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Fire guts Tom, Jeannie Elliff’s home, claims 20 Bibles with sermon notes

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–The home of former Southern Baptist Convention President Tom Elliff was destroyed by fire late Sunday night, Feb. 21.
Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., and his wife, Jeannie, were in Hawaii at the time of the blaze, which sent flames as high as 100 feet into the sky and damaged three other nearby homes.
Sunday also was Elliff’s 55th birthday.
The pastor’s assistant, Mike Hand, said the Elliffs caught a late flight in Hawaii Monday evening, Feb. 22, and arrived back in Oklahoma City Tuesday morning. In Hawaii, the Elliffs were visiting with a daughter, Amy, and son-in-law, David Jarboe, who just had their third child, a son.
“We were able to recover some family photo albums which were kept in a couple of dressers in the front bedroom of the home,” Hand said. “Otherwise, the structure and its contents are a complete loss.”
Investigators said Monday afternoon the fire was thought to have begun about 10:45 p.m. in the garage and spread to the house. They had not ruled out arson as a possible cause, however. No estimate of the total amount of damage was available.
The Elliffs’ two personal vehicles also were destroyed in the blaze. The fire was so hot that the siding on the home located next door to the Elliffs’ residence was melted, and was left hanging in strips
Two Oklahoma City firefighters received minor injuries when the home’s second floor, on which they were standing, collapsed.
Bill Elliff, pastor of The Summit Church, Little Rock, Ark., said Feb. 22 he had talked with his brother by phone, recounting that the first thing his brother said were words verses from Job: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Tom Elliff said he had been “overwhelmed with a peace” after learning of the fire, and he his wife, while in Hawaii, had spent part of their time praying and talking about simplifying their lives, Bill Elliff said.
Included in the loss were 20 Bibles in which Tom Elliff had written notes for his sermons in the margins, Bill Elliff said.

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