March 2004

God's will allows for human will : Monday, March 29, 2004

March 28 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

God's will allows for human will : Monday, March 29, 2004
Monday, March 29, 2004

God's will allows for human will

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

The upcoming Holy Week, bolstered by the runaway popularity of The Passion of the Christ, reminds us of one time in history when the purposes of God clearly lay behind a human death - in this case the death of Jesus, whom we believe to be both fully human and fully divine.

Other deaths aren't as easy to explain. Often they appear entirely senseless, as seen in the recent killings of four Baptist missionaries whose only desire was to love and to aid the people of Iraq.

Was God behind their deaths?

Jan and I have struggled with the same question in the 10 years since our daughter Bethany fell victim to a drunk driver. We've been writing a book about it over the past few months, stirring up old questions as well as old memories and wounds.

One of the things we have learned is that people seek to explain death in differing ways. In the weeks following Bethany's death, we received cards, letters, phone calls and visits from hundreds of well-wishers. Some of them truly ministered to us with love and grace. Others - who were just as well meaning - brought condolences we would rather not have heard.

There is something about a human that wants to explain things. We want to believe there is purpose in our living, and I believe there is. Many people, however, stretch that belief to assume there must be a reason for everything that happens. An overzealous view of providence leads many to the conviction that God directly causes all things - including every death - for His own purposes.

Thus, we received multiple cards expressing the sentiment that God needed another angel in the heavenly choir, or that we should rejoice because God picks only the loveliest flowers for His heavenly garden. Those sentiments, including the unfortunate allusion to our child as an ornamental garden plant, were not helpful.

Some expressed a belief that the Lord had simply given us Bethany on loan for a while, before "calling her home" when He needed her more than we did. They assured us that we would understand one day, because "God has a purpose for everything."

None of those well-meaning folks realized that such sentiments made us want to scream. Who wants to serve a God who toys with parents' hearts, simply parking a child with them until He needs the little one to fill a gap in his children's choir or his flower bed?

"God-causes-everything" theology has deeper roots in imagination and folk-religion than in scripture. Believing that God is all-knowing and all-powerful does not make God all-responsible. The Bible teaches clearly that God created humankind "in his own image" (Gen. 1:27), and one aspect of that image is the freedom of choice. We learn from some of the earliest stories in our biblical heritage that the people God created have made bad choices - choices clearly opposed to God's will - from the beginning.

We know that one person's bad choices can cause other persons to suffer. It is not fair that the innocent should suffer for the sins of others, but that is the price we pay for humanity. If we had no human freedom to choose good or evil, we would all be like robots, unable to choose, unable to love, unable to laugh - or cry. But God is no divine puppet-master. He endowed us with both freedom and responsibility.

When facing hard times, we often quote Rom. 8:28: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose" (NASB). Many people assume this means that God is behind everything that happens, planning every event (even the horrible ones) for some good end. Assigning a divine purpose to every tragedy may bring comfort, but it also absolves humans of responsibility.

The truth of Rom. 8:28 is not that all things are good, because they are not. Nor does it teach that all things happen according to God's purpose, because they do not. The great truth of the verse is that God is with us even in the vagaries, the uncertainties and the tragedies of this world.

And, because He is with us, God's amazing grace and unending love can bring goodness even from the worst of those things that happen.

I believe that God shares our pain when the innocent die, that God is present with us, that God can and will work through us to bring healing and hope to our lives. To the extent that we encourage others through what we have learned, He can bless others, as well.

Our choices are often bad, but our God is always good.
3/28/2004 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Creator 'rejects vengeance as peacemaking tool' : Friday, March 26, 2004

March 25 2004 by

Creator 'rejects vengeance as peacemaking tool' : Friday, March 26, 2004
Friday, March 26, 2004

Creator 'rejects vengeance as peacemaking tool'

Will Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin make Israel safer and more secure? Will it bring an end to suicide bombings? The answer to both questions is a resounding no. Israel will be less secure and suicide bombings will increase significantly. The Israeli and Palestinian power structures live by their own golden rule - an eye for an eye - which prevents them from passionately seeking peace. The Creator of all humankind, the passionate Christ, rejects vengeance as a peacemaking tool.

Jesus taught us to love our enemies, return good for evil, turn the other cheek, go the second mile and forgive unconditionally. He lived what He taught. The passion of Christ for peace has never been greater than it is at this particular time in world history.

