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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The “Chemotorium”

By on September 9, 2014

“The Chemotorium.” That’s what I call  the room where chemotherapy is administered to folks who are battling cancer. After all, it doesn’t hurt to add a little humor to an experience that is fraught with so many serious emotions. When we received the  news that Jeannie’s cancer had metastasized, moving to other areas of her body, we knew it wouldn’t be too long before the Chemotorium would become a regular destination for us. Like yesterday.

After the blood test and visit with the oncologist, we always try to hit the Chemotorium door like it is Game Day. Jeannie, of course, is the player, decked out in  togs that make it easy for technicians to access the port through which the IV tube is inserted. I’m the bag boy. In my arms are a Bible, several books, Jeannie’s Kindle, and my IPad. Slung over my shoulder is the game bag that Jeannie always brings along, loaded with everything she might need in this life, the Millennial Reign, and the Kingdom. Today the game bag is a fetching, lime-green, Vera Bradley number. ( Sigh! What a guy won’t do for the woman he loves! )

Since this is not a new drill for us, we move like veterans, quickly choosing a place to set up camp, grabbing an extra chair, renewing acquaintances with long-time technicians, and bantering with timorous rookies. Looking for all the world like a couple at a tailgate party, we soon break out the cheese crackers, trail mix, and cold drinks. It’s not long before we’ve struck up conversations with the other veterans behind us, and a nearby couple whose fear is palpable. And rightly so! This is not a battle for sissies, and we feel for them.

Now, lest you think we believe this all to be a silly drill, let me tell you that we understand the life and death struggles that will be played out  by each of us in this arena. Perhaps nowhere is there gathered on a regular basis a crowd that is at once more guarded and more vulnerable. But there are a few of us in the room who know that life and death is more than a roll of the dice, or the discovery of a magic formula. Life is a trust from our Holy God, and we must exercise a stewardship over it for, one day, we will all give an account.

So, quietly and casually, we begin to speak  with  those around us about our faith in Christ. They need hope and we know that real hope is found in Jesus. We know that hope is not mere wishful thinking, but a confident spring in the step of our spirit that comes from the knowledge that our Holy God is running  this show. As believers in Christ, our responsibility is simply to reach up, take Him by the hand, and walk in faith. On earth, that journey reflects the faithfulness of God to every person who will take Him at His Word. And should He choose to grasp our hand a little more tightly and take us home with Him…well, as Paul said, that’s better yet. In the meantime, He will “supply all (our) needs, according to His riches in Glory in Christ Jesus.”

Okay…the drill is over, we are packing up and heading out.

Nice bag,” smirks a macho man, who’s wife , with matching green complexion, sits quietly in the oversized chair .

“Vera Bradley,” I reply, “So easy to accessorize,” I continue, marching past with head held high. You can only be so serious for so long. After all, our lives are filled with hope founded on the promise of a returning Christ. Keep looking up!

Rejoice evermore!

Tom Elliff

2 Tim 1:12

  • sboland

    It’s wonderful to have you guys back in OKC – but so sorry for the battle you two are fighting once again.  Our Sunday School class is praying for Jeannie on a daily basis.  We have each taken a day of the week to lift you guys up in prayer.  I’m praying for you both every Tuesday – and of course other days as God directs.

  • DeniseSharp

    You will never know how much this post means to me.  In May my husband passed away suddenly. 2 weeks later I was diagnosed with bladder cancer.  I am about to complete my 3rd cycle of Chemo. The physical and emotional effects are taking their toll. I find it hard to keep my eyes fixed on eternity and  Jesus when I can barely get out of bed.  This morning was especially low for me.  I got to work and opened my email and your blog post was there. Just reading it gave me renewed hope for today.

  • julie martin

    Bro Tom, I love your humor. I can just see you walking by with Jeanie’s vera bradley bag with your head held high. What a blessing you are to those in that room with you two. I am thinking and praying continually for the both of you. You are walking in truth and setting such an example. I will pray that you will continue to have the courage and strength as you physically hold Jeanie up during this time.