October 5, 1929-November 12, 2010
Dr. Elmore Clyde of Spring Arbor, Michigan, went home to be with the Lord Friday, November 12, 2010, at the age of 81. A home going celebration of his life was held at Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church, November 20, 2010.
Elmore’s family joined the Free Methodist Church in Auburn, Washington, when he was about 9 years old. A short time after, Elmore accepted Christ as his Savior and he felt God wanted him to preach. In 1947, at the age of 18, he accepted the call to full-time Christian service. During a revival at Seattle Pacific University, where he was a junior, he received a definite call to missionary work. After graduating in 1951, he attended Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, where he met Arlene Tice, who was also preparing for missionary work. They were married in August 1953.
In October 1955, the Clydes were appointed to South Africa. They left the U.S. in April 1957.
“We are thrilled with Africa,” the Clydes wrote on arrival. “The task that lies ahead looks tremendous, but we know that the God we serve never fails. Our trust is in Him.” Elmore also wrote soon after their arrival, “When [the people in Africa] had the welcome service for us, one of the ladies thanked God for the little white calves that He had sent to them from America. I had already preached several times before this service, so one old man thanked me for my messages which had been as ‘sour milk on a hot day.’ I didn’t know until later that they consider it a real treat to have a cup of sour milk and especially on a hot day.”
In 1966 Elmore initiated the first Laymen’s Training Institute in the Natal-Transkei Conference. All were welcome at the school, regardless of previous education. He and his staff taught reading, public health, Bible and other courses in a summer school that lasted six to eight weeks. When the first students completed the three-year course in August 1968, they requested a fourth year.
He served as mission superintendent, co-chairman of the church council and was involved in a program of lay leadership classes in conference centers. He also oversaw the building of new churches – four were built between 1966 and 1968.
Even from the early days of language study, the Clydes prayed to do more than understand the words spoken to them; they wanted to think as Africans. Elmore’s policy was “to lead and to follow” simultaneously, working closely with African churchmen. In 1969 he said the importance of their ministry on the field was “working with the African Church and doing those things that they requested us to. This has been most fruitful, even if not always easy. With the shortage of young full time ‘workers’ it has been a real privilege to help lift their loads in those areas where perhaps our talents were a little more than theirs thus, helping the work to grow.”
In January 1975, the Clydes, along with their children, Steven and Sheryl, returned to the United States where Elmore assumed the officer of director of finance for the Department of World Missions. Four years later he was made executive assistant to the director, and in April 1985 was elected director of World Missions. As executive officer of Free Methodist missions, he was responsible for the missions program in 28 countries outside the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. Work in five of these countries opened during his tenure of office. He oversaw the appointment and work of nearly 200 career and short-term missionaries. He saw the beginning of Haiti’s Dessalines Hospital, as well as expansion of schools in India and Taiwan. The Light and Life Hour overseas radio broadcasts and International Child Care Ministries were also under his jurisdiction.
In his role as Director of World Missions, it seemed he could see into the future. As a “New Day Document” was adopted by the Board of Administration in 1986, Elmore believed that while traditional methods of sending missionaries continued to be effective, “it is imperative that missions not be merely done in traditional ways.” He was on target; today workers are serving in countries where missionaries would not be welcome, yet they share through education and their lifestyle.
In 1990 Elmore became executive assistant to the president of the Free Methodist Foundation, Spring Arbor, Michigan. He retired in 1996. Missions remained a vital part of the Clydes’ lives wherever they lived.
Elmore’s Colleagues Write
Retired missionary to Africa and former Area Director for Equatorial Africa Jim Kirkpatrick writes, “We first met Elmore and Arlene in 1967 when they came through Burundi. On Sunday we traveled to a rural church high in the mountains, near the continental divide which runs through Burundi. God was present in the service. But I was impressed that these missionaries were interested in witnessing the progress of the church in other countries, not just their own field of South Africa.
“Later, when Elmore joined the leadership team of Free Methodist World Missions, I discovered that church planters, new field development and leadership training were some of his passions, as they were ours. Elmore tried to treat all departments and fields fairly, but it was easy to get him interested in a project that had to do with growing the church.
“Elmore’s first love was his Lord and God’s Kingdom. His second love was his family. We watched in awe as he and Arlene celebrated each other in good times and struggled for each other in sad times. Their love was evident. Now Elmore is in the presence of his first love and reunited with his second love. Farewell, dear friend. We remember you fondly.”
Dr. K. Lavern Snider writes, “Elmore was a loving, compassionate, wise counselor and leader. We are thankful for the privilege of knowing and serving with Elmore and his wife, Arlene, in the ongoing work of extending the Kingdom of God in our world. We will meet them again and will praise the Lord together for His mercy, abundant grace and divine support over these many years.”
Carol (Watson) Ogden recalls, “Elmore Clyde was my colleague in the Winona Lake Missions office in the late 1970s. I was a young person then and often went to him for advice. I greatly admired Elmore and Arlene for their long-term missionary commitment. Later, I had the privilege of serving as a long-term missionary myself under Elmore’s leadership. His steady guidance and wisdom were greatly appreciated.”
Missionary colleague and Bishop Emeritus of the Free Methodist Church of North America, Gerald Bates writes, “Elmore spent the last years of his life with the pain and frustrations of several physical conditions. His spirit, however, remained strong and his interest in the global outreach of the gospel never faltered. He was ever a missionary.
“I worked closely with Elmore when he was Executive Assistant in the Missionary Board and I was in central Africa. He was a ‘missionary’s executive,’ always understanding where we stood out on the field, and what we were trying to do (whether he could, at that moment, do anything about it or not). He would feel the needs we had. I remember especially one scenario during our service in the Congo in the 1970s. One of our pastors, Reverend Emedi, was studying in the theological faculty in the capital city of Kinshasa on the western side of the country where Free Methodists had no work. Rev. Emedi contacted me saying that we should take advantage of his being there to start Free Methodist work in the capital and the western area. In one of those experiences of absolute certainty that come not very frequently, I simply knew that we had to do this. I contacted Elmore in Winona Lake, described the situation and its potential, and told him I needed $10,000 to start work in Kinshasa. I told him as I have said above, ‘We simply have to do this.’ He responded almost immediately, ‘We will send the money; proceed with your planning.’ We did, renting a hangar where Rev. Emedi and his family could live with ample space to start a church. The project succeeded from the beginning, and today there is a whole western conference of the Congo church. Later, on a visit to the U.S., Elmore told me, ‘Gerald, when I told you we would send the money, … we did not have the money. And then, a day later someone sent in a $10,000 check and we did have it.’ I am sure there are similar stories from southern Africa and probably other parts of the world from his work as Missionary Secretary.”
Dr. Doane Bonney, who served as Area Director for Latin America under Elmore Clyde’s direction writes, “Elmore Clyde was a wonderful boss. I felt he totally respected the Area Director’s opinions. He made us feel we were a part of something going on world wide which was important and we were right in the middle of helping to build God’s Global Kingdom.
“Elmore was a great traveling companion. The unexpected he took in stride. He always kept a positive attitude. Personal discomfort was no problem for him. A humorous thing happened one time when we were crossing