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


183 Responses to “A Tribute”

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  1. 1
    Julie B says:

    Thanks Amanda. That was a beautiful post. I am still crying, but with joy and sorrow both. I know they would be blessed by your obedience.
    Julie Brainard

  2. 2
    Longmeadow Mama says:

    Perhaps they were not only missionaries, but angels, straight from heaven.
    A beautiful tribute that has left me awestruck…Thanks for sharing.

  3. 3
    Dori says:


    What a BEAUTIFUL tribute!! I was touched!


  4. 4
    Anonymous says:

    Wow~ And their testimony lives on encouraging others to believe God and live for Christ.

    Thanks so much for sharing their story to encourage us in this walk.

  5. 5
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing. I needed to read that to look beyond my own pain today.

  6. 6
    Brandy says:

    Hey Amanda, its great to hear from you. I was in tear reading this today. and I agree, who on earth could harm even kill someone so willing to help them. But how awesome to know that these missionaries gave their lives for our Lord! I can only pray to have the strength and courage that they had.

  7. 7
    Stephanie's Mommy Brain says:

    What a wonderful tribute! Career missionaries are indeed regular people with strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. Of those 5,193, three of them were groomsmen in my wedding ten years ago, two of them are close relatives, and numerous others are dear friends. To say missionaries (and their children!) are dear to my heart would be an understatement! = )

  8. 8
    mamabearmk says:

    What a good reminder to us – to prayer for those serving as missionaries, for those missing those missionaries, and for those who are waiting to see their missionary loved ones in glory! And of course, for us, to live for God’s glory to the fullest each day here!
    What a great tribute, Amanda.
    whose first born will be starting EMT/paramedic training so she can minister better in Africa, where she has always wanted to be.

  9. 9
    Amy says:

    It is hard to believe it has been four years. Thank you for your tribute to four amazing people. Honduras is very special in our hearts because we are missionaries there. We live there 3 months out of the year with our five children and my husband. We take students and adults on short term missions hoping to introduce them into the life changing world of missions.

    Blessings on your ministry!

  10. 10
    Pam says:

    What a beautiful tribute. Thank you, Amanda

    It really brings home something I just posted on my site this morning…

    “…I was reading Habakkuk recently… the only thing that stood out (it jumped out!), were four little words… His ways are eternal…”
    That pretty much answers the “Why’s” of our lives. When we don’t understand, we have to remember that “His ways are higher than our ways” and have eternal value. Granted, that’s easier said than done when you’re in the midst of your Why?! moment. Take it from me! My transition from desperately pleading to peacefully conceding has been several years in the making. Finally, lesson learned where dad’s cancer is concerned, but I’m sure there will be future Why?! instances where I have to learn it all over again (I can be dense that way – and full of yeah, but’s!).”

    You’re right, Amanda, may we have the courage to live our lives like those precious people.

  11. 11
    Anonymous says:

    Amanda – what a wonderful tribute. Thank you for sharing that.

    Dripping SPrings, TX

  12. 12
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you Jesus for the lives of all who live to serve you. Praise the Name of Jesus for salvation. I ask in Jesus Name that you supply all the needs that Missionaries around the world have. Give each woman on this blog the courage to serve You with the gifts and talents that you have given each of us. Thank you, Jesus, for the opportunity to reflect on these who died serving You. May God be glorified.
    AMEN and AMEN
    Mary in Alabama

  13. 13
    Rhonda says:

    They were called to make the ultimate sacrifice and I am sure that whatever they suffered here, it is not to be compared to the bliss they enjoy now.

    As a missionary, I sometimes wonder how I would react if God called me to die for Him, and I hope and pray I would do so gladly!

  14. 14
    Bobbie says:

    You’re so precious! Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of a very special couple in your life. What an example of courage, selflessness, faithfulness and love!

    Our prayers will be with you and Curt,also as you continue to work with young people. What a gift God has given the two of you to share with others.

