In memoriam: Emeritus missionary Shelby Andrew Smith Sr., 92

Shelby Smith

Shelby Smith

Shelby Andrew Smith Sr., an emeritus International Mission Board missionary who shared the gospel among American Affinity Peoples in Ecuador, Trinidad and the Leeward Islands and through Caribbean Baptist Communications Center and El Paso Baptist Publications, died Sept. 25, 2019. He was 92.

Born Sept. 16, 1927, in Jemison, Ala, Smith was called into ministry as a young college student and earned the Bachelor of Arts at Howard College (now Samford University), Birmingham, Ala., the Master of Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and was awarded the Doctor of Divinity, Honoris Causa, by Samford University.

He married Eleanor Elizabeth “Betty” Westover on May 21, 1955.

His pastoral ministry began with his ordination at Concord (Ala.) Baptist Church and spanned more than 71 years, including early Baptist pastorates in Dixon Mills, Sunny South, Billingsley, Cedar Grove and Blue Creek in Alabama.

He and Betty had been praying about foreign missionary service, Smith wrote when seeking missionary appointment, when he saw the photos of a missionary to Japan, and “Suddenly I saw for the first time that THE FIELD IS THE WORLD and that all people have the same basic physical and spiritual needs.

“How simple!” he continued. “Since God owned the field and since I was God’s servant, it should not matter to me in what corner of the field I worked…. I surrendered to lifetime foreign mission service and burned my bridges behind me.”

When he returned home, he learned Betty had made the same decision.

In 1958 they were appointed to serve as Southern Baptist foreign missionaries in Ecuador. They served in Guayaquil until Betty died on the mission field in 1964, leaving him a widower with five young children.

Faithfully continuing to serve his Lord, Smith was blessed with a new wife in 1968, the former Frances Ann Higdon. The couple was appointed to the Caribbean, serving in Trinidad, Antigua and with Sunday School curriculum for the Caribbean through Caribbean Christian Publications based out of El Paso, Texas.

When Smith retired, he wrote, “My greatest blessing is having been used of God these 34 years as a Southern Baptist foreign missionary. I have seen Jesus save almost 6,000 people; start 15 missions and churches, two associations, two theological institutes and a medical clinic ministry; and develop Sunday School curriculum for youth and adults in the Caribbean.”

Smith is survived by his wife, Frances; his son, Shelby Smith Jr. (Debby): his daughter, Sheryl Montgomery (Malcolm); his son, Sherwin Smith (Cyndy); his daughter Sherlie Andrews (Johnny); his son, Shean Smith (Erin); 17 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.

Life celebration services were held Sept. 28, 2019, at First Baptist Church of Gulf Shores, Ala.

Read an obituary here.