A Tribute

When Curt and I were first married, we served in the youth ministry at Houston’s First Baptist Church. In July of 2003, we were going to help lead a youth mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. This was going to be the Joneses’ first trip to Honduras and our first mission trip as a married couple. (Curt has been back three more times and is actually there right now.) Our church had strong ties with Larry and Jean Elliott, a missionary couple who had been serving in that area for decades. Every summer HFBC sent a youth team to work with them and their mission churches.

A few months before the trip, the Elliotts were going to be in our city visiting family. They had raised their son and daughter in Honduras and were now grandparents of young children who lived in Houston. We set up a time to meet with them and the other couple leading the trip with us so that we could plan our week. I had never met the Elliotts, nor any other career missionaries, and I honestly had no idea what to expect. In my ignorance and stupidity, I thought the dinner would probably be really boring. I didn’t even want to go, but I knew I should.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this precious couple shattered any preconceived notion that I had about missionaries. Larry and Jean were some of the warmest, most joyful, most down to earth people I had ever met. We fell in love with them instantly. One thing that struck me was how much they laughed, and I have to say that it was a treat to hear Larry’s laugh. He had such a good one. Larry and Jean had tons of stories to tell about their experiences in Honduras. It was so interesting to listen to them. God had given this couple an incredible twenty-six-year ministry there. The first church they planted had grown exponentially and had gone on to plant more churches that in turn planted more churches. God had His hand on everything they did. They had a passion for disaster relief, which I believe was birthed out of the devastation that Hurricane Mitch brought to that country in 1998. Only God knows how many lives they were able to touch through evangelism, discipleship, and ministering to folks in the midst of crisis.

After the dinner, I had so much to say to Curt about this wonderful couple. I couldn’t wait for our trip. Before long, we arrived in Tegucigalpa with our youth and got to work. We were able to see first hand what God had done and was doing in that area through seeds the Elliotts, other missionaries like the Torbert family, and local believers had planted.

The Elliotts had our whole team over to their house for dinner one night and served us a great meal. Just being in their home made an impact on me. I remember saying something to Jean about the house and she was quick to say, “Thank you, Lottie Moon!” If you are Southern Baptist, you may know that the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering helps support our 5,193 IMB missionaries on the field.

That night Larry showed us a slideshow and some souvenirs from his recent trip to Iraq. His passion for anyone living in devastation was burning a hole in his heart for the Iraqi people. He wanted to enable hospitals and people to have purified water and, simply put, he could help! I wish I could convey his excitement as he showed us each picture in the slide show. He and Jean were seriously seeking God about ending their ministry in Honduras and beginning a new one in Iraq.

The trip came to an end and I got a big hug and “We love you!” from Jean in the airport. I nearly cried saying goodbye to her. She was just such a dear person.

I came home from Honduras changed in many ways. For one, I had learned that missionaries are regular people – regular people who love the Lord and are willing to serve Him outside their comfort zones. The Elliotts made me realize that being a missionary was not for the highest order of pious, perfect, solemn believers, which is what I had always imagined. Instead, a missionary could actually be someone like me! Or like you! A normal person who loves the Lord, who laughs, who loves their grandkids, and who loves being with friends. Don’t get me wrong. The Elliotts are spiritual giants, but the message of their life said, “You can do this, too. God can use you!”

Just two months later, having gained some confidence that God could use a normal person like me outside my comfort zone, Curt and I began looking into an opportunity to serve teenagers in England. It would only be for five months, but that seemed like a long time to us! We would leave March 9, 2004.

Before we left, Larry and Jean came back to Houston for a visit. Larry needed to borrow a car for a few days, so we got to take him our truck. Later they both came to Tuesday night Bible study. I was so excited to have them there. Jean had been in some of my mom’s Bible studies back in Honduras. I got to send some resources from the office back to the mission field with them and they gave us a bottle of yummy Honduran vanilla, among other things. It was such a blessing to cross paths with them again. Jean told me we might see them in England sometime since that would be sort of a home base for them while they were living in Iraq.

March 9 finally came and we boarded a British Airways flight to the UK. We were really excited, but I was also nervous and worried about being terribly homesick. Just five days later, on March 14, I was checking my email and received devastating news. Jean and Larry Elliott, along with missionaries David McDonnall and Karen Watson, had been killed in Mosul, Iraq. They had been checking out different locations for water purification projects in the city when their truck was targeted and attacked by gunmen. Only newlywed Carrie McDonnall had survived.

