In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Jack Shelby, 1936-2023

Jack Shelby, 1936-2023
IMB Photo

Jack Shelby, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Europe and Asia, died October 19, 2023, in St. Louis, Missouri. He was 87.

Jack was born August 22, 1936, in Harrisburg, Illinois, to Garland and Mary (Ferrell) Shelby. He graduated from Harrisburg Township High School; received the Bachelor of Science from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois; the Master of Divinity from Golden Gate Seminary (now Gateway Seminary) in California; and studied at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

He married Avah Louise Phillips on February 8, 1959.

In 1968, the International Mission Board appointed Jack and Avah missionaries to Hong Kong. They served as missionaries from 1968-1999.

During his years of missionary service, he learned six languages. With this gift of languages, he taught, translated, preached, and served in multiple cultures.

He was a lecturer at Hong King Baptist University and a professor at Malaysia-Singapore Baptist Theological Seminary. He helped plant several churches in Malaysia. During his missionary service, he also served as acting secretary of the Malaysia-Singapore Baptist Convention and as the National Indian Ministries director while living in India and traveling throughout the country. While living in Hong Kong again in the 1980s, he worked to place workers from a variety of professions into underserved communities.

In the early 90s, the Shelbys moved to Germany and Russia. There, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Jack became volunteer coordinator for the Europe area, and coordinated work throughout the former Soviet Republics and Central Asia. The Shelbys served in Wiesbaden where he researched UUPGs in Western Europe and assisted missionaries in church-planting strategies.

After retirement, he returned to his home state where he was active in the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Jack is survived by his wife of 64 years, Avah Shelby; daughter, Melanie (Philip) Nelson; sons James Mark Shelby (Julie) and Scott Shelby; nine grandchildren; and fifteen great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life was held on Nov. 11, at Lakeland Baptist Church, Carbondale, Illinois.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Lottie Moon Offering, IMB, 3806 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230, or online at Generosity Resource Center – IMB Generosity.

Read an obituary here.