A Tribute to Shellie


I met her only once . . . on a breezy fall night outside the home of one of our workers in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. We shook hands, introduced ourselves and went inside for a dessert meeting with missionaries and other U.S. National Office visitors. Shellie Gardlock was not feeling well and decided to lie down on our host’s bed while the rest of us got to know each other and discussed mission business.

In her absence, Shellie’s colleagues spoke about what she had already accomplished in her short time in Burkina Faso—how she had hit the ground running and was involved with far more ministry than anyone had anticipated. They spoke of what a joy it was to have her with them and how appreciated she was. When the evening was drawing to a close, Shellie came out to join us. We gathered around her for a sweet time of prayer in which we asked the Lord to help her feel better and restore her to good health. We said our goodbyes and departed. The next morning, Shellie passed into the presence of her Lord.

What compels a young woman from Curwensville, Pa., to take a four-month sabbatical from her job, leave her family and friends—everything she knows—and head to one of the world’s poorest countries? Proverbs 31:8–9 comes to mind: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all those who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” It appears that it is also a healthy dose of the Great Commandment, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:39), and the Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

I know that this is not about me, but I am struggling to figure out why this young woman’s life and ministry has had such an impact on me after knowing her for only about 12 hours. Unfortunately, I think I know why. I do not believe that I take seriously enough my (our) responsibility to uphold our missionaries and pastors in prayer. If I had not met Shellie and had simply gotten word of her death through our Intranet, I would have been sad and would have taken a moment to pray for her family, but life would have continued on in the busyness of the day.

I probably would not have stopped and reflected upon all the obstacles that our 4,000 official workers in the United States and around the world face daily: disease, opposition (physical and spiritual), conflict, loneliness and fatigue. Now, sitting in Burkina Faso, I have come face-to-face with my own shortcomings in praying for my colleagues. If prayer is the primary work of the people of God (Phil. 4:6-7), then I have work to do.

I cannot pray for all of our missionaries and official workers every day, but I can be more intentional and have a more systematic plan to work through the C&MA’s Official Directory. Imagine what would happen throughout the United States, Canada and the rest of the world if all of God’s people within our Alliance churches joined together on a daily basis to cover our missionaries, pastors, CAMA staff and IFAPers with consistent, specific prayer.

Shellie had a tremendous impact during her very short stay in Burkina Faso. But can you imagine the impact that her life will have had if her story helps to awaken the sleeping giant of prayer throughout the Alliance? Can you imagine the boldness and confidence and effectiveness our colleagues around the world will operate with if we as a denomination can mobilize our efforts to pray?

I knew Shellie for just 12 hours, but I think she may have changed my life!

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