God is “no respector of persons” when it comes to calling out people to serve Him. In the Bible we see Him calling Moses at age 80, and Samuel and David as young boys.
Currently there are 98 missionaries serving in various ministries across Kentucky. In looking over this list of missionaries, it was interesting to note that they range in age from 23 to 90. Four of them are in their 80s and, yes, one is still serving in his 90s.
Jack Simmons, along with wife Wilma (who is in her 80s), heard God’s call to missions more than 26 years ago when they met a Director of Missions who told them about needs in Indiana. After looking over the area and trying to get something started, they just could not seem to get anything done. Eventually they realized that God was calling them back to Wilma’s home of West Point, Kentucky, where they began meeting with children in one of the trailer parks each week.
Today, Jack and Wilma minister in two trailer parks. The children’s program includes Bible stories, crafts, play time, and refreshments. This ministry has also opened the door to minister by providing food, performing weddings and funerals, and making hospital visits and, at Christmas, they distribute gifts to the children.
In addition to the trailer park ministry, Jack pastors a small rural church and Wilma serves as secretary for the Salem Baptist Association.
Other Kentucky missionaries serving into their 80s are Pauline White, Shirley Barlow, and Pat Howard.
Pauline White heard God’s call to leave her home in Florida and move to eastern Kentucky nearly 15 year ago. She served people in Harlan County as director of Shepherd’s Food Pantry, faithfully giving out boxes of food, and always sharing the Gospel message with them. Many were fed both physically and spiritually by her service. Pauline concluded her ministry with Shepherd’s Pantry at the end of 2017.
Shirley Barlow felt God’s call in the early 50s to be more involved in missions. Today she directs River City Mission, a homeless shelter in Paducah. The shelter works with individuals to overcome addictions, secure work, get back on their feet so they can go back into society and resurrect their family situation, and commit or recommit their lives to Christ. Shirley works in all aspects of the ministry and her love for those she serves shines so brightly.
Pat Howard has followed God’s call into a number of ministries during her lifetime. Pat’s heart has been in ethnic work for many, many years, and she has shared the hope of Christ with many through this work. Currently Pat serves as a regional mobilization consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, where she helps to enlist and encourage missionaries in her region around Bowling Green, KY.
It has been such a privilege to know and work alongside these missionaries. They have been, and continue to be, such a blessing me and those they serve. Thank you, Jack, Wilma, Pauline, Shirley, and Pat, for giving to the Lord. Many lives have been changed s a result of your dedication to His work.