We have had Jesus' prescription for peace for 2,000 years, but greed, selfishness and lust for power keep us from getting it right. Christians worldwide have been poor role models for people of other religions in following Christ's peace plan. Christ-like Mahatma Gandhi once said he could have been a Christian if it weren't for the way Christians acted.

The world needs peace education centered on the One who holds the world together, the passionate Christ - plan education around Christ's example. I place my faith and trust in the Creator of all humankind and believe He is at the heart of peace expectations. God's greatest blessing for each nation of the world is peace.

Paul L. Whiteley Sr.

Louisville, Ky.

3/25/2004 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for April 4: Suffering Savior : Friday, March 19, 2004

March 18 2004 by Vic Ramsey

Family Bible Study lesson for April 4: Suffering Savior : Friday, March 19, 2004
Friday, March 19, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for April 4: Suffering Savior

By Vic Ramsey
Matthew 27:27-31, 35-37, 50-51; 1 John 4:7-10

A seminary student visited his professor early in the term to clear up some confusion about the class or its assignments. The student concluded his visit with the words, "Professor, I love you."

The professor replied, "Then tell me where I hurt."

This morning's lesson calls on us to consider the relationship between suffering and love. We are challenged to consider that suffering can be redemptive.

Jesus Suffered for Us

Matthew 27:27-31

We moderns suffer from the illusion that people who lived in biblical times weren't really like us. We just don't believe that their hopes and dreams, their loves and hates, their joys and sorrows were as real, full and human as our own.

As I write this commentary, believers and non-believers alike are flocking to theaters to see Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." Clearly, the film has been a powerful experience for many people, driving home the reality of Jesus' suffering.

Matthew records that, after Jesus was whipped, Pilate's soldiers took Him "into the Praetorium" and made fun of Him. The praetorium is the technical name for the governor's residence; a place where a garrison of soldiers would be quartered. This scene probably took place in a courtyard where "the whole company" could watch.

The mockery centered on Jesus' "crime," the allegation that He claimed to be the "king of the Jews," and thus, a rival to Caesar. The scarlet robe, the crown of thorns and the reed serving as a scepter are all macabre tokens of supposed royalty.

Jesus Died for Us

Matthew 27:35-37, 50-51

Matthew records the crucifixion almost in passing: "After crucifying Him..." Matthew did not need to linger over the details of crucifixion; he lived in an age and in a place where those details were common knowledge.

We need to remember that crucifixion wasn't invented just for Jesus, and that nothing in Scripture teaches that Jesus' crucifixion was different from the thousands of other crucifixions the Romans carried out. That said, we also need to know that crucifixion was a particularly brutal and humiliating form of execution, intended not only to punish the criminal, but also to deter spectators from following in his footsteps. It was a method of punishment and propaganda.

To that end, the soldiers posted a sign, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." The message to spectators would be plain: "see what happens to people who stand up to Caesar."

The ordeal ends with Jesus giving a loud shout and yielding His spirit to His Father. When He does, it seems as if all creation convulses. Most notably, the temple curtain is torn in two, from top to bottom, signifying that the barrier between God and man has been breached at God's initiative.

Jesus Provides Life for Us

1 John 4:7-10

John argues persuasively that Jesus' suffering and death was not a random tragedy, but a divinely appointed act of sacrificial love. Suffering serves a greater purpose: to bring man back into the loving fellowship of God.

God is love, and His love is revealed in His sending Jesus, that we might live through Him. The word "propitiation" comes from the Old Testament sacrificial system, and has a root meaning of "expunge" or "cover." In Christ, our sin is covered, washed away.

But forgiveness is painful, even for us. How hard it is for us to forgive someone who has truly sinned against us! At the cross, we come to grips with the pain that God endured to forgive us. Mercy is precious; truly, we are bought with a price.

Those who accept this forgiveness will demonstrate the same love that purchased our redemption. "Let us love one another," John said. John calls on us to love others, especially our brothers and sisters in the faith, and this, in spite of the ways they may sin against us. Such love, modeled after Christ, is not easy, but it is the only proof that our faith in Christ is real.

