REIDSVILLE, N.C. (BP) — For the Elliott family, a legacy of ministry and missions lives on in their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Larry and Jean Elliott were killed in Iraq 10 years ago. Retired from missionary service in Honduras, the International Mission Board had asked them to use their expertise to help Iraqis get clean water and hear about Jesus Christ.
“Their legacy, their life, their mission continues to go forth around this world in more places than you or I know about,” said Larry D. Beaver, interim pastor of Baptist Temple Church in Reidsville, N.C., during a remembrance service March 16.
Larry and Jean Elliott, along with Karen Watson and David McDonnall were killed in Mosul, Iraq, when six terrorists surrounded their vehicle and opened fire. McDonnall’s wife Carrie was the only survivor.
The Elliotts were members of Baptist Temple when they answered the call to seminary and international missions. Larry dreamed of going behind the Iron Curtain but responded instead to a chaplain position in Honduras after studying at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. When Larry and Jean arrived, however, the job had been withdrawn. Instead they spent more than 25 years in Honduras helping get clean wells to various areas as well as teaching English and providing other ministries.
Their son Scott Elliott spoke during the remembrance service at Baptist Temple. He thanked the church “that started it all off” for the family, speaking on behalf of the Elliotts’ three children and their spouses, 10 grandchildren, one granddaughter-in-law and two great-grandchildren.
His remarks centered around his parents’ life verse, Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God….”
“That was more than a verse that they claimed; that was a verse that they lived,” Scott said, noting various characteristics of Kingdom-seekers like his parents.
The thing that made the Elliots Kingdom-seekers was not about them, Scott said. “It was about their glorious, all-powerful, loving God,” he said. “Only He could craft such extraordinary lives out of a farm boy and a mill worker’s daughter. They were just willing vessels.”
The church showed a video of the McDonnalls and Karen Watson along with photos of the Elliotts at the church and in Honduras.
One of the photos was from a night Larry and Jean shared in January 2004 before they left for Iraq.
Susie Stroud, a Baptist Temple member since before the Elliotts joined the church, presented a collection of materials to the Elliott brothers and planned to mail one to their sister who could not attend.
Max Furr, a retired missionary who served with the Elliotts in Honduras, spoke at the service, drawing from Matthew 21:28: “Father says, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.'”
“That’s the basis of our Christian service,” said Furr, who lives in Advance, N.C., and helps with a Hispanic church plant. “We’re children of God.”
Furr was asked by the family to speak at the graveside services for the Elliotts in 2004.
Furr said he and his wife heard the call as did Larry and Jean Elliott. The “go” in the verse was “all the authority that Larry and I needed. He said ‘Go.’
“He didn’t say, ‘If you want to’ or ‘if you’d like to.’ It was an imperative … and we went.”
Furr said he thought his call to service would be in North Carolina. But when he met his future wife, she said she’d been called as an overseas missionary. He thought God would change her mind.
The Furrs had 22 years of ministry in Peru before being assigned to El Paso, Texas, for two years. Jean Elliott attended an associational meeting at First Baptist Church in Reidsville one March when the Furrs shared about their missionary work.
Later the Furrs were assigned to Honduras where they became “instant friends” with the Elliotts.
Both Furr and Susie Stroud shared from the book “Lives Given, Not Taken: 21st-Century Southern Baptist Martyrs” by Jerry Rankin and Erich Bridges. The Elliots are two of the missionaries featured in the book.
During their time in Honduras, the Elliotts’ ministry resulted in 12 churches, 92 mission points and more than 80 water wells.
An email from Jean shortly before her death noted the couple’s happiness about being called to Iraq.
“This is a very special time for us, and God is so REAL,” she wrote. “No matter what happens, we are in His hands, and we know that we are where we should be.”
Furr spoke of the disaster recovery efforts after Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in 1998. More than 5,000 people died.
Furr and Larry Elliott went to the airport to pick up a shipment when Larry found 10 pallets sitting by themselves. He asked a guard about them and found out they had been there 10 days and were going to be given away or thrown away. The airport was receiving so many shipments because of the hurricane that there was limited space. Without knowing what it was, Larry asked one of the men with them to come help him load it. With 50 cases on each pallet, the shipment was labeled as candied yams.
“I thought, ‘Larry’s lost it,'” Furr said. “Larry, do you know Hondurans don’t eat candied yams. He said they will if they get hungry enough.”
Furr said he wasn’t excited about having to unload the yams but when they opened the boxes, they found two cans of yams among the 500 boxes.
“The rest of it was dry rice, cereal, sugar … exactly what we needed.”
When the Furrs retired, Larry gave Max a can of yams as a parting gift.
“Why did God call Larry and Jean Elliott to Iraq?” Furr asked, indicating it was because of the love and wisdom the Elliotts could share with Iraqis.
“We do know their lives and love have blessed thousands; their deaths have inspired and challenged more.”
First Baptist Church in Cary, N.C., also set aside time during its March 16 morning services to remember the couple. The church’s mission house is named in the Elliotts’ honor.
A fund, “The Larry and Jean Elliott Endowment,” has been created through the North Carolina Baptist Foundation to aid Baptist Temple Church’s mission work.
Dianna Cagle is production editor for the Biblical Recorder (www.brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention.