend the rest of my life serving you.” …and that he did! Attending Lee College (Lee University), he opened a barbershop in the basement of Walker Hall supporting the ministry of the Pioneers for Christ which eventually led to a full-time ministerial pursuit with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), graduating with a degree in Biblical Studies in 1964 and ordained as a Bishop in 1968.
While at Lee, he met and married Kathy Huckelbridge, who has companioned by his side for 59 years. He was commissioned by the denomination to plant churches across the nation, ultimately organizing congregations and/or physically building the structures of approximately 90 churches in ten different states from Rhode Island to California and Minnesota to New Orleans. For twenty-four years, he served as a State Bishop, a position he held in five states. Twice appointed as World Missions Department Representative, totaling twenty-five years, he raised over $11 million dollars, supporting missionaries worldwide.
Over the course of his ministry he has preached over 4500 messages and led over 2500 to Christ.In recognition of his labors and accomplishments, he was appointed to various international boards and committees including the Chairman of the Board of Evangelism and Home Missions, World Missions Board, Peniel Residential Drug and Rehabilitation Board (Johnstown, PA), Board of Directors East Coast Bible College (Charlotte, NC), Chairman of the Board of the Northwest Bible College (Minot, ND) and Chairman of the Board for the Home for Children (Concord, NC), and he was elected by his peers to serve four, two-year terms on the International Executive Council. Inducted into Hall of the Prophets at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in 2007, a fully funded endowment scholarship for ministerial students was established in his honor.
Upon retiring and moving to Deland, Florida in 2013, he served at the City Sanctuary in various capacities. With a servant’s-heart, he could be found cutting grass, emptying the trash, or visiting the hospitals. In 2015 he and Kathy served as the Senior Adults Pastors through 2021, and in 2018 he began teaching and growing the adult Sunday school class where he taught faithfully each week up until entering into the hospital in October. Both friends and family will remember the sound of his bellowing voice as he passionately prayed for those he loved, calling their names out loud. All were confident those prayers were heard and answered.
He is survived by his wife Virginia Kathleen (Huckelbridge) Sanders of Deland, Florida and their three daughters and their families: Delta Schrade (Mark) of Deland, FL, Ginger Robinson of Cleveland, TN, and Tonya Barbee (Aaron) of Cumming, GA. He also leaves behind six grandchildren: Gabriel Schrade (Halah), Josiah Schrade, Madray Robinson, Mallory Robinson, Breckin Barbee, and Brock Barbee. He also leaves behind two brothers: Terry Sanders and Danny Sanders (Christina) and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; son-in-law Jeremy B. Robinson; and three siblings: Verlis Sanders, Edwin Sanders, and Faye Humphrey.
A celebration-of-life service will be held at the City Sanctuary (401 E Taylor Rd., Deland, FL) on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 11 a.m. Friends are welcome to greet family one hour prior and also one hour following the service. The family will also be receiving guests at a second visitation at the Jim Rush Funeral Home (2603 N Ocoee Rd., Cleveland, TN) on Monday, Nov. 27 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
An extended graveside service and interment will follow at Sunset Memorial Gardens at 1 p.m. in Cleveland, TN. The Deland service can be viewed online at https://citysanctuary.church. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Ray H and Kathy Sanders Scholarship Fund at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (900 Walker St., Cleveland, TN 37311, Attn: Sue Richie; 800.228.9126 or https://www.ptseminary.edu/donate.php). Arrangements are provided by Lankford Funeral Home of Deland and Jim Rush Funeral Homes of Cleveland. You may share your condolences and your memories with the Sanders family at www.lankfordfuneralhome.com and www.jimrushfuneralhomes.com.