John's instruction is a reminder that the Christian life can never be lived in isolation: love requires the presence of others. That's a point we'll linger on in a couple of weeks.
3/18/2004 11:00:00 PM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for April 11: Risen Lord : Friday, March 19, 2004

March 18 2004 by Vic Ramsey

Family Bible Study lesson for April 11: Risen Lord : Friday, March 19, 2004
Friday, March 19, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for April 11: Risen Lord

By Vic Ramsey
Matthew 28:1-10; Ephesians 2:4-9

In Moscow's Red Square, the remains of Vladamir Lenin, founder of the Communist Party, are preserved in a Plexiglas coffin. In Washington D.C., a natural gas flame burns perpetually over the tomb of President John Kennedy.

But there is no tomb where the remains of Jesus of Nazareth lie. At Easter, we celebrate the most audacious and distinctive claim of Christianity: He is risen!

A scientist was once asked about the existence of UFO's. He replied succinctly, "Important, if true."

Such is the evaluation of the gospel, and especially of the resurrection. If the reports of the resurrection are untrue, then they are meaningless. If, however, the resurrection really happened, then it really matters.

Consider the Empty Tomb

Matthew 28:1-7

The chief priests had evidently heard rumors of Jesus' prediction that He would rise from the dead. They, of course, did not believe this claim, but they feared the disciples would steal His body and then spread the rumor that He had risen. To prevent this, they arranged for a guard at the tomb where Jesus' body lay.

Mary of Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, went to the tomb early on the third day, the first day of the week. Christians commemorate this fact every week, when we gather for worship on Sunday, in honor of the Lord's resurrection.

Matthew reports that an angel of the Lord opened the tomb. The women found the angel sitting on the stone that had sealed the tomb, much as a hunter might pose over the body of an animal he had killed, or a boxer might stand over his vanquished opponent.

Matthew lingers over the description of the angel, and emphasizes the fear his appearance caused, not only in the women, but also in the Roman soldiers assigned to guard the tomb.

Angels, throughout the Bible, routinely inspire this reaction, in contrast to the much softer image of angels that appear in television, movies and art.

The angel instructed the women to inspect the empty tomb. By itself, the empty tomb does not prove the resurrection. But if the resurrection is true, the tomb must be empty, and it is important for the women to see that it is so.

Believe the Eye Witnesses

Matthew 28:8-10

The women depart, understandably confused, "with fear and great joy." As they hurry to find the disciples, they are confronted with Jesus Himself. "Rejoice!" he tells them. They fall at His feet in worship. Then Jesus instructs the women to tell the disciples to return to Galilee, and that He would meet them there.

In a court of law, eyewitness testimony is often the most convincing evidence that can be presented. The Scriptures record a series of encounters between the risen Lord and His followers, the first of which is this meeting on Easter Sunday morning, in the vicinity of the empty tomb.

That Jesus appeared first to the women is important in another way. In the first century, a woman's testimony was not considered trustworthy in a court case. If the gospel writers had been attempting to deceive, they would certainly not have used women as the initial witnesses. That the gospels do record women to be the first witnesses testifies to the essential accuracy of the gospel record.

Receive God's Gracious Salvation

Ephesians 2:4-9

The apostle Paul never got over his personal encounter with the risen Lord (Acts 9, Galatians 1). The resurrection was, to him, the proof of the gospel, and the source of salvation and hope.

In Ephesians 2, Paul describes our salvation experience in resurrection terms. We are "made alive" with Christ (v. 5), and "raised up with Him" (v. 6).

All this is grace. No one rises from the dead of his own power. No one earns forgiveness by his own works. We are forgiven and we possess eternal life as a gift.

But grace does not leave us the same. We are transformed by grace, just as Christ was transformed by resurrection. Ultimately, this is the most convincing "proof" that Jesus is alive: the changed lives of His followers.

3/18/2004 11:00:00 PM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for April 4: In Remembrance : Friday, March 19, 2004

March 18 2004 by Linda Jones

Formations lesson for April 4: In Remembrance : Friday, March 19, 2004
Friday, March 19, 2004

Formations lesson for April 4: In Remembrance

By Linda Jones
Luke 22:14-23

We sign contracts all the time - for homes, automobiles, cell phones, rental agreements, etc. Contracts are for limited periods of time, have specific actions, and are based on "if ... then." They usually are based on a desire to get something.

In this passage, Jesus and the disciples are sharing the Passover meal together. It is the Last Supper. Jesus offers the bread and wine saying, "this is My body, which is given for you ... This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood."

What is the difference between a contract and a covenant?