    Prayers and Blessings

  15. 15
    Michelle Bentham says:

    The story of these precious servants touches me in the deep places, AJ. I know you probably are experiencing some of what I felt this week – bittersweetness at the memories of those you have loved and lost. Bitter because it always feels there was not enough time and the way they died. Sweet because of the precious memories and the knowledge that they are now with their Savior awaiting their reward in Heaven. Blessings sweet one and know God is smiling on you today! He enjoys the praise and the worship of His kids, and you are a beautiful daughter of our King.

    Blessings, Sweet Thing.

  16. 16
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. It has touched my heart!

  17. 17
    sammie says:

    Amanda, I know its been four years but its the first time I’ve heard you talk about this so I want to say how sorry I am for this loss that you and curt went through, and also all the other families involved. The missionary couples I had the honor to meet in Ecuador were very much the same kind of people. Lots of laughter and love to go around. I think about them all the time, they had such a great impact on my life.

  18. 18
    Anonymous says:

    I am so humbled by this story. We live lives of such wealth and ease, yet we grumble and complain the most. Oh, Lord God forgive our selfishness and ingratitude make us mindful that most of the world is not like our own. Help us remember those who literally give their everything for You. Oh Father, bless them this day with Your comfort and pour out Your Spirit so that they do not become weary in well doing. Father open our eyes to hurting and lost around us and open our hearts and hands to Your service. Be glorified so that the world may know that there is a God in Heaven and His Son who came to save.

    Wanda in Georgia

  19. 19
    Karen says:

    Hey, Amanda, The dogs and I just got home from our walk in a park, and we were praising God for this very beautiful morning here in North Texas. Then I read your posting. I know it took a lot out of you to write all that out, and I know your heart hurt while you did it. Thank you for sharing this testimony that simultaneously shatters my heart yet fills it with awe and joy knowing how mighty are God’s plans for each of His children. How blessed you and so many others were to know such amazing saints! How blessed the world was to have them. Thank you for telling us about them so we, too, can be blessed and inspired and reminded. Thank you.

  20. 20
    Tennessee Mama Duck says:

    Wow! I was not expecting that ending… Here on earth it is so hard to understand death. We see it as an end. God sees it so differently.

    A good friend of mine suddenly lost her son when he was 3 years old by an impaired driver. Two short months before the accident, that 3 year old boy led his father (her husband) to the Lord! After the child’s death, in her wisdom she said, “God was finished with him here on earth.”

  21. 21
    HIS daughter says:

    Thank you AJ for sharing this. It made me have a huge lump in my throat. I remember when this happened.

    I also have Carrie’s book and started reading it, but at the time, I could not keep reading because I cried so much.

    It was when I first became “his daughter” and he was turning my heart of stone into a heart of flesh and I was able to cry for the first time in years and years.
    It’s wonderful, yet scary at first when you have the defenses knocked down.

    Your Mom said that she prayed for a specific region and those missionaries every day. I think I remember that from somewhere. She said the LORD had laid it on her heart and I have the book that she helped compile by the missionaries. It’s wonderful.

    We should all pray for them. We should go if we have the chance even for a short visit because everyone I know that does comes back totally changed in their walk for the LORD.

    I have a verse the LORD gave to us the night my Mom passed away and I think it speaks of these saints…

    “Precious in the sight of the LORD
    Is the death of His godly ones.” Psalm 116:15

    Thank you for sharing your heart.
    Prayers, blessing and much love,

  22. 22
    Anonymous says:

    I do rember that & it so broke my heart.I do want to be like them.I want to go anywhere the Lord wants me to go & till others about him anyway I can.Thanks for reminding me of the date today.God bless love sister in Christ Victoria NC

  23. 23
    Cristie says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart so dearly today. It’s a good reminder of what is truly important in this life. Yes, let’s praise Him for these dear saints and let’s be ever mindful to follow their example. Praise God!

