News Articles

Missionary laid to rest in Alaska, co-workers in Ghana mourn loss

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (BP)–Janette Yvonne Shackles, the Southern Baptist missionary physician killed in a June 9 traffic accident in Ghana, was laid to rest June 19 at University Baptist Church in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The fatal accident happened on a two-lane road about an hour north of Ghana’s capital city, Accra, while Shackles was traveling back to Nalerigu, Ghana, where she served on the staff of Baptist Medical Centre. She was alone in a double-cab pickup truck and was hit by an oncoming vehicle.

Since March 2002, Shackles, 47, had helped thousands of patients who had no other access to medical care. While the hospital meets the physical needs of patients, staff members also work to provide access to the Gospel to each patient. The facility has been instrumental in starting dozens of churches in surrounding towns and villages.

Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu held a memorial service for Shackles on June 11. Friends and co-workers wore red yarn to represent the grief they felt.

Pastor Paul, the BMC chaplain, opened the service with singing, a favorite pastime of the people of Nalerigu. The congregation also spent time praying for Shackles’ family and her fellow physicians at the hospital as they coped with the loss.

Though she was only at the medical center a short time, Shackles made an indelible impression on both coworkers and patients, according to a coworker.

“When Dr. Shackles arrived in Nalerigu in March 2002 it was an answer to years of praying for a new doctor to come and work with us,” said George Faile, a career missionary physician at Baptist Medical Centre. “Though she was with us only a short time, she quickly became part of the family here.

“She set a good example for all of us in her work ethic and in her Christian witness. In spite of the hard work and I am sure being tired, she always seemed to be cheerful and positive.

“Dr. Shackles was always friendly and kind to her patients,” Faile added. “She was generous and often paid bills for patients who were unable to pay. She took time to witness to patients and to pray for those who especially needed it.

“Dr. Shackles’ death will leave a hole that will be hard to fill. We all mourn with her family over the loss of a friend and co-worker. Though it is difficult to understand why she was taken from us after such a short time, we rejoice that she is at rest in peace with her Heavenly Father.”

The leader of Ghana’s Baptist convention expressed sorrow over Shackles’ death.

“It was with great shock and dismay that we received the news of the sudden and tragic home calling of our dear sister and co-laborer for the Lord, Janette Yvonne Shackles,” said Kojo Amo, general secretary of the Ghana Baptist Convention. “We share in the sorrows of and mourn with the bereaved family, the International Mission Board and the entire Baptist fraternity in the United States of America.

“This indeed is a great loss and a big vacuum that will be difficult to fill, yet we take consolation in the fact that our dear sister died in active service for her master Jesus Christ. Our sister has gone home to be with the Lord. We shall see her face to face some day.”

Shackles had studied and was continuing to learn the African language Mamprulli, native to the Mamprusi people group she was working with. She was using it in her contact with hospital patients and other people living in the village.

Shackles’ first experience with missions came by working in the Soviet Far East for two weeks during 1999. She returned the next year, understanding that God was leading her to into full-time international missions. After her return back to the United States, western Africa kept coming to her mind. A few days later she learned there was an opening for a medical missionary in that area.

The International Mission Board appointed Shackles in November 2001 and she had been serving as a physician at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu since March 2002. Prior to her appointment, she worked as a staff physician and medical director of Maniilaq Health Center in Kotzebue, Alaska.

Shackles graduated from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology. She earned her doctor of medicine degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and served as a family practice resident at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Ore.

Born in Austin, Texas, Shackles considered Fairbanks her home. She was a member of First Baptist Church in Kotzebue, Alaska.

Shackles is survived by her mother and step-father, Vivian and Edward Miller; her father, James Shackles II; three brothers, James Shackles III, Michael Shackles and Edward Miller, Jr., and three sisters, Anita Shackles-Miller, Angela Hester and Pamela Encarnacion.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: JANETTE YVONNE SHACKLES.

    About the Author

  • Ashley Haygood