Covenants and Contracts

In the Old Testament, God made a covenant with Abraham, who was told that God would give him a son and that His offspring would be as many as the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:4,5,18). In Gen. 17:1-8, circumcision was a sign of Abraham's covenant to God.

In Exodus 19:5,6, God established a covenant with Moses and the Hebrew nation. The people of Israel were to "obey Me fully and keep My covenant" and God promised, "you will be My treasured possession. You will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." He agreed to be their God and asked that they obey Him and follow His instructions.

1 Cor. 11:25 recounts Jesus' words at the Last Supper: "In the same way, He took the cup of wine after supper, saying, "this cup is the new covenant between God and you, sealed by the shedding of My blood."

A covenant, similar to a contract, is an agreement between two or more people, but the nature of it is much different. Covenants are initiated for the benefit of other people. The promises are unconditional, not dependent on the other person's behavior. Human covenants are made between people; and are imperfect because people are going to fail at times. Divine covenants are made between God and His people, between two unequal parties. God always keeps His promises!

Jesus' Sacrifice

For the Jewish people, Passover is a time of remembering when the blood of a lamb was placed on the lintel of their doors. Israel's first born were passed over while the Egyptians were judged.

In the same manner, Jesus is our lamb. In verse 19, Jesus calls us to remember Him - His body and blood given for us; His sacrifice. It is a sacrifice that calls us into a covenant relationship with Him. Jesus freely sacrificed Himself for our sin in order that we might have salvation (Jer. 31:31, Matt. 26:28, 2 Cor. 3-4, and Heb. 8-10).

What is our response to this covenant?

Proclaiming His Death and His Life

Eph. 3:8 says: "God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago."

Eph. 5:1-2 says: "Follow God's example in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave Himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins."

How well are you loving the world? How about loving the difficult people in your life? Do you sacrifice your time, effort and money in order to love the unlovely?

We are so busy being busy. Yet God calls us to go into the entire world with love. We are to be messengers of God's love and grace. We are to listen to the brokenhearted, encourage those who are depressed, give hope to those who feel useless, abused, rejected. We are to take time to build relationships of trust. We have good news - really good news!

Can we say to God, "You've given Your all to me? Here I am, use me as You've never used me before?"
3/18/2004 11:00:00 PM by Linda Jones | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for April 11: Practicing Resurrection : Friday, March 19, 2004

March 18 2004 by Linda Jones

Formations lesson for April 11: Practicing Resurrection : Friday, March 19, 2004
Friday, March 19, 2004

Formations lesson for April 11: Practicing Resurrection

By Linda Jones
Luke 24:1-12

By now, many of us have seen the movie, "The Passion of the Christ." We've encountered Jesus in a profound, new way. We were there! We watched His suffering and we suffered with Him. We cried as He was beaten.

When Simon carried the cross, did you wish you could help carry it too? We watched Jesus' response to His enemies. Oh, how I wanted to hate them. They were so full of evil and hate. Yet He loved them still. "Father forgive them. They do not know what they are doing."

The Unexpected

Luke 24:1-5

The women had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body with spices they had prepared. Something totally unexpected happened. Can you imagine being part of that scene? Two men in dazzling clothes appear. The women were terrified.

Day after day, our lives are often filled with routine. And suddenly, the unexpected appears! We expected our day to be the same and now it is turned upside down - an illness, a car accident, a misunderstanding, conflict, cancer, and loss. We are scared, perplexed. "How can this happen to me," we say!

In verse 5, the two men remind the women of Jesus' words: "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen." God had kept His promise. Psalms 110:4 says: "The Lord has taken an oath and will not break His vow."

Remembering His Promises

Luke 24:5-8

Just a short time before, during the Last Supper, Jesus had told the disciples what was going to happen. "But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there" (Matt. 26: 32). Now, the two men/angels were reminding them, "Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified and on the third day rise again."

How quickly we forget, especially when the unexpected happens.

What are the promises that God has given to you?
  • Eternal life - "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in Me and will never perish" (John 11:25,26).
  • His presence - "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5).
  • Wisdom - "If you need wisdom, if you want to know what God wants you to do, ask Him, and He will gladly tell you" (James 1:5).
  • Purpose in living - "For I know the plans I have for you" says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • What are some things we could participate in that would help us to remember His promises? (daily devotions, journaling, prayer, ministry, sharing our story).

    Tell Your Story

    Luke 24:9-12

    Everyone loves a story! Stories are innate to the human experience. As far back as the cavemen writing on the walls of a cave, we have listened to and told stories. Stories are personal - they speak to the heart.

