Charlotte (Fletcher) Gillespie, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) alumna passed away at the age of 84 on June 23, 2017 in Moorestown, New Jersey after having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late December 2016. Charlotte was born on July 6, 1932 in Elgin, Illinois. She had two older sisters. Her father was a band director and teacher in Elgin and, also, directed the church choir.
During elementary and high school, Charlotte was active in band, speech club, girls athletics, chorus, Baptist Youth Fellowship and church. From fifth thru 10th grades in the summer she attended YWCA camp or church camp. Charlotte went on to study at Wheaton College in Illinois where she gained a strong basis for her faith and had many deep Christian experiences.
Upon graduation from Wheaton College, Charlotte taught in the public elementary school. The summer after her first year of teaching she spent in Costa Rica with her sister and husband. Here she got a real taste of the mission field. During her third year of teaching, she became somewhat dissatisfied and decided to go into fulltime Christian work. After extensive study of opportunities, she realized her need for more training and entered Berkeley Divinity School (now called the American Baptist Seminary of the West) in California. In her first year at Berkeley Baptist Divinity School Charlotte met George Gillespie, from New Jersey, who was in his last year at the seminary. Charlotte felt that George’s missionary purposes were very like her own. They were married on May 24, 1958.
In June 1958 they were appointed missionaries by the ABFMS to serve in North East India. In preparation for working with Christian literature, they studied in the School of Religious Journalism of Syracuse University. George completed a master’s degree and was ordained at the First Baptist Church of Syracuse in May 1959. When the India visas came through in late 1959, Charlotte and George, along with their first child, Rebecca, sailed to India.
Charlotte and George began their work in Golaghat, Assam. The family then moved to Guwahati where Charlotte wrote children’s Sunday school materials and programs for women’s groups, as well as serving as advisor to the board appointed by the Gauhati Baptist Church to establish the Nichols English School. The school now has reached higher secondary level and has more than 2,400 students. George worked with literature for the Council of Baptist Churches of North East India (CBCNEI) assisting Bible translators and other literature workers in determining needs and preparing and distributing Christian literature and literacy materials. Charlotte and George were especially interested in the training of writers. In 1972 they transferred to Jorhat, Assam to join the faculty of Eastern Theological College (ETC). Charlotte taught English, Christian education and piano and led the college choir, with the exception of one year when she was asked to teach sixth grade at Woodstock School in North West India. George taught history of religions and Bible courses at ETC.
In 1977, the government of India requested the family leave the restricted area of North East India because of the policy in regard to foreign residents there. They were then invited to teach at the Andhra Christian Theological College in Hyderabad in South India. Charlotte and George completed their term of service in 1979 and resigned from ABFMS in 1980 after their home assignment. They settled in Moorestown, New Jersey where they joined the First Baptist Church.
In 1980 Charlotte joined American Baptist Women’s Ministries. She was the program associate, editor and interim director for American Baptist Women’s Ministries until 1986. She then returned to ABFMS, also known as International Ministries, first as director of the Overseas White Cross Program and Mission Encounter Tours and then as the associate director in the Communications Division. She read and edited every publication that was produced by International Ministries. It was through this effort that she created the look, feel and voice of International Ministries. She retired on October 31, 1997.
Charlotte was active in the First Baptist Church of Moorestown, New Jersey where she enjoyed singing in the choir. She also helped with the American Baptist Women’s ministries at the Moorestown church, the auxiliary of the Baptist Home of South Jersey, the Friends Enrichment Program, and Church Women United of Moorestown.
Charlotte always saw the good in people. She was a strong, compassionate servant of the Lord who personified the fruits of the spirit. Charlotte always had a song and a story to tell. She was a mentor and role model for many.
Charlotte is survived by her husband, George; her four children, Rebecca, Patricia, Andrew and Joseph; and grandchildren Lauren and Mark Gillespie.
A memorial service for Charlotte was held on July 6, 2017 (Charlotte’s birthday) at the First Baptist Church of Moorestown, New Jersey. Her urn was buried in the church cemetery following the service.
[Date: July 11, 2017
From: Bernice Rogers/Cathy Holmes/Gillespie family
To: Members of the IM Board, Missionaries, IM Board Alumni, Missionary Alumni, NLC and Staff
Re: Charlotte Gillespie, ABFMS India alumna, passed away]