North Carolina Department of Correction News - June 1999

Wayne assistant travels the world as a missionary

GOLDSBORO — The photograph of a giraffe licking the back of Shirlean Crisp’s neck grabs the attention of anyone who walks into her office at Wayne Correctional Center, but it’s only a page in the volumes of stories about her Christian missionary work.

Crisp has worked for nine years as the executive assistant to the superintendent at Wayne, a job she took after working as a legal secretary in Goldsboro.

"I never dreamed I would work for the Department of Correction," Crisp said. "But I believe that each setting we go into opens up a new world for us."

Crisp’s life took a turn when she went to a Bible College in Goldsboro. At the end of her session, her instructor, an older lady, was looking for a traveling companion for a trip to Israel. They went in the fall of 1972. While there, Crisp spotted a note on a bulletin board about a meeting on the Mount of Olives. It proved to be a life-changing event.

"There were people from around the world there for the meeting," Crisp said. "The organist began playing Amazing Grace and everyone sang it in their own language. It was a heavenly sound."

At the meeting Crisp met an American lady who worked for an organization based in Israel that distributed Bibles around the world. They offered her a chance to work there. Moved by her experiences in Israel, Crisp returned home to Goldsboro. She went from church to church telling people what she had seen. The churches collected funds that helped her return to Israel where she went to work for the Mount of Olives Christian Center.

She spent a year using her secretarial skills working for the organization. When the group’s cook left, she was also asked to cook. While she had a difficult time trying to decipher the Hebrew recipe cards, the workers appreciated her cooking. A Russian woman who worked at the center taught her to play the autoharp.

"The first time I heard her play it, I fell in love with it, and I knew I wanted it to be a part of my life," Crisp said. "So when I returned to the U.S., I searched until I found one just like hers. I began to work at playing it. It has been like a friend to me."

Her love of Christian work, music and travel took her to Costa Rica for a year, Kenya for three weeks and to Israel and Asia for short visits. Her trip to Costa Rica in 1976 led to her work with Teaching All Nations, a Christian mission program headquartered in Florida. She serves as the organization’s treasurer.

Through the organization she has teamed with another woman. Crisp leads praise and singing with her autoharp and her partner is a Bible teacher. Together they have visited Kenya and Asia.

In Kenya, Crisp helped in a children’s ministry. Each day 70-80 children would gather, and she would spend 30 to 45 minutes singing and teaching them. During the end of her three-week visit, she had an afternoon off and visited a giraffe reserve.

"There was a deck you could walk out on, and they gave you pellets to feed the giraffe," Crisp said. "I had given the giraffe all the pellets I had and turned to walk away when he licked me. He started at the base of my neck and went all the way over my hair. I squealed and someone snapped the picture."

Recently returned from her latest missionary trip, Crisp was concerned about what she could say. The day after her visit to a small Christian group in a non-Christian community, the church leaders were interrogated for bringing outsiders and their beliefs into the community. She was afraid for the friends she had made there.

But Crisp says the experience will not deter her from what she loves, traveling the world to talk and sing about Jesus.

NC DOC Homepage
E-mail NC DOC