    Luke 14:9 tells us that the 11 and all the others did not believe the women, but Peter went to see for himself.

    People may not believe our story but they will listen to it and sometimes, just like Peter, they will go and see for themselves.

    Jesus said: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." And in Acts 1:8 He said: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and in Samaria."

    Who are two or three people who don't have a personal relationship with Jesus that you could build a friendship with? Hang out together, just love them with no strings attached.

    Look for open windows, dropped clues - where you attend church and where you're involved.

    Look for opportunities to gently turn the conversation to spiritual matters. Take a risk - simply tell your own story.

    God wants to be a blessing to all the nations through you. Whose life could you influence by telling your story? Whose life could you change?

    3/18/2004 11:00:00 PM by Linda Jones | with 0 comments

    Boatless and happy : Friday, March 19, 2004

    March 18 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

    Boatless and happy : Friday, March 19, 2004
    Friday, March 19, 2004

    Boatless and happy

    By Tony W. Cartledge
    BR Editor

    Two years ago our family purchased a used boat, anticipating many an idyllic day spent cruising the lake, fishing in a quiet cove or teaching Samuel to ski.

    It didn't work out quite that way.

    Every hour spent on the lake required at least another hour of trouble and trial looking after the boat.

    Our subdivision prohibits boats in driveways, so we paid big bucks to park it in a lot near the lake.

    Samuel had no interest in riding a tube or learning to ski, and he got bored quickly, especially when the fish weren't biting.

    They were never biting.

    One hot summer afternoon spawned a fast-developing thunderstorm with towering waves that almost capsized the boat and gave me a new appreciation for the story about Jesus' disciples becoming frightened when their boat was caught in a storm.

    Our last time out, a water hose sprung a leak and spewed water into the boat, leading Samuel to think we were going to sink.

    We decided to cut our losses, repair the boat and sell it as springtime approached.

    A classified ad on caught the notice of a West Virginia family that includes two teenagers who love the water. I was glad to see it go to a good home, though it went for considerably less money than I had hoped.

    If boats do anything well, it's depreciate.

    I did some rough calculations of what we had spent to purchase, store, repair, winterize, fuel, accessorize and pay taxes on the boat, minus what we recovered in the sale. When I compared that to the estimated 18-20 hours we actually spent on the lake in two years, it worked out to about $200 per hour - not counting labor.


    It is often said that the two happiest days of a boat owner's life are the day he buys the boat, and the day he sells it - but I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

    I do, however, have a new sense of identity with the fishermen-turned-disciples Peter and Andrew, James and John. I may not always follow Jesus as faithfully, but I had no trouble leaving the boat behind.

    3/18/2004 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

    Looking for information : Friday, March 19, 2004

    March 18 2004 by

    Looking for information : Friday, March 19, 2004
    Friday, March 19, 2004

    Looking for information

    The First Baptist Church of New London, formerly New London Baptist Church, will soon be 100 years old. I am trying to locate family members of the following ministers: C.J. Black, E.M. Brooks, Q.C. Davis, J.W.P. Hill, J.D. Maler, Gerald K. Ford, D.J. Robinson, J.W. Whitley and Edward Cole. If you can provide any information, please contact me at or call (704) 982-6000.

    I would appreciate your help.

    Daphine P. Pickler

    New London, N.C.

    3/18/2004 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments

    Seeking photographs : Friday, March 19, 2004

    March 18 2004 by

    Seeking photographs : Friday, March 19, 2004
    Friday, March 19, 2004

    Seeking photographs

    First Baptist Church of Mount Airy will be celebrating its 125th anniversary on Oct. 3. We would like to showcase pictures of our former pastors. If you have pictures, or any historical information about our church that you would be willing to share, please contact us at First Baptist Church, 714 North Main St., Mount Airy, N.C. 27030; phone (336) 786-5185; or fax (336) 789-3982. Our former pastors are: C.C. Haymore, T.H. King, Carrington Paulette, L.R. Pruitt, E.I. Olive, Preston Taylor, J.H. Lambeth, E.G. Davis, Ken Wilson, R. Dan Haymore, I.T. Jacobs, James Powell, A.R. Love, J.R. Johnson, J.L. Bryson, J.M. Hamrick, W.L. Johnson, Alfred L. Miller, A.L. Betts, Albert S. Hale, Jim Langford, J.E. Smith, R.K. Redwine, Roger Gilbert, and E.T. Carter.

