Shirley Carlson chuckles recalling her move to Asheboro in 2017. “We came to Asheboro thinking we would slow down from mission work. But God had other plans!” Instead of narrowing her and husband Roger’s callings, God continued to expand their work and use every bit of their knowledge, experience and passion for His glory.
For most of their lives together, Roger served as a pastor. In 1999, the couple became North American Mission Board church planters and later served as Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey project coordinators for the Pennsylvania/North Carolina partnership. They began volunteering with North Carolina’s Baptists on Mission in 2005 when Katrina devastated Gulf Port, Mississippi. Roger and Shirley began as rebuilders — tearing out, mudding out, painting, or “whatever else needed to be done.” After Katrina, the Carlsons travelled from North Carolina to Mississippi every other weekend for more than a year. “We slept in churches, schools, and all kind of buildings. God gave us a heart for the area.”
Since moving to Asheboro, Roger became the pastor for Staley Baptist Church and Shirley joined North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) as a Call Center Specialist. Shirley muses, “This is the first time I’ve gotten paid for Baptist work –– well ‘financially’ that is –– we’ve always been blessed.” Shirley sees her position at NCBAM as a perfect opportunity to use decades of ministry experiences. “My work in the Call Center is a continuation of my life’s passion to help people.”
Shirley’s intimate knowledge of the aftermath from disasters served NCBAM clients well when Hurricane Florence hit the coast of North and South Carolina in September quickly followed by tropical storm Michael’s blow to the center of the state. The Call Center has received more than 70 hurricane-related calls to date. As a Call Center Specialist, Shirley was able to help. “I know what it’s like for people who have just lived through a disaster. They need all kinds of help, but they also need someone to listen to what they’ve gone through. I listened, prayed with callers, and referred them to Baptists on Mission groups, FEMA, and other agencies offering shelter, feeding units, or other sources of help in their areas.”
Not content to minister only from afar, Shirley took a week off from work at NCBAM to help in New Bern where Roger was assessing flood damage. “It was utter devastation — people were almost in shock not knowing what to do. Seeing the yellow shirts of Baptists on Mission gave them hope. I just hugged people and let them tell me their stories.”
Shirley’s experiences in disaster relief make her a strong proponent of one of NCBAM’s newest workshops—Disaster Preparedness for Aging Adults. The workshops were developed because older adults are typically disproportionately affected in disasters and other emergencies. For example, during Hurricane Katrina, seniors accounted for 74% of casualties even though only 15% of the population.
NCBAM’s Disaster Preparedness workshops help churches plan, implement, and maintain Disaster Preparedness ministries for their most vulnerable. Each workshop attendee receives an NCBAM Grab-and-Go bag that includes a list of suggested items to keep in it as well as other tips for being prepared for weather and other emergencies.
After years of volunteering in disaster relief, Shirley knows too well the struggles people face in recovery. “So often people wait too late and are not prepared. Churches need to have a plan in place to check on their elderly members who are frail — whether it’s a huge disaster like Florence or just localized power outages from ice storms. Preparation is so important.”
To learn more or to schedule a Disaster Preparedness training at your church, call the NCBAM Call Center at 877-506-2226.