My world was spinning and my heart was absolutely broken to pieces. “No, Lord! This can’t be! And we are here – in part – because of them!” I wanted my mother, but she was an ocean away. I wanted to grieve with everyone else and talk about the impact this couple had had on my life, but we would not be able return to the States for their memorial service in Houston.

I don’t understand how anyone could harm, even murder, such precious people – people who had come to help them! And it hurts tremendously to think about the huge loss their families have experienced. But I do know that the Lord, in a way that is hard for my human mind to grasp, honored these servants by allowing them to not only live for Him, but to also die for Him.

Today, on the fourth anniversary of the homegoings of Larry and Jean Elliott, David McDonnall, and Karen Watson, let’s give profuse praise to God for selfless, courageous people who put their lives on the line every day as they work to build up God’s Kingdom. Let’s thank Him for the advancement of Light into darkness and for the souls who will worship before the throne from cultures that are hostile toward the Gospel of Christ. Let’s pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are enduring persecution, especially in Iraq. Let’s praise God for their perseverance and for the glory they bring to Him. Let’s ask God to bless our sweet friend Carrie McDonnall as she continues to pour out her life for her Savior. Let’s praise Jesus for the victory He has already won and for the day He will do away with death forever!

We may not want to die like these precious saints, but we want to live like them – with courage, selflessness, faithfulness, and love.

“They overcame [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11)

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

*If you’d like to read more about these missionaries, check out these two resources:

Facing Terror by Carrie McDonnall and Kristen Billerbeck
Lives Given, Not Taken by Erich Bridges and Jerry Rankin

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183 Responses to “A Tribute”

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Comments:

  1. 151
    Shan in Japan says:

    Thank you for sharing this tribute. Thank you also for the comment about missionaries being regular people. We laugh, cry, bleed red, miss our families, and love our Jesus just like our brothers and sisters in our home countries. We don’t feel we are doing anything super spiritual, just doing what God called us to do, just as our brothers and sisters at home are doing.
    May we all continue to seek to serve Jesus wherever He has placed us in this world!

  2. 152
    Shellie Paparazzo says:

    What a blessing to have been able to know them. And thank you for the reminder that we need to pray for those who are have put themselves in harms way in order to serve Christ. That was beautiful. Thank you, Lord, for these beautiful people.

  3. 153
    Sydney says:

    I read Carrie’s book a couple of years ago and was amazed by her story. Thank you for reminding us of the many people joyfully serving our Lord even in the face of persecution and death. May they be encouraged by the many prayers on their behalf that you have inspired today!

  4. 154
    Michelle says:

    I Must give a shoutout to my twin sis who is living as a missionary in Nepal! She is the craziest, most hilarious, full of life girl I have ever met, and she defionatly would shatter any boring missionary sterotypes anyone would ever have. God picks all kinds of special people to do his Work!

  5. 155
    Michelle says:

    By the way, after I added my comment I read a comment left by my twin sis jenn.I didn’t even know she read this blog. HOw funny. WEll I hope you guys all check out her blog, reachsouthasia.blogspot.com. She is An AMazing writer

  6. 156
    Anonymous says:

    Saw and heard Carrie at Women of Faith, and read her book, precious, amazing, they had a love story, a beautiful, tender love story, thanks for this tribute Amanda, they deserve to be remembered. May their names always be for a blessing. Shalom

  7. 157
    Faith says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this post! How tragic, and yet we know that their death was precious in God’s sight and they are now in the glories of heaven. My parents have always been involved in missions and we often hosted career missionaries in our home. From the age of 5 I wanted to be a missionary, because of how cool and fun and fascinating and caring our missionary friends were. 🙂

  8. 158
    Donna says:

    Hi Amanda,

    Truly a wonderful tribute to people who dearly loved their LORD, each and every one of them. I remember the day well since I knew both Carrie and David and had served in the same region with them. May their lives continue to speak to His great glory!
    Donna T

  9. 159
    cheryl says:

    Thank you! I knew this, but it still makes me stop and think… My son leaves in June for 2 months in Thailand to serve Christ with Adventures in Missions. My daughter and her husband will be going to India to work for 2 weeks at the the Asha house.( an orphanage that some friends of theirs helped to start. Im so very proud of them! I do worry, some, but Jesus loves them more than I do, so I know they are loved alot! He knows whats best for them and for His Kingdom.

  10. 160
    Chris says:

    Amanda,

    Your mother is right…you have such a big, beautiful heart! I’m always so inspired by you. You have planted a seed for me with this tribute. Thank you.

    xo Chris

  11. 161
    Andreea says:

    Wow…I had no idea…

  12. 162
    Anonymous says:

    Beth and Amanda,

    Heard about the tornado’s in Alanta Georgia just checking in to see if Melissa and Colin were fine.

    Also I didn’t mean to sound like I didn’t have a heart about the tribute to our Brother’s and Sister missionaries. I wasn’t thinking when I was putting the post up . Honestly I didn’t mean anything bad, I was in pain about my eleven year old daughter. I’m asking for forgiveness.

    Sometimes you mean to write something and it sounds bad on your end. Thank You for Praying for Her . I got my answer from the Lord today and I do beleive He will Help us !

    Wanted to say I love Ya’ll

    Susan Murphy

  13. 163
    Judy says:

    Amanda
    Thank you so much for this tribute.
    My heart breaks, and yet like you so many questions race in my head.I feel events like this we need to hide in our hearts and never forget. Sometimes as a christian and a heart for lost soles comes with a price that we tend to not want to face. May we pray without ceasing for those in the mission field, wether in this country or overseas. Thank you Amanda for sharing this with us.

    Love in Christ
    Judy

  14. 164
    karen says:

    Amanda
    This tribute touched my heart. My daughter is in Tegucigalpa on a missions trip over spring break. Praise God for the work he continues to do in this area and around the world. What an honor it is to serve him. In Christ Karen

  15. 165
    Anonymous says:

    As a missionary in a country where the ‘missionary’ word cannot be used, thank you so much for your tribute to these saints that have gone before. God has used your words to bring a fresh breath of the Spirit today.

    Blessings,

    RW

  16. 166
    Joni says:

    Beautifully written, Amanda. Truly God-inspired.

    “We may not want to die like these precious saints, but we want to live like them – with courage, selflessness, faithfulness, and love.”

    I couldn’t agree more. And with Christ, it is possible. Hallelujah!

  17. 167
    Anonymous says:

    Amanda, Thank you for remembering the date of their homecoming! My daughter knew them and served with them in Iraq and it was so awful to see it on tv and to not know who all had died and who was left alone and I was in fear because I didn’t know right away that my son-in-law was with them or not. Then they called and were alive but so much in pain for Carrie and the others. I was blessed to go to Davids funeral in Lamar and it was an honor to be with his family and to pray for them and to be able to tell them “David” stories that I had heard from my child. His family is pretty amazing. My daughter had told me many things about the Elliots and her love for them and I never had the privilidge of meeting them but loved them because they were “mama and daddy” to all the young men and women who served with them. My child is over in the Middle East again – she is full time there with my 4 grandchildren and you all can add them to your prayer list if you will. I will not be signing this – of course – but just wanted to say thank you for remembering them. Please do pray for that sweet Carrie, she is a blessing to my family still and we just love her so much. Pray for her ministry opportunities to grow. She has much to say and not just her testimony – she is wise beyond her years and such a warm and loving person. Thank you again, ME P.S. I can harldy wait until the 28th and 29th Jacksonville Here We Come – I am bringing about 13 women and we are ready to hear what the Lord has laid on Beths heart. I am ready to let some shackles lose!! I love you all – bye

  18. 168
    Darla says:

    Rev. 12:11 is my life verse! I stand on it, and it reminds me that I am an “Overcomer”.

    Thanks for posting AJ, you are so precious, good post!

  19. 169
    Laura says:

    Thank you for a beautiful tribute, Amanda. Your perspective touched me deeply and made me cry. Thank you so much. I can relate to your experience.

  20. 170
    John, Kisti & Maren says:

    Thank you for sharing such a precious story!

  21. 171
    Angie says:

    Amanda,thank you for that beautiful tribute. I just heard Dr. Jerry Rankin tell their story again just 2 weeks ago. It makes it more real when it’s told by people who knew and loved them.

  22. 172
    moldableme says:

    Amanda

    This is such a sweet tribute. It is interesting my grandmother told me about this book about a month ago. Then, as I have been trying to find resources to start a Bible Study on campus where we live, it suddenly came down to Jesus the One and Only. We are home in Georgia for a visit, and my grandmother gives me the book, Facing Terror, and I read the forward by your mom and realized your connection with these people. And then I get online to catch up with my siestas and you have this beautiful tribute. I think its a God thing that He is bringing me to know these people, and through them and their story know more about Himself! I don’t know what God is up to at this point, but I do know He has orchestrated all these pieces at once! I can’t wait!
    Holly

  23. 173
    Shonda says:

    Amanda,
    Thanks for sharing this. My life and perspective of missionaries changed when I went on a STM trip to Africa. I’m encouraged to live a life with more courage, selflessness, faithfulness and love. Thanks.

    Blessings in Christ–

  24. 174
    Deanna says:

    Sometimes the word persecution is just that, a word that we don’t give a lot of thought. But for so many it’s a harsh reality. Amanda, your post has reminded me of just how important is it to pray for our sisters and brothers that are missionaries around the world. And, to thank God for the freedoms that we are allowed to enjoy here at home. Blessings to you.

    Deanna

  25. 175
    tanee142 says:

    Hey guys…are you all okay? I just thought it was odd that there hasn’t been anything from Beth and only one entry from Amanda. I just hope nothing is wrong. I’ve been praying for you extra in case something is going on. Please know that people are praying every day for you and your family, Beth. Praying for your protection and for God to grant you wisdom each day as you seek Him and His Word. I love to hear your passion as you teach. He is just so amazing! Know that He is using you to touch lives and challenge hearts.
    Love in Him,
    Tanya

  26. 176
    Anonymous says:

    Hey amanda. thanks so much for honoring the memory of these amazing ones. I am actually one of those not so boring M’s living in the ME;) we have thought and talked through the memories that teammates have had from that year a lot this month. Your thoughts were so encouraging. thanks again.
    -angela

  27. 177
    Anonymous says:

    Girls,
    Where are you? I have missed your blog the last few days. I pray everything is well in your family.

  28. 178
    Kristen says:

    Amanda,
    I bawled when I read this. What a beautiful tribute and a beautiful reminder to live our lives out loud for Christ.

    Love,
    Kristen

  29. 179
    Anonymous says:

    Amanda,
    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful tribute – I have been blessed beyond measure. I just want to thank you and all of your family for the sacrifices you make and the hard work you put in to share Jesus with all of us! May God richly bless all of you.

  30. 180
    Anonymous says:

    Dear Amanda,
    I can not put into words the joy I felt reading your post and the beautiful tribute to the ones with beautiful feet. Four years ago your precious mother was one of the many miracles that our LORD blessed my sweet daughter and our family with during those dark days following the going home of Larry,Jean, Karen and our sweet David. Now four years later at a time that I felt so many had probably forgotten their sacrifice you allowed HIM to use you in such a special way to honor all who have gone on and those who are still here working those fields! Thank you so much for the tribute and to all you who have posted and written such wonderful things about the Elliotts, and my Carrie. It has truly blessed me and reminded me that GOD is always there, just waiting for me to look up, grab hold and walk on….Carrie continues to walk the road that God has given her, telling her story of God’s abundant grace. She is such an inspiration to her mother, much like you must be to yours. I ask that you all continue to pray for our missionaries and for my Carrie as she carries on….God bless you and keep you and tell your mama that I will always be grateful….for so many things.
    In HIS Hands I Leave You,
    Margaret Taylor (Carrie’s mom)
    ps. If anyone would like to send a note to Carrie, she would love to hear from you and it would truly be an encouragement to her at this time. Contact her at E-mail:carrie@carryonministries.org

  31. 181
    Tanya says:

    Amanda,
    Thanks for sharing this story. There are so many untold heroes of the faith, and it does my heart good to read of them.
    Bless you.
    Tanya

  32. 182
    Susan says:

    Wow what an awesome story and great reminder. We have dear friends serving over in the same area. They did not get over there until May of 2003 or 2004 but it has been so neat to see all the work that God is doing there. So just wanted to let you know that God has put some more great people over there in Honduras. Isn’t it great how the Devil can try as he might but God’s work continues to be done.

  33. 183
    Amy T says:

    Amanda, I’m just now reading this post. I read Carrie’s book and was deeply touched. I am glad God blessed you by bringing them into your life, even so briefly. And think how many lives have been touched because of that. Wow.

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