Martin Eugene Elder, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in South Africa, died Nov. 4, 2021. He was 85.
Elder was born Dec. 16, 1935, in Louisville, Kentucky, to the late Fred Martin Elder and Mildred Janice Fessel Elder. Growing up, he also lived in New Middletown, Indiana, and Shepherdsville, Kentucky. He received a diploma from Campbellsville (Kentucky) College; the Bachelor of Arts from Howard College (now Samford University), Birmingham, Alabama; and the Bachelor of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
While at Samford, Elder met Ellamae Thompson, and they were married in 1958.
Elder wrote when seeking missionary appointment that he committed his life to the ministry during his senior year in high school and began preaching while in college. A week after their wedding, he and Ellamae moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to serve as summer missionaries among Native Americans.
After seminary, Gene served as pastor of churches in Mississippi and New Mexico, and both served as missionaries of the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) among Native Americans in New Mexico. While serving as pastor of First Baptist Church, Aztec, New Mexico, Gene participated in evangelistic crusades in Korea, Mexico and Brazil and trained groups in Evangelism Explosion and MasterLife.
Elder wrote that he had been drawn to missions since his college days, but that hearing Keith Parks, IMB president, preach at his state convention, moved him to seriously consider foreign missions. Months later, he wrote, God used a conversation with a former missionary to move him to action. On Aug. 12, 1987, the Foreign Mission Board named the Elders missionaries to South Africa, where they served 12 years before retiring and returning to Aztec.
Elder is survived by Ellamae, his wife of 63 years; three children, David Elder (Pam) of Aztec, Joy Cleveland (Mark) of Burlington, Iowa, and Timothy Elder (Jane) of Richmond, Virginia; 12 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and siblings Lois Whitis, Fay Crumbacker, Fred Elder, Martha Lainhart, Margaret McClearn and Sue Allen.
A celebration of life was held Nov. 15, 2021, at First Baptist Church, Aztec, with burial in Aztec Cemetery.
Donations in his memory may be made to the International Mission Board SBC, 3806 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230-3932 or online at Generosity Resource Center – IMB Generosity
Read an obituary here.