MARIETTA – The original building at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta was named for Ken and Mary Ellison on Sunday, Oct. 14. Ellison was the first pastor of Eastside and served there from 1961 to 1967 before he and Mary traveled to Indonesia to begin their service with the International Mission Board.
The Ellisons celebrated sixty years of marriage this year, fifty years in missionary service, and sixty-five years in Christian ministry. Through the years the Ellisons have maintained a close relationship with the people of Eastside, continue to love them, and are greatly beloved by them.
The missionary couple endeared themselves so greatly to the people of Eastside that they were given a house that was moved from the Eastside property to a private lot that a couple gifted to the church for the Ellisons prior to their retirement. So, today the Ellisons live in Marietta. They have two grown children, Melissa and Brent, and four grandchildren.
The Ellisons were honored in the first worship service at Eastside on the day of the recognition. Mary was presented with flowers and Ken was interviewed by Pastor John Hull. Those who were charter members at Eastside were asked to stand and a great host of people stood demonstrating that the church had a formidable beginning. Brent Ellison, son of the missionary couple and an exceptional musician and song writer composed and sang a song for the special occasion.
Following the worship service, a reception was given to honor the Ellisons. It had been suggested that the Ellison name be placed on the outside of the building so that those traveling down Lower Roswell Road could see that the building had been named for the first pastor, but the couple’s characteristic humility prompted them to suggest that the name not be placed in such a conspicuous position, but that if it must be placed somewhere, it could be located on the inside of the original building.
The Ellisons served for thirty-two years in Indonesia and across Asia and taught in the Indonesian Baptist Theological Seminary in Semarang. Ken was also the director of the Indonesia branch of Asia Baptist Theological Seminary. Their lifelong passion has been to spread the Gospel and train others in servant obedience to the Lord. Since retiring the Ellisons have continued to make mission trips to Asia and other areas where the need for Christian missions in great.
Former International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin, in his book The Challenge to Great Commission Obedience, cites Ken and Mary Ellison as examples of faithful and dedicated missionary service. Rankin wrote, “We had the privilege of presenting service pins to a number of those in Indonesia who were completing thirty years of service, among them, Ken and Mary Ellison.
“They (were able) to continue to fulfill their calling there in spite of government restrictions because they, along with several others, said they were willing to give up their American passport and become Indonesian citizens.
“Now next to the presence and power of God, there is no greater security than your American passport. No matter what happens, you can always come home. As it happened, they did not have to give up their American passports; but in a willingness to do so, the Ellisons and others recognized it was God who had brought them out from America, and they were faithful to that purpose for which God had brought them.”
Lloyd Blackwell, an Eastside member since 1966 stated in a tribute written to the Ellisons, “When we moved from Tuscaloosa to Marietta in 1966, we visited several churches and decided Eastside was a great fit for our family of five. We were at Eastside about a year before Ken and Mary accepted the call to be missionaries in 1967 and departed for training. Their collective decisions of faith weighed heavily on my mind for a couple of years and prompted me to become active in Eastside’s mission’s ministry.
“Having partnered with the Ellisons in support ministry at home, and having visited them on the mission field, I knew much about their sacrifices. Their decision to place themselves and their young children through the pain and challenges of leaving family and friends behind and moving to an environment where their children did not know anyone or even speak the same language as the people they would encounter was both frightening and inspiring.
“I knew that their family here in the states did not approve of their decision to move to Indonesia, because they thought they would be placing themselves at risk in primitive conditions and almost insurmountable challenges.
“Yet, in spite of all the opposition, the huge challenges and the certain difficulties, the family jointly accepted the challenge on faith to serve our risen Savior on the mission field in a distant foreign jungle. However, I know this – faith was the final determining factor. I have nothing but admiration for such faith. The Ellisons have inspired me to a renewed life of faith and ministry.”
Lloyd Blackwell saw the faith of the Ellisons and expressed concern for their safety and well-being in a dark, predominately Muslim country, but the Ellisons have summed up their ministry in Indonesia in a heartwarming book entitled The Joy of the Journey – In His Appointed Way. (the book is available at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and other book sellers).
The great missionary David Livingstone once stated, “I had rather be in the heart of Africa treed by a lion in the will of God than on the throne of England outside of the will of God.” That is the kind of spirit reflected in the Ellison’s book and in their lives. It is most fitting that the original building at Eastside Baptist Church has been named in honor of Ken and Mary Ellison.