In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Bettye Scarbrough, 85

Betty Scarbrough, 1934-2020

Bettye Lenore Oliver Scarbrough, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among American Affinity Peoples in Mexico and Belize, died April 13, 2020, at Regal Heights Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, Hockessin, Delaware. She was 85.

Scarbrough was born Aug. 21, 1934, in Sweet Water, Alabama, to the late Vella D. McGee and Lawrence Ellis Oliver. She graduated from Sweet Water High School and attended Friendship Baptist Church in Pine Hill, Alabama, before her marriage to James Clifford Scarbrough in 1952.

She traveled throughout the world with Cliff while he served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army. When seeking to become a missionary, Scarbrough wrote that she had felt the Lord calling her to missions since her teens when she accepted Christ as her Savior. For Cliff, the call came after he became a Christian in 1965 while serving in Korea. The Scarbroughs became involved in local churches whether living in the U.S. or overseas.

One especially meaningful event, Scarbrough wrote, was attending the Panama Baptist Convention, which was translated into three languages. “I felt at that time so that this is the family of God,” she wrote.

After Cliff retired from the Army, the Scarbroughs attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary at Wake Forest, North Carolina, where she received the Associate of Divinity. The Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) named them missionaries to Belize in Central America in 1980.

During more than 15 years as missionaries, the Scarbroughs started eight churches with the Maya people and four churches with the Creole people and built two retreat and training centers and eight church buildings. A high school was built in Belize’s capital, Belmopan, after their retirement and named in their honor.

After retirement, Bettye and Cliff returned to Sandflat, Alabama, and were members of Pineview Baptist Church in Thomasville. Bettye was active in the church and in the Ladies’ Auxiliary. Because of declining health, they moved to Delaware to be with family members.

Scarbrough was preceded in death by Cliff, her husband of 68 years. Survivors include daughters Rhonda Mullins (Jacob), Johnnie Groves (Allen), Doni Jordan (David); son, James Scarbrough Jr. (Tori); five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Also surviving are sisters Algerian Denson and Gerly Autrey (Bill) and brother Samuel Ellis Oliver (Grace).

A memorial service was held privately with burial in the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Bear.

Memorial donations may be made to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, P.O. Box 678572, Dallas, TX 75267-8572.

Read an obituary here.