“I see myself as the answer to my mother’s prayers… she prayed that at least one of her five children would get involved in cross-cultural or overseas missions.” In 1977, Dennis Shelly went to Nigeria to serve full-time as a Bible College teacher. His mother was instrumental in his spiritual development as a teacher in two Child Evangelism Fellowship Good News Clubs. His father was on the Lancaster County Youth for Christ Board, so Dennis and his family attended many YFC rallies and activities during his high school days.
Coletta serving in Quinto.
Coletta Shope’s parents were also significantly involved in her developing interest in missions. They printed letters stateside for missionaries which Coletta helped proofread. These letters introduced her to missions work all around the world. She went to Quito, Ecuador, to serve as a full-time nurse for 11 years.
Coletta remembers attending a women’s conference at Calvary Church where Elisabeth Elliot was a speaker. She enjoyed reading her books and her writings had a great impact on her ministry. One particular quote Coletta likes is “When you don’t know what to do, just do the next thing.”
Dr. George Miles, President of Washington Bible College (WBC), had his eye on Dennis. As a 1973 senior, he saw Dennis as an up-and-coming teacher and wanted him to go to Nigeria to teach at a small Bible College, the Bible & Missionary Theological College (BMTC). Dennis recalls, “Dr. Miles said, ‘I want you to be praying about going to Nigeria for one summer.’” That was 1973. One summer of teaching turned into something a little longer--over 40 years of ministry.
Dennis and Coletta met on home assignment in 1987, eventually marrying and returning to Nigeria in 1988 to serve together as a teacher and a nurse. Dennis commented, “There were two things I thought I would never want to do—teaching or preaching… and those were the very things that became the most joyous parts of my ministry years.”
Dennis at BMTC Graduation.
They served faithfully at BMTC until 2007, when the Lord led them to serve at the ECWA Theological Seminary, Kagoro (ETSK), in Kaduna State, Nigeria. “ECWA” stands for “The Evangelical Church Winning All, “being the national church of SIM in Nigeria. They returned in May 2020, to Lancaster after Dennis’ broken hip ended their physical presence in Nigeria. Dennis still advocates for their US mission, Fellowship International Mission (FIM) and ETSK.
Living life with their students at BMTC, Dennis and Coletta were provided many opportunities to build relationships and to speak into their lives:
“We would have a morning of prayer each Monday for several hours. We had prayer meetings, we joined them in Sunday Services…we would work outside together, even in the fields in the hot sun… we went to crusades; we did different things together… all these things helped the students appreciate the value of hard work and endurance. Now many of these students have been in the ministry 25, 30, 35 or more years.”
Dennis with Rev. Simon & Ruth Yako.
Two BMTC Alumni, Rev. Simon & Ruth Yako, went to Togo for 12 years as missionaries. They now lead the Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS) of ECWA, which has over 3,500 workers serving in 16 countries, including the U.S.
Another BMTC Alumnus, Rev. Nsibiet Nelson, is involved with the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry and is a prison warden. He oversees over 20 part-time prison chaplains in Southern Nigeria where he’s also started several churches and a small Bible college. He assists other prisons with water, electricity, and medical resources.
As the Shelly’s enter a new phase of ministry in Lancaster, the last thing on their minds is “retirement.” Now that they are 70, they still see many opportunities to advance the gospel worldwide.
Gift of a generator for a prison.
Coletta is using her time now to minister to others by providing transport, making meals, and going grocery shopping for shut-ins. She is involved in the Cup of Cold Water Ministry at Calvary Church. She is looking forward to serving local refugees in Lancaster County.
2019 ETSK Graduates.
Dennis says, “As mission advocates, we are not just talking about ourselves; we are talking about what the nationals are doing in Nigeria and around the world.” He enjoys talking about ETSK and raising support for its ongoing ministries to Nigerians and beyond. He is currently videoing previous messages and lessons to supplement the seminary’s teaching resources… and in his spare time Dennis is writing an autobiography!
They greatly appreciate you at Calvary Church for your years of faithful prayers and support! Never one to quit, Dennis quotes Yogi Berra’s famous line, “It ain't over till it's over.”