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83-year-old’s ministry journey includes all age groups, active retirementcomment (0)

February 5, 2009

By Emily Flack

Jack Shannon has seen and done a lot of things. During World War II, he lay wounded on the beach of Iwo Jima. But these days, he can be found sitting in a child-size chair at Calvary Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, reading books to toddlers.

So to call him “an interesting soul” causes his wife, Eula, to throw her head back in laughter and say, “That he is. That he is.”

But she’s quick to add a good word about Shannon’s heart, noting, “He’s very kind and thorough — he puts himself in the background.”

Shannon was born in 1926 in Montgomery. “I was saved when I was 8 years old,” he said. “My family and I went to Sunday School and worshiped every Sunday until I was 18.”

In 1946, Shannon began his college education at the University of Alabama (UA). He finished his bachelor of arts in English in 1950 at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he met and married Eula.

While Shannon was a student at UA, he was a member of Calvary Baptist. “And it was then I surrendered to the Lord and to be a pastor,” he said.

Shannon continued his education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, receiving a master of arts in religious education.

But surrendering to the ministry hadn’t come easy. It took a life-changing experience in Iwo Jima for him to recognize God’s omnipotence. “If it hadn’t been for God, I wouldn’t have come out alive,” Shannon said.

After all, he was wounded twice. First Shannon had a run-in with an enemy soldier who had a hand grenade.

“I was not going to admit to my fellow Marines that I couldn’t keep going,” he said. “That resulted in my getting shot.”

Shannon was shot in the ribs and lost a kidney — right there on the beach, where the doctors operated on him.

After a multimonth hospital stay, Shannon left the Marine Corps on a medical discharge. From that point on, he embraced this thought: “God has allowed me to live this long and under these circumstances, so I’m going to do everything I can to serve Him.”

And more than 60 years of war-related pain and a body full of shrapnel have not kept Shannon from serving. As a minister of education, he first served in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.; then in Andalusia; and then back in Tuscaloosa at Calvary.

After 17 years of service as the Tuscaloosa Baptist Association church’s minister of education, Shannon became minister to senior adults, a position he held for 15 more years until his retirement in 1989.

Though retired, Shannon never ceased participating with the senior adult group, so in November 2007, the church honored him with the title “minister to senior adults emeritus.”

Current Minister to Senior Adults Frank Jones said Shannon is certainly deserving of the title. “When I think of Jack, I think of a Christian gentleman in every sense of the word,” Jones said.

After retiring, Shannon’s focus turned toward working with Calvary’s 13­–24-month-olds, a ministry his wife joins him in.

“I thoroughly enjoy working with them,” he said of the children. “As opportunity presents itself, I try to get in a word about Jesus. I want them to know that Jesus loves them.”

The church’s preschool minister, Cass Brannan, observes Shannon week after week, noting “the smile and joy he has overflows to those kids.”

Recently Shannon had surgery to reduce bad arthritis pain, but he still does not walk well.

But at 83 years old and after more than 50 years at Calvary, Shannon still visits shut-ins, nursing home residents and those in the hospital and serves as a deacon and in the toddler Sunday School class, where the children fight over his attention.

According to his wife, “The best part is he’s very caring toward others and dedicated to whatever he is doing.”

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