BRADENTON, Fla.—Melissa Arlene Spurlock, retired missionary nurse and translator, died March 5.
Arlene was born March 6, 1924, to Cecil and Elna Spurlock. She was born again after reading the Gospels in a Bible she received as a Christmas gift. She attended several schools, including Baptist Bible Seminary, and graduated from the University of Rio Grande nursing school in Rio Grande, Ohio, in 1942.
In 1947 she left for Martinique as a missionary nurse under the auspices of African Christian Missions, Inc. (later Evangelical Baptist Missions) and Central Baptist Church of Columbus, Ohio. When she returned to the U.S. four years later, the mission asked her to transfer to Niger.
In Niger she worked mainly among the Karma people in Western Niger along the Niger River, running dispensaries for 30 years. She once said, “It became evident during my first term that the Lord had given me a knack for language, so during my second term I became involved in Bible translation in Niamey.” In her “spare” time she worked on Bible translation, assisted by a helper who knew no French and a boy, who knew the Zerma language. “The Lord helped,” Arlene reported. “After a few years, a committee of nationals and missionaries was formed. We revised and re-edited the New Testament in 1977 and the whole Bible was completed, printed, and dedicated on September 15, 1990. That was a happy day!” Arlene devoted her last seven years in Niger to the translation work.
In 1995, Arlene moved to Bradenton (Florida) Missionary Village and attended Fellowship Baptist Church. John Norris, pastor of Fellowship, writes, “Many of the people she helped on the mission field felt that she had more powerful medicine than others, because she prayed for the patient along with dispensing medicine. Arlene’s name given to her by the people of Niger was Halima, an Arabic name that means, “gentle, mild-mannered, and generous.”
Arlene Spurlock is survived by two nieces, Loretta (Bob) McWhorter and Leisa Schumacher; a nephew, Frank (Jill) Hess; and several grand-nieces and grand-nephews.