Have you ever watched a video clip of someone’s family reunion on Facebook or some other social media, and you just wanted to tag yourself right in there? That was my experience yesterday, as a family gave us the chance to see them welcome home a beloved mom and grandmother. Well, they welcomed the dad/grandfather, too, of course, but the surprise was for the mom. To see the joy in Jeannie’s face, as she saw all those loves of her life (all her “favorites”), was precious to all of us who love her and Tom. 4 children (and their spouses) gathered from around the globe with almost all of the 25 grandchildren (two away at college). What a welcome home!
The day of great welcome and joy was a day of quiet reflection for me as their arrival back home was their leaving from here. Tom and Jeannie Elliff have been friends of ours for years, and 3 of those years we were in the same city…until yesterday. In a way, we are an unlikely friendship because their lives are full of pastor friends (pastors of large churches), denominational leaders, seminary presidents and professors, and decades-long church relationships across the US. We are none of those. Yet, they invited us into their lives, as they do the countless strangers they meet and get to know in the minutes they would be together…waitresses, mowers, doctors, electricians, store clerks.
Tom and Jeannie Elliff are consummate encouragers*. They genuinely care about the people God has placed in their path. We know that because God has used them in a big way in our lives. They even pray for our children. How amazing is that? People who have seen God in all their life’s circumstances (no matter how hard) have a joy in them that goes right to the bone. Not only all the way in, but all the way out – refreshing those around them. I won’t recount here the stories of how Tom and Jeannie have seen God work in their lives. Hopefully you’ll hear those stories directly from them. They are always ready to give reasons for the hope that lies within them (1 Peter 3:15).
Today, I just want to thank GOD for them, as Paul did when he wrote his letter to the Philippian church: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6a).
Our walk with God has been deepened in having had the opportunity of watching the lives of these dear ones. So many Scripture passages come to mind in thinking of them and their passion for God – for Him to be known and loved and glorified.
“Therefore, I the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3, NASB).
As they return to their home in Oklahoma, we pray for what they’ve asked us to pray. If you know them, too, you are probably already praying the same. If not…would you pray right now?
Love you, Tom and Jeannie. See you down the road.