Twelve-year-old Shirley Giles looked around her church, marveling at all the adults who had accepted her, embraced her, loved her, and advocated for her. She noticed the old ladies that would stop to give her an encouraging word, the Sabbath School teachers that would invest in her, a non-Adventist. She noticed the time and energy that they put into caring for her. In that moment, she felt convicted that her life’s work was to do the same, advocating for those who aren't able to speak up for themselves.
Now, just a few years later, Shirley Allen (née Giles) has announced her retirement from a career of advocacy, ministry, and support for children and those who believe in them. She will retire from her position in the Oregon Conference on December 31, 2021.
In a career spanning two continents, Shirley has served in roles such as teacher, principal, pastor, church ministries director, family ministries director, and children’s ministries director. Yet no matter the role or location, her heart for the children has driven her. “Children are worth it,” Shirley says. “They’re worth doing the very best for. They’re worth all the time and energy we can put into them. Children don’t have a voice. They need us to advocate for them.”
In nearly 20 years in Oregon, Shirley has made her mark, leaving a legacy of valued children and empowered leaders. “Pastor Shirley Allen has been a mainstay of Oregon Conference for children’s ministries for many years,” wrote President Dan Linrud. “Her passion for helping children know, love and serve Jesus and others, has inspired others across our field to make a difference for kids in their churches and communities. Shirley’s dedicated leadership has impacted her native South Africa, the Oregon Conference, and the North American Division. She is beloved by those who have had the privilege to serve with her in any capacity.”
Children’s ministries leaders will remember training seminars, borrowing stuffed animals from the “Zoo Room,” and the myriad resources and conversations with Shirley that inspired them toward more meaningful ministry. Kids will remember the camp meetings. “Camp meeting was always the big thing for me,” remembers Shirley. “I love to see the kids all participating and having fun while learning about Jesus.” Through Shirley’s tireless leadership, Gladstone Camp Meeting’s children’s program has continued to grow into a coordinated, integrated, multi-sensory program that inspires kids of all ages to love Jesus more deeply together. “The whole vibe of camp meeting has been amazing,” says Shirley.
While Shirley doesn’t yet know what retirement will hold for her, two things are certain: 1.) She and Dave plan to stay in their home in Happy Valley. 2.) She’ll still be advocating for children, wherever she is.
“She will be missed,” says President Linrud. “We wish her God’s abundant blessings in this next chapter of retirement.”
Happy retirement, Shirley! Your Oregon Conference family loves you. And we’re better because of your ministry!