Laura Belle Barnard (1907-1992)
Laura Belle Barnard, a Free Will Baptist missionary, humanitarian, and educator, was born on February 13, 1907, and reared in Glennville. After graduation from high school, she attended South Georgia Teachers College (later Georgia Southern University) in Statesboro, and then transferred to Columbia Bible College in Columbia, South Carolina. She graduated from Columbia in 1932, and shortly thereafter she sensed a call to evangelical mission work.
In 1935 Barnard was commissioned for mission work in India by the General Conference of Free Will Baptists of the South. That year the General Conference merged with the Cooperative General Association of Free Will Baptists, a group in the Midwest and Southwest, to form the National Association of Free Will Baptists. She became the first missionary of the newly formed denomination.
Barnard began her mission in Kotagiri, South India, in the summer of 1935. She worked mostly among the "untouchables," the lowest class in the Hindu caste system. In the early 1940s she moved back to the United States and served briefly as a teacher at the fledgling Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, Tennessee, but she soon returned to India, where she remained until 1957. Upon completion of her master's degree at Columbia Bible College in 1960, she became a professor of missions at the Free Will Baptist Bible College, from which she retired in 1972. Barnard wrote a number of books, including His Name among All Nations (1946), which is a theology of missions, and Touching the Untouchables (1985), her autobiography.
Barnard retired to her hometown of Glennville, where she engaged in numerous ministries, including humanitarian aid to Mexican migrant workers. She died there on March 9, 1992.