  24. 24
    hisfivefooter says:

    Oh friend-
    My heart rejoices in the fact you are not ignorant, as it does with the joy of knowing that for those dear ones we know that “your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” I am a former missionary kid and grew up with the realization of all that it means. I do not know why your friends were taken, they were a seed planted which brings forth it’s fruit in it’s season. I do know there are many people out there who have a burning passion for the very thing that your friends died doing. Elisabeth Elliots book talks about this very idea which God does sometimes. I do not get Him in this, but I do believe in His Sovreignty (sp?) We do not want to go out for the Lord in ignorance, nor on emotion (which dies like a flame on a match), but to go with a passion that is fueled by a love for God and a love for the lost. We can ask God for that passion that your friends so beautifully modeled for you! God will answer that prayer! Be careful! IT IS DANGEROUS! And, might I add, THE MOST FULFILLING THING YOU WILL EVER DO!
    I love you Amanda-your heart is tender for Jesus. May you and Curt stay that way!
    I am thanking God for your dear friends who were sacrificial in their lives, poured out as an offering to Him!

  25. 25
    georgia tarheel says:

    Wow, Amanda! Thank you for that. So often we get caught up in our own lives and the “hard” things we endure, forgetting that there are those out there on the front lines being persecuted and even killed for their faith. I needed that reminder as I suffered a “woe is me” kinda day!

    Praying for all those who choose to serve God on foreign soil (whether that foreign soil is in the US or not)–may they be surrounded by God’s protection and may they be encouraged by God’s people that they may finish God’s purpose wherever they are!

  26. 26
    christina l says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I didn’t know them, but reading about them impacted me greatly.

  27. 27
    Bittersweet says:

    Praise God for those who are not only obedient to the call of missions, but JOYFUL in it. When we lose wonderful Christian evangelists like these, we must reject the urge to ask God why He took them, and instead thank Him for using them while they were here. However horrendous their physical deaths may seem to our earthly minds, let’s rejoice in their service to the Kingdom of God. Their friends and loved ones are in my prayers.

    Amber in TN

  28. 28
    Anonymous says:

    Melissa, thank you for this message. I needed to have a true perspective on my day and this wondeful testimony of lives surrendered to the Lord was what I needed to hear. May we all have that willingness to serve God in whatever capacity He gives us.

  29. 29
    annette says:

    Thank you for sharing this precious couple’s testimony.

    They are overcomers!

  30. 30
    Theresa says:

    Beautiful post! Right now my future father-in-law is on a missions trip to Brazil. I pick him up from the airport on Wednesday and I can’t wait to hear all about it!

    You have to be a special person to do missions work.

  31. 31
    Pam B from SC says:

    I read the book by Carrie McDonnall and was greatly moved by their compassion on the field and the passion in their hearts. I read the words Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit “poured out like a drink offering” and wonder what that looks like. I think it looks like the life of a missionary.

  32. 32
    nicole says:

    Beautifully written. Your post touched my heart. I have always wanted to go on a missionary trip but I am a single mom of two young children…but one day I KNOW that I will go and serve others for Jesus; perhaps I can take my kids with me…time will tell, if it is His will. Bless you,

  33. 33
    Brett, April, Caden & Corban says:

    What a sweet tribute to those special people in your life. And from a woman on the mission field, thank you for writing “… I had learned that missionaries are regular people¬—regular people who love the Lord and are willing to serve Him outside their comfort zones..” If only everyone could learn that lesson.

  34. 34
    Cheryl Barker says:

    Thanks, Amanda, for this precious look into the lives of some very ordinary people who dedicated and eventually gave their lives in service to our Lord. I know some missionaries personally, too, and like you said, they are absolutely wonderful people. Thanks for sharing this.

  35. 35
    Dana says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful/heartbreaking story. Our lives have been touched by so many missionary families as well. Please pray for your missionaries. They are regular people like you and me with regular struggles. BUT they are in different countries and have the stress and strain of living in a strange land. Thanks to all of the missionaries that go to make a difference.

  36. 36
    Dana says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful/heartbreaking story. Our lives have also been changed by missionary families. Please pray for your own missionaries. They are regular people with regular problems. They have extraordinary faith, but are just like us. Thank you to all the missionaries that are out there. Thanks for going…we love you.

