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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Dad is Going Home

By on December 9, 2014

Paul said that our body is merely a “tent.” It’s not “who” we are but only “where” we live temporarily. That’s an apt illustration. Tents at their best are still fragile dwellings, subject to the elements and often in need of repair. So, according to the apostle, all those who are Christ’s can anticipate the day when we move out of our earthly tent and exchange it for “a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1). Believers through the centuries have referred to this as our real and final “home.”

After ninety-seven years in his earthly tent, Dad is going home. Oh, he’s not left us just yet! But, sitting by his bed, I catch a glimpse of him stirring around behind  the worn canvas of his tent, now temporarily staked out in room 518. The wick is short, the oil is almost depleted, and the light flickers low. But silhouetted inside, I occasionally can see my dad moving about,  preparing for his departure.

In his typically methodical fashion, so much like his own father before him, he is gathering up his earthly store and preparing to leave it behind. In the dim light, like folded clothes I see him placing out on a cot the remnants of his life, knowing they are not suitable attire for the future. Every acclaim or boast, every complaint or criticism, all the successes and each one of his failures, joys, tears, accolades, achievements, dark sins and failures, eager desires and sad disappointments…are all laid out to be left behind. Soon he will know what it is to be clothed only in the righteousness of Christ. And what sounds like “Taps” to us will be “Reveille” for him!

“Sort of frightening, isn’t it?” I was startled by the voice of a nurse who had been standing quietly beside me. “Not really,” I replied, “if you know where you’re going. But it is a picture of a journey we’ll all make some day.” In the ensuing minutes, the single mother of three (one severely impaired mentally) explained how her own fears for the future were only amplified by her work there in the nursing home. And there, at the end of Dad’s bed, while he was busily at work in his “tent,” that sweet nurse opened her heart like a flower to receive the Son of Righteousness as her Savior.

Thank you Lord! Oh…and good work Dad. I know you could hear us talking and were praying for us. Now, keep packing. You’ll be home soon!

Rejoice evermore!

Tom Elliff

2 Tim 1:12



  • Pingback: Tom’s Dad Is Going Home – On Dying…and for the Rest of Us…Finishing Strong | Blog – Deb Mills()

  • djhooten

    Thank you Tom.  Beautifully written.  Praying for you and Jeannie as you say good bye, actually, “see you later” to you Dad.  Yes, what a celebration on his part as he arrives home.  Always sad on our part to let them go.  Praying so much for your and Jeannie these days. Janet

  • Ahnnie

    What I remember most about  your Dad is that he came as interim preacher at Eastwood in Tulsa before you came in view of a call.  I remember wishing we could just call him to be our new pastor since his sermons had reflected God so well to us.  Frankly, I didn’t think I would like you nearly as well!  God’s glory was surely evident in him.  May you be filled with the fullness of that same glory and comfort.  As always, a friend to you and Jeannie, from Gala

  • TraceyMcCoy

    Oh, Bro. Tom, so eloquently put, even though eloquent was not what you were intending to convey.  Thank you for allowing us the journey to the other side of this tent to envision life whole, incorruptible, where the ravages of time and decay cannot reach.  Thank you for reminding us that we leave all behind to claim that which we can only apprehend through Jesus.  Death is precious, a sacred moment, may we tread lightly on this holy ground.

  • cbtolosa

    I don’t believe that anyone could have said it better, Pastor Elliff.  Thanks for writing an sharing.

  • John Merrell

    What a beautiful picture of your dad preparing to go home and the nurse now having a new home to go to.

  • ckspicer

    I’m praying for you, Tom, during these last days with your dad.  Praise God that as death comes knocking for Mr. Elliff, a new birth took place! I’m grateful to God for you and your family and the difference that all of you have made in the Kingdom of our dear Savior, Jesus!


    wow It has been almost 14 years ago when you came to the hospital to share a word and baptism with my Dad who had weeks earlier accepted our Lord as savior . Your story so reminded me that beautiful time with my Dad. Thank you for sharing and caring! Your Dad and his testimony of finishing well is especially meaningful to Paulette and I ..We will continue praying for you,Jeannie and family

  • Annette E Turner

    Amen. What an incredible picture. THANK YOU. And praise God for a precious heart that now has eternal LIFE against which death has lost its power! The surety of our hope!

  • billhenwood

    Such a sweet, sweet picture for all of us.

  • jjrownak

    I don’t know the time or the place, but I will make those last preparations for departure some day. Thanks for the reminder that it should be a joyous time. Oh, there will be some tears, but they will be for only a time. Those left behind will know where I will be waiting for them. You, too, know where your Dad will be waiting for you. Oh, what a joyous reunion it will be one day when we are together in the presence of our blessed Savior.