George C. Lubbers is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
It was with mingled sorrow and joy that we received the tidings that Rev. Clinton Elliott, the oldest minister in our Jamaican church, had been taken home to glory. He must have been alone at home and walking in his backyard, when the angels came to carry him home to glory in their chariot.
We sorrow that a friend, a dear brother and affectionate colleague, was taken from our presence here on earth. He even addressed me in his letters with the familiar “dear brother George.” Now he will no longer need to write his endearing letters, in which he often poured out his deep concerns for the churches in Jamaica. In his inimitable Jamaican lingo he would describe both his physical and spiritual needs. He knew that he was speaking to an understanding heart. Often I pondered the possibility for me to fly to Jamaica, if only to have a face to face conversation with this dear brother in Christ. It was not so to be!
On the other hand we rejoice in silent thanksgiving, that at long last the Lord has taken his weary servant to his reward of grace in glory. We feel confident that he received his desire to be with his Lord, his “personal Savior”, Who he knew was faithful to the end!
When he was still a young man, a fisherman in the Caribbean Sea, and while on a certain day he was far from land upon the deep sea, his boat capsized into the stormy sea, and he was in great fear that he would perish. The Lord rescued him. He never ceased to give thanks to God. It was then that he vowed that henceforth his life would be in special service to Christ in the preaching of the gospel. Since he was a man of some native ability and with great tenacity of faith, he applied himself hungrily to the study of the Scriptures, as his bread of life. Yes, by the mercies of God he fulfilled his vow to the end!
Rev. Elliott was a very personable man, even sometimes in rash forthrightness calling a spade a spade. Not everybody was his friend. It was especially when he had to deal with domineering “church-mothers” that tactfulness was somewhat thrown to the wind. Yet withal, Rev. Elliott had undying and faithful friends. Those whom he loved he loved fervently.
It was a pleasure for Mrs. Lubbers and me to hear him approaching. Often on Monday evenings, he would appear hot and weary from the long “journey”. He came partly afoot up the long slopes, and as much as possible by Minibus and Omnibus, and in a pinch by taxi. At our humble, yet peaceful home he would find also a spiritual oasis. There he would find a clean bed and water on tap in what had been the “maid’s room”. It was his little prophet’s room, with bed and table. He also loved Mrs. Lubbers’ cooking.
As a preacher, Rev. Elliott never excelled in being able to teach the Reformed faith systematically. Yet withal, his principle in his preaching had to be against the teaching of Arminian free-willism. He always spoke with great appreciation that brother John Heys had taught him, and that he had honorably finished the course. Incidentally, this course was basically the instruction which Rev. Heys had given on “Church Hill” in Lucy, Hanover, Jamaica. It was complemented by a certain correspondence course which Rev. Heys developed and sent to Rev. Elliott and other students, which they returned for correction. This course was verified to be correct by the approval of a subcommittee of the mission committee!
Rev. Elliott loved to sing our Presbyterian Psalter. How his soul reveled in Psalter numbers 1 and 53, as well as others. However, he never ceased to pour out his soul in such hymns as “Amazing Grace” or “Sweet Hour Of Prayer”. I can still hear his sonorous voice singing acapella. My soul felt very akin to these humble saints, and we joined to magnify the Lord with them. However, it was especially when the Jamaican saints lifted up the, lofty strains of “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” that we felt this kinship. Suddenly the, shallow choruses were forgotten, when our hearts were lifted up to truly celestial heights.
Jamaica is a warm and often very humid climate, as “a little island in the sea”. Daytime study is really not possible about midday. Brother Elliott lived in a humble house, a structure which we would not be willing to live in, but it was his retreat amidst the grapefruit, banana, and coconut trees. Here, too, he kept a few chickens. It was here that he would rise shortly after midnight; he would sit at his table and with lamplight pore over his Bible, study his text with the aid of a few books, among which the chief was Young’s Analytical Concordance. He would prepare his sermons, and take off early Saturday morning for an all-day journey from Islington to the Southwest part of his beloved Jamaica to preach and “break bread”, and sometimes to baptize in the Caribbean Sea.
Yes, we see the spiritual pilgrimage of an itinerant preacher.
Rev. Elliott had been married to a woman when a young man. Much later in life, after many years of separation by legal divorce, he ever spoke of “Martha”. Yes, he had seen her once or twice since her second “husband” had died. Martha was not happy with her life. She had refused to live with Rev. Elliott and to put up with his life as an itinerant preacher. Subsequently the loneliness and the ever present temptations of the Jamaican mores had evidently induced her to seek another man. I always observed in Rev. Elliott a man who lived a chaste and godly life.
Rev. Elliott moved in 1984 from Islington to Cave, Jamaica. Here too he plied his know-how in the culture of fruit trees and vegetables in his very little backyard “acreage”. He loved to befriend the little children with a little gift, such as a piece of sugar cane.
It was here at Cave where he lived in the proximity of Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma and family, and also near to the few remaining churches which he too had served, and who had remained faithful. He lived a lonesome life. It was here that at the age of 84 his strong body had to succumb to the power of sickness and finally death. He died alone with God. His body was found in the backyard of this little house. No doubt, the angels came and carried the poor man in Abraham’s bosom. No man heard his farewell. It was not necessary. The Lord himself delivered him from body of this death. Just recently Rev. Elliott wrote his farewell words. It was his last and most touchingly beautiful letter. The letter here follows:
“The Rev. and Mrs. Lubbers and all Family and Friends,
“Greetings in the Name of Jesus our soon-coming King we soon shall see; every eye shall see not (before) very long, as Peter writes: all things must come to pass as it is written, then comes the end. Our eyes have seen many, many. . . .
Dear brother and sister Lubbers: oh, I would it could be possible that you would visit us again. So many things I could say. But the time is short.
“Thanks for the tape. The word cheer me on in my old age; ever as Christians, in the Old Testament hope of their journey to the Celestial City. They were pilgrims. We have no abiding city here, but one out of sight. The builder and maker is God.
“Dear brother George, I am still sick. But the head not yet on pillow. (*) I have to be going to the doctor for medication injections monthly. Sometimes the rest at night is good; it goes and comes. The nerves the same. I have to be thankful to God for whatever way he chooses.
“Thanks for the gift.
“I hope I can on the tape to Rev. Bruinsma and Rev. Williams.
“Dear brother George: brother Myron Moody and his family always writing me and sending me a little gift. It encourages me to be faithful to the end.
“May we as children of God and saints be ready for the great election day above, when Jesus shall call all the nations to receive our reward.
I Peter 1:8ff.
(was signed) Yours faithfully,
It is a good and sincere farewell! The angels heard this good confession often and rejoiced over a poor sinner who repented in grace.
Here we let it rest till Jesus comes.
(*) The Jamaican quaint and picturesque metaphor for dying.
—Upon request of First Church Jamaican Committee