John Drage, who pastored a church for college students on the University of Missouri campus for 30 years, died Friday at his home in Columbia, after a yearlong battle with brain cancer. He was 53.
Drage was diagnosed with glioblastoma in February 2019. The aggressive cancer took a toll on his body, but he carried a message of hope and faith into his final days, sharing videos and stories of his cancer journey on his website, johndrage.com.
Drage was pastor at The Rock Campus Church, which he helped start in the fall of 2000. He also served in several leadership capacities with Reliant Mission (formerly Great Commission Ministries), taught classes and served on the board of the Theological Education Initiative and led dozens of mission trips across the globe, including yearly visits to a dearly loved church in Choluteca, Honduras.
For thousands of college students, he was a mentor, encourager and friend. He loved to sit down for spiritual conversations in Memorial Union and preach on Sunday mornings in Middlebush Auditorium, encouraging Christians and skeptics that a personal encounter with Jesus has answers to humanity’s deep longings.
Drage was born September 12, 1966. He grew up in the Cleveland area. In 9th grade, his shop teacher and wrestling coach, Mr. King, asked a question that sparked his conversion to Christianity and changed the trajectory of his life. The two stayed lifelong friends.
He attended Bowling Green State University where he met the love of his life, Amy. They married on May 27, 1989.
The couple moved to Columbia in the fall of 1991 to work with a campus ministry called Tiger Christian Life. They bought a home in East Campus in 1995, and he put his handyman skills to work rehabbing the old house. But his real delight came from raising four kids in the home and opening it to hundreds of college students for meals, bible studies, Super Bowl parties and more.
Every summer for 17 years, Drage and his family lived in Estes Park, CO, where he directed a Leadership Training Program at the YMCA of the Rockies. He enjoyed biking Trail Ridge Road across the Continental Divide and backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Drage lived life with passion and intensity, which was especially evident in his athletic pursuits. He discovered an affinity for triathlons in college and regularly competed in the TriZou race. In 2017, he completed his first full Ironman, and, in August 2019, six months after his cancer diagnosis, he completed the Ironman 70.3 Ohio.
He is survived by his wife, Amy, and their four children, Josh (Emily) Drage of Fort Collins, CO, Jessie (Zac) Siems of Columbia, Caleb (Renée) Drage of Columbia, and ThanDrage of Columbia. He is preceded in death by his son, John Ruben, and his grandmother, Susan Glazier.
He is also survived by his parents, John and Beverly Drage of Toledo, OH, his siblings Chris (Jené) Drage of Toledo, Lisa (Benny) Soto of Canon City, CO, and four nieces and nephews. His surviving in-laws include Gene and Shirley Saxton of Maggie Valley, NC, sisters in-law Beth (Kenny) Brown of Maggie Valley, and Lisa (Leo) Cronin of Cincinnati, and brothers in-law Scott Saxton of Cincinnati, and John (Kristi) Saxton of Columbus, OH, and six nieces and nephews.
The family will hold a visitation Monday, June 1 from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Bach-Yager Funeral Chapel. Memorial Services will be 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 2 at The Crossing. At this time, the occupancy of the facilities are limited and social distancing is practiced due to COVID-19 restrictions. We ask for your understanding and cooperation in our efforts to keep our families and staff safe. Please be prepared to be directed by staff when you arrive for visitations and services. The Memorial Service will be live streamed on John’s Facebook page,
Memorial contributions are suggested to: Online: Columbiarock.com/online-giving (fund: John Drage Memorial Honduras Gift) or Paper checks: The Rock (memo: Honduras), c/o Bach-Yager Funeral Chapel.
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