    Martha Morgan

    Mount Airy, N.C.

    3/18/2004 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments

    Faithful to the end : Wednesday, March 17, 2004

    March 16 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

    Faithful to the end : Wednesday, March 17, 2004
    Wednesday, March 17, 2004

    Faithful to the end

    By Tony W. Cartledge
    BR Editor

    They were classic missionaries, the kind of people that so many Baptists look up to as heroes of the faith.

    They were big-hearted, gentle, joyful people who took seriously Christ's command to love others as He loved us.

    They were faithful in responding to God's call, faithful in prayer, faithful in service, faithful unto death in the war torn country of Iraq.

    They were Larry and Jean Elliott, two of our own. And, as close colleague Max Furr has said, "They will be sorely, sorely missed."

    Larry grew up in the Grassy Creek community near Oxford; Jean was a native of Shelby.

    In 1972, they were living in Reidsville, where Larry worked as an engineer for a textile company, and were active members of Baptist Temple Church. High Point native Max Furr spoke that year at an associational WMU meeting held at Reidsville's First Baptist Church. Furr, then a young missionary in Peru, recalls that he felt impressed by God to issue a call to missionary service at the end of his presentation.

    Years later, when they were serving together in Honduras, Jean Elliott asked Furr if he remembered that night. "When you issued that call," she said, "I knew God was calling me to missions."

    Husband Larry felt the same call two years later, and the couple left Reidsville for ministry preparation at Southeastern Seminary before beginning their work in Honduras in 1978.

    Furr remembers Larry Elliott as one of his dearest friends. "I have forded many a river with water up to the windows with Larry," he said. "I've shared tears with Larry as we presented a new home built by volunteers to a Honduran family. I've seen the excitement people have when that clean water comes out of the ground when he drilled a well. I've seen him bow down and pray with people in the countryside and lead them to the Lord. Whatever Larry did, he was happy."

    While Larry spent more time traveling, Jean worked mainly from home, in local churches, and in coordinating volunteers. She was known as an encourager, a cheerful and loving woman who always had an encouraging word.

    The Elliotts firmly believed that God had called them to serve in Iraq, said Bunny Overby, a friend from Reidsville. She remembered how the Elliotts spoke at Baptist Temple during the Christmas holiday, when they knew they were headed to Iraq. The church held a special dinner with local volunteers who had worked with them in Honduras on annual or biannual trips since 1986.

    The dinner was held in "Elliott Hall," a fellowship hall the church had named for them. At the end of the service, pastor George Fox asked the men to surround Larry and lay hands on him, while the women surrounded Jean. They prayed for them and asked God's blessings on their efforts, just as they had in 1972, before the Elliotts left for Honduras.

    "It was a very, very, very special time," said Overby. "They were 100 percent committed to their work and to the call of God's will, and they followed that call," she said.

    Hundreds, if not thousands, of N.C. Baptist volunteers have come to appreciate the Elliotts through working with them in Honduras, while many others grew to love them through their travels and speaking engagements back home.

    Few of us knew that they were leaving the relative safety of Honduras for the danger-ridden streets of Iraq.

    They didn't expect to die there, but they knew it was possible. Even so, they were excited about the assignment. Furr, who had been in e-mail contact with the Elliotts, said they were thrilled to be in Iraq and had fallen in love with the people. Jean could not speak the language, but had learned enough to say her name as she went about hugging women and telling them how beautiful their children were, he said.

    It is children that I connect with the Elliotts. On a sunny Sunday morning in May 2002, the Elliotts carried me along the winding road from Tegucigalpa to the burgeoning new community of Nuevo Sacramento, where they were assisting with a new church.

    There they introduced me to Ledin Rodas, a young boy who was crippled by brittle bone disease. The Elliotts had worked with North Carolina volunteers to facilitate medical treatment that enabled Ledin to achieve his dream of being able to walk.

    I will never forget the sight of Ledin pushing his little walker hurriedly through the mud, anxious for a hug from Larry and Jean.

    It is that image I will keep of the Elliotts. An image of two people who unselfishly ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of everyone they met, an image of two believers who loved Jesus enough to follow Him to the ends of the earth and serve Him until the ends of their lives.

    They will indeed be sorely, sorely missed.

    3/16/2004 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

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