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Elliotts knew service in Iraq ‘was God’s calling’

CARY, N.C. (BP)–The last time Reca Davis saw Larry and Jean Elliott, the couple was in the States, preparing for their service in Iraq.

For some 25 years the Elliotts had served in Honduras, but they felt called to go elsewhere.

“[T]hey truly knew that it was God’s calling for them to go [to Iraq],” Davis, a friend of the Elliotts, told Baptist Press. “We certainly support that, because we know that they were people that would just do exactly what they felt was God’s will.”

On March 15 the Elliotts were killed, along with two Baptist co-workers, in a drive-by shooting attack in northern Iraq. Larry Elliott was 60; Jean Elliott, 58. Both were members of First Baptist Church in Cary, N.C., before their service in Honduras. When the Elliotts were home, they would stay at the church’s mission house.

Davis and her husband, Lynn, also First Baptist members, had known the Elliotts for years but their friendship grew deeper during a short-term mission trip to Honduras last November.

“We were in Honduras when they were praying about going to Iraq, and they asked for us to be in prayer with them about that,” Reca Davis said. “And we did — we prayed a lot with them on that.”

She and Jean Elliott bonded nearly instantly.

“That was a wonderful week where we did some other things hand in hand with Larry and Jean to support the ministries there in Honduras,” Davis said. “The most joyful part was just having the privilege of working side by side with two people who just love the Lord and had a wonderful time doing it.”

Larry, she said, had a “very mischievous kind of laugh.”

“It was always uplifting to be around the two of them — what an inspiration,” Davis said.

Back in 1998 the Elliotts played a key role in ministering to Hondurans affected by Hurricane Mitch, which killed more than 5,600 people and left more than 200,000 homeless. Larry Elliott was quoted in a 1999 Baptist Press story as saying that new churches had resulted from the work of Southern Baptist volunteers and personnel.

“We are in the midst of one of the most powerful revivals I have ever experienced,” Elliott said at the time.

In at least one instance, the relief effort cleared a road to an area that had no road prior to the hurricane.

“For the first time, a vast area will be exposed to vehicular transportation and the penetration of the Gospel,” Elliott said.

Davis said she knows the Elliotts are in a better place now, with the Lord, knowing they followed His will. She last heard from them in a letter she received in February.

“Jean wrote it on the 18th of February as they were going over to Baghdad,” Davis said. “[It was] a really fun note reflecting back on a lot of the fun times we had over our time in Honduras. … That is something certainly that I treasure.”

Larry Elliott received a master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1978. That summer he completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Jean Elliott completed 19 hours as a non-degree student in 1977-78 and worked as an assistant in the seminary library.

“Southeastern Seminary mourns the loss of two members of our seminary family, as well as a precious friend from Bakersfield, Calif.,” said Southeastern President Daniel Akin, referencing another of the slain missionaries, Karen Watson, who worked with Southeastern graduate Andy Prince and his wife, Kristine, to start a new church in Bakersfield.

“These three servants of Jesus Christ have paid the supreme sacrifice in serving their Lord and ministering to the needs of the hurting. We are proud of them and, in the midst of sorrow, we rejoice that for the child of God, ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.'”

Stephen Rummage, director of Southeastern’s doctor of ministry program, is the interim pastor at First Baptist Church in Cary, where the Elliotts attended when they were on periodic visits back in the United States. Rummage said the family last visited the area around New Year’s Day before their transfer to the IMB’s Middle East region in February.

“We’re praying for the Lord’s comfort for them [the Elliott family], but we also know the Elliotts were serving the Lord and doing their best with the difficult situation in Iraq,” Rummage said. “We are just grieved.”

The Elliotts are survived by three adult children, Gina Elliott Kim of Houston; Todd Elliott in Arlington, Va.; and Scott Elliott in Raleigh, N.C.
Jerry Higgins contributed to this article. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: LARRY ELLIOTT and JEAN ELLIOTT.

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  • Michael Foust