As a child, Shirley Barlow attended World Missions Conferences with her parents. Her mother would invite the missionaries to their house for dinner, and, as Shirley sat and listened to their stories, she recalls praying, “Please, God, let me have this opportunity.” However, Shirley says she never did hear the total call to be a missionary.
In 1955, after marrying and moving to Pennsylvania, Shirley was broken over the fact that there was not a lot of Southern Baptist work there. She got connected with what little work there was and became active in a local Pennsylvania Baptist Association.
After a few years Shirley and her husband Tom moved back to Paducah, Kentucky, and in 1988 she became involved with River City Mission, a homeless shelter in Paducah that helps individuals overcome addictions, secure work and get back on their feet so they can go back into society and resurrect their family situation. Most importantly they hear the gospel and are encouraged to commit or recommit their lives to Christ.
Although working at the Mission for several years, it was not until 2013 that Ms. Shirley heard about Mission Service Corps and how her work fit the qualifications of a Kentucky MSC missionary. Shirley applied to serve as a Kentucky missionary and was approved in February 2013. Her dream of becoming a missionary had become reality.
River City Mission provides housing and food for the homeless, but to Shirley it is more than just a shelter. She helps the residents in all areas of their lives, showing respect for them as individuals, while also being firm. She recently shared about going to the hospital to sit with one of the men through his surgery so that he would not be alone.
On Friday evening, April 5, during the KY WMU Annual Meeting at First Baptist Church, Bowling Green, Ms. Shirley was recognized as the 2019 Kentucky Missionary of the Year. This award is given annually to the missionary that demonstrates:
• Commitment to and effectiveness in evangelism, church planting or ministry.
• Demonstration of “going the second mile.”
• Outstanding performance in achieving assigned tasks.
• Unusual commitment to our Lord’s service.
• Positive representation of Kentucky Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board.
• True reflection of being an “On Mission Christian.”
Ms. Shirley certainly meets these qualifications. Her whole life has been On Mission with Christ. And, in her 80s, Ms. Shirley continues to serve God faithfully. She has been a member of First Baptist Church Paducah for 22 years where she sings in the church choir, serves as WMU director and on the Missions Committee.
Teresa Parrett is Missions Mobilization Coordinator of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.