North Carolina Baptist Men and Woman’s Missionary Union are mobilizing churches in the state to donate health supplies to Iraqi families in memory of a missionary couple killed March 15 in Iraq.
Baptist leaders are hoping to provide 16,000 kits containing over-the-counter medicines and toiletry items to be delivered to Iraqi families through what is being called “The Elliott Project,” honoring slain International Mission Board workers Larry and Jean Elliott.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is working with Medical Missions Response to provide the family health kits, according to the convention Web site. The announcement said it is a project that the Elliotts were working on prior to their deaths.
The Elliotts, North Carolina natives who furloughed in Cary and Henderson during a long missionary career, were killed in a drive-by shooting by unidentified assailants. They, along with 29-year-old David McDonnall of Texas and 38-year-old Karen Denise Watson, died from bullet and shell-fragment wounds apparently from automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.
A fifth IMB worker, 26-year-old Carrie Taylor McDonnall, survived and is recovering in a hospital in Texas.
Larry, 60, and Jean Dover Elliott, 58, both grew up in North Carolina and were members of Baptist Temple Church in Reidsville before becoming missionaries to Honduras in 1978. They transferred to the Middle East a month ago, due primarily to Larry Elliott’s expertise in water-purification and well drilling. The five workers were in Iraq reportedly researching the need for humanitarian projects, when their vehicle was attacked from a passing vehicle in Mosul.
Several chapters of Royal Ambassadors, a Southern Baptist Convention missions-education program for boys, are named for Larry Elliott, Richard Brunson, executive director for North Carolina Baptist Men, told the Biblical Recorder.
“They loved people,” Brunson said. “They were real heroes.”
Medical Missions Response, based in Collierville, Tenn., works with missionaries of multiple denominations in using medical teams as a method for Christian witness in the “Last Frontier” of missions, also called the “10/40 Window,” where 20 percent of the world’s population lives with little or no access to Christianity.
“We feel that medical missions is the best possible tool to open ‘closed’ countries, villages and hearts,” says an article on the group’s Web site.
MMR’s strategy is to use medical missions as a tool “to take the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world,” according to the Web site. “Using their professional skills, representatives of MMR endeavor to cross all barriers and open doors for the gospel so that all people groups may have access to salvation.”
The group does not initiate medical mission projects, the Web site says. “Rather we respond to project requests that come from ‘missionaries’ working in the Last Frontier. Of course, these individuals are not able to call themselves missionaries where they are working, but, nonetheless, they serve in that capacity.
“Every medical mission project to which we respond is connected to the overall mission’s strategy of making disciples among all nations, forming those disciples into churches and training those churches to be self-replicating. Self-sustained, indigenous church-planting movements are our ultimate objective.”
Officials at the IMB headquarters in Richmond, Va., have told the media that the workers were in Iraq for humanitarian purposes and not to proselytize. “We don’t have any missionaries in Iraq,” IMB spokesman Bill Bangham said in the Baltimore Sun. “We have humanitarian relief workers. They’re demonstrating God’s love through their projects.”
Medical Missions Response Web site has links to “partners,” which include the IMB and the Baptist Medical/Dental Fellowship, a professional group of Baptist physicians and dentists who travel to perform medical missions.
Retired Louisville, Ky., physician Dr. Marilyn Sanders, a past president of the Baptist Medical/Dental Fellowship, is listed on MMR’s board of directors along with her husband, John, also a retired doctor.
Mark Morris, pastor for missions and ministries at Germantown Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., and a former IMB missionary and regional leader, also sits on the board.
The group lists Dan Bivens, a seminary student and associate staff member for North Carolina Baptist Men, among its 3M Mission Mobilizers, volunteers from different professional fellowships, mission groups and churches, who communicate MMR mission projects to colleagues, according a newsletter article on the group’s Web site.
Boxes for the Elliott Project will be collected Friday, May 21.
The partnership includes MMR, the state convention and associational offices, the IMB and a non-governmental organization in Kuwait, according to the North Carolina Baptist Convention Web site.
Any funds collected that are not needed for the project will be placed into a Larry and Jean Elliott Endowment Fund for International Disaster Relief and Hunger, established last week by friends of the couple with the North Carolina Baptist Foundation.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.