CARY, N.C. (ABP) — The deaths of four missionaries in Iraq March 15 has not deterred others headed to the country, the head of the International Mission Board said.
Jerry Rankin, speaking March 25 during the funeral for slain missionaries Larry and Jean Elliott of North Carolina, said he has talked with a young couple who will be going to Iraq in a few weeks. The couple told him they wished they could leave that day.
“'We want to take up the baton,'” Rankin said the couple told him. “'We want to be worthy of the example they set.'”
The Elliotts and two other missionaries were killed in a drive-by shooting. Another was seriously injured. The attack was the most deadly tragedy in 157 years of Southern Baptist missions history and brings to eight the number of IMB missionaries killed by terrorists in the past 14 months.
Rankin said in an interview after the service that the IMB continues to adjust its security measures in wake of the deaths.
After three IMB workers at a Baptist hospital in Yemen were murdered by a terrorist in December 2002, the IMB asked its 5,000 workers to be “more security sensitive,” he said. “The fact is there is no place in the world without danger,” Rankin said. “There's no place you can guarantee safety. The motivation for any missionary is not their own safety.”
A colleague who was working with the Elliotts told Rankin that Larry Elliott repeatedly said he loved his work in Iraq. “'This is what I've lived my life for,'” the worker quoted Elliott as saying. Rankin said the Elliotts had decided long ago that the cause of Christ was worth living for and dying for.
Hundreds of people packed First Baptist Church in Cary, N.C., for the funeral service. Framed photos of the Elliotts were placed beside their caskets at the front of the sanctuary. Before the service, images of the Elliotts and their work were projected on the wall behind the pulpit. The Elliotts' son, Scott, told of lives changed by his parents, including his own.
John Durham, pastor of First Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, said the funeral service was about hope, not hopelessness, and about victory, not defeat. “We're not here in despair because someone died,” he said. “We're here in triumph because Larry and Jean are alive in Jesus.”
Durham said the Elliotts planted 12 churches in Honduras, where they served 26 years before going to Iraq. They also dug more than 80 wells that provide clean water for Hondurans.
The five missionaries were attacked March 15 while making plans for a water purification project in Mosul, Iraq.