CARBONDALE - Jack M. Shelby, 87, went to be with the Lord on Thursday, October 19, 2023 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in Saint Louis, MO.
Jack was born on August 22, 1936 in Harrisburg to Garland and Mary (Ferrell) Shelby. Jack married the love of his life, Avah Louise Phillips, on February 8, 1959 in Harrisburg. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from SIU in 1961 and his Master of Divinity degree from Golden Gate Seminary in 1965. In addition, he studied at Southwestern Seminary from 1983-84, working toward a Doctor of Ministry degree.
Jack spent his life in service to Christ as a missionary for over 30 years. Together with his wife Avah, he served with the former Foreign Mission Board, now the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, from 1968-1999. The first years of his work as a missionary were spent in Hong Kong learning the Cantonese language. He would go on to study five other languages, using this gift to preach, teach, translate, and serve in a variety of cultures.
During his missionary service, he was a lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University from 1969-71 and was a seminary professor at the Malaysia-Singapore Baptist Theological Seminary in Penang, Malaysia from 1972-78 and from 1980-82. He was instrumental in starting several new churches in Malaysia and served as acting secretary of the Malaysia-Singapore Baptist Convention from 1974-76. From 1983-86, he served as the National Indian Ministries Director, living in Bangalore, India and traveling throughout the country. From 1986-1992, he lived in Hong Kong, working to place workers from a variety of professions into underserved communities. They moved to Wiesbaden, Germany (1992-94) and then Moscow, Russia (1995-97). 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. From 1997-99, Jack and Avah returned to Wiesbaden where he researched unreached people groups in Western Europe and assisted missionaries in planning strategies to reach these people groups with the Gospel.
After retiring from the IMB, Jack returned to Illinois and served as IBSA director of Missions and Men’s Ministries from 1999-2005. In 2006 he was named associate executive director for Missions Mobilization. He retired again, but continued to serve on contract in various capacities including as Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief State Director. He made multiple trips to coordinate disaster relief efforts throughout the U.S., including coordinating relief efforts at the World Trade Center following the September 11 attacks, and in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. In 2014 Shelby was awarded with the Robert E. Dixon Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, having dedicated 13 years to the ministry. In a final act of service, upon his death his body was donated to medical science.
Jack is survived by his loving wife of 64 years, Avah Shelby; daughter, Melanie (Philip) Nelson; sons James Mark Shelby (Julie) and Scott Shelby; grandchildren Lydia Nelson, Moriah Puckett, Hannah (Nicholas) Pellman, Rebekah (Brandon) McNeely, Peter (Heather) Nelson, Catherine (Jason) Allison, Megan (Paul) Miller, Ashley Reed, and Eric Reed; and fifteen great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents and twin brother, Edward E. Shelby.
A Celebration of Jack’s Life will be held at 2:00 pm on Saturday, November 11, 2023 at Lakeland Baptist Church, Carbondale, IL, with Pastor Philip Nelson officiating. A time of visitation will be held from 1:00 pm until the time of service on Saturday at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Jack’s name to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering of the International Mission Board and will be accepted at the church. Memorial contributions may also be made online at
“And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” (Hebrews 11:4b)
Meredith Funeral Home in Carbondale assisted the family with arrangements. To leave a story or memory of Jack visit www.meredithfh.com.