  37. 37
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing this profound story.

  38. 38
    jennyhope says:

    over and over I think about Hebrews 11 and how this world was not worthy of the faith that these people had.
    Thank you so much for this it really touched my heart and I am so sorry for your loss.

  39. 39
    beckyjomama says:

    Missionaries are AMAZING people!! Some of the most humble people as well. We did frequent short term missions before marriage and children. Now I am a missionary on the home field (but still hope and pray that God has some big stuff out there still!!!)

    I love your heart Amanda!
    God Bless you!
    Becky Jo

  40. 40
    Rachel says:

    “…they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

    Thank you for this tribute. It gives me courage on a day when I’m tempted to shrink into the death of self instead of expanding toward life in Christ as these missionaries did–life that even death can’t destroy.

  41. 41
    Kathleen in TX says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your friends and servants of God! I’m sure that the stories of their lives and the lives changed by their work will continue to glorify the Father.

  42. 42
    Jina says:


    I just wanted you to know how beautiful your heart is. You radiate the love of Jesus in your own unique way, letting the world see glimpses of his glory through the cracks in your clay is an honor that you obviously hold dearly.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and reminding believers to continue to purse the Rock. We can survive the “Shakings” when we hold onto Him. He is our source of security. Praise His Name.

    Blessings on your sweet family.

  43. 43
    Annalou says:


    Thank you for sharing that inspiring tribute. The Elliott’s (spelled exactly like my grandparents last name!) sound like they were wonderful soldiers in the army of Christ.

    You know, we may forget it sometimes, but we really are in a war. We don’t battle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Which I know you know.) I often have to remind myself of this.

    I’ve often thought that those who are martyred for their faith are likely more blessed for it. Just think of the crowns they will have to lay at the feet of Jesus. :o)

    It’s just very difficult for those of us who are left behind and have to go on living without them.

    Thank you for sharing the their story and lives with us.

    Blessings in Christ,


  44. 44
    Marilyn says:

    Thank you for sharing the testimony of these missionaries with us. It somehow reminded me of the deathes of Jim Eliot, Nate Saint and the three other missionaries who were murdered in the 1950’s. They were all truly obedient to the Lord…even unto death….and serve as great examples to the rest of us.

  45. 45
    Alyce says:

    Thanks for sharing Amanda.
    What a story! There is peace in knowing their work here on earth was of God and there is peace in knowing that they are rejoicing in Heaven w/ the Lord now..

  46. 46
    Anonymous says:

    thank you for sharing…stories like this are so encouraging!
    Praise God for the impact these missionaries had on you!

  47. 47
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you Amanda for this post! It is good to give praise and glory to our God for how He has worked in our lives, and others’ lives, through people like the Elliots! And thank you for seeing that missionaries are regular people. I have been on the field now for almost a year with my husband and three young daughters (ages 6, 4.5, and 2), and trust me, there is no way I could be doing this! It is only God working through me! And a side note – I’m here partly because of your mom. I was going through the Believing God study when God called us and He used that greatly in confirming His call! Keep encouraging our sisters in Christ! You are loved greatly because of it.

  48. 48
    Anonymous says:

    Good word, AJ. It is time we continually lift praise to the Lord and ask for boldness and courage for all those who are on the front lines of danger for the sake of the gospel!

  49. 49
    Julie says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing that with us Amanda. What an inspiration missionaries are. It makes me think twice before complaining about my service to the Lord. I think that we get so busy in our everyday lives that we forget about people who are dying for what we believe in.

  50. 50
    Sing with joy for God says:

    I read your blogs always and am touched many times but this is my first time to comment. Thank you so much for your beautiful, poignant tribute to your friends. I have a special place in my heart for these warriors of the Lord. My heart aches for the loss of their families but I can just imagine the tenderness with which they were received into the Father arms. I am jealous of the way they served our sweet Savior with such abandon. I pray that I will always show such courage.

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