Tom Elliff
Oklahoma City, OK

After pastoring for forty-two years, Tom Elliff served the International Mission Board, first as Senior Vice President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations from 2005-2009, then as President from 2011-2014. Tom served pastorates in Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma and as an IMB missionary in Zimbabwe. Tom also served as president of the SBC Pastor's Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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A Walk with Orville

By on October 17, 2015

Today my friend, Orville Rogers, drove up from Dallas to visit with me. That might not sound too “newsy” except for the fact that Orville will turn 98 next month and currently holds fourteen world records in track events. As I gently reminded him, every time he wakes up he sets a new record!

Actually, I had called Orville earlier to invite myself down to see him. But he insisted on making the three and a half hour drive up to see me instead. So when the bright red Camaro wheeled up to my house, I knew this would be a day I would not soon forget.

You see, seven years ago, Orville’s sweet wife, Esther Beth, graduated to Glory. Right now, I am  in desperate need of Orville’s sage counsel as I navigate my own journey ahead without Jeannie by my side. So, over the course of the next five hours Orville poured his life and his wisdom into this thirsty sponge.

I should probably mention that those five hours were interrupted by a mile-and-a-half walk at a local park. We sat for a while on a bench, not because we were weary, but because we both needed to reminisce, cry and pray while our wives looked on from heaven.

There I was  with one of my heroes (Orville is the only B-36 pilot I ever met! That’s the WWII bomber with ten, count’em, engines and a twenty-eight hour flying capability!). Orville and Esther Beth later worked with IMB and other mission agencies, ferrying planes to the far corners of the globe for Christian causes. And I should mention that Orville and Esther Beth are among the most generous givers to missions I’ve ever known.

So what did we talk about? Nothing…and everything. Orville’s affable, easy-going personality is totally disarming. One minute he’s telling jokes about pilots (He’s a veteran Air Force and Braniff pilot) and the next minute he’s drilling straight to the depths of my heart, addressing issues nobody  would dare to discuss except with a friend who’s wife is in heaven.

Orville arrived at my house with an agenda. It took me a while to discover it. His agenda was…me! Once again, Orville Rogers was in the giving mode, giving counsel, love, encouragement, and the assurance that, by God’s grace, any of us can make it through the tests of life. Yes! We can!

Orville’s firm and assuring manner, born out of years of pouring over the Word of God, seemed somehow so familiar to me. You can imagine my surprise when we suddenly realized that the same man had mentored us both, he beginning in his college years and me a couple of decades later…E. F. “Preacher” Hallock!

Tonight, I could not let this moment pass without saying thanks to God for Orville, and for “Preacher.” As I watched the red Camaro disappear down the street, I prayed the time would come when I can take a walk with someone who is just as needy as I was today. My life, and my future, will not be the same!

Rejoice evermore!

Tom Elliff

2 Tim 1:12

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  • cbtolosa

    Thanks for sharing those encouraging words as we embark on a new chapter in our lives after accepting the VRI from IMB. You have ALWAYS been a blessing to us an we will forever be grateful to the Lord for your ministry in our lives. We Love YOU!

  • julie martin

    Good morning Bro. Tom, time is your friend. 🙂 Make miss Jeannie proud.
    Blessings to you, Julie Martin

  • Trinalovesmike

    This was absolutely beautiful! Praising the Lord for His gift of encouragement He so freely gives to His children through each other! 2 Cor 1:3-7 in action!

  • DebMills

    So glad for Brother Orville’s visit…so many blessings in these days of longing for a different Home. How wonderful that you both have the same mentors – part of what makes you cut from the same cloth, I think. Love your stories of Pastor Hallock too! Such encouragers you are and are surrounded by…thanks for writing about your visit. I’m sure it tickled Jeannie for you to have that visit. By the way, Where is Jeannie’s “bug”? Your mentioning his Camaro made me think of it. There’s actually a couple of those silver-green VW bugs still in Richmond, and Jeannie always comes to mind…with so much love.
    Debbie for Dave & me

  • Desau

    Thanks Tom for mentoring me the years I was priviledged to sit under your teaching. I would have never surrendered to ministry without your guidance. I thank our Father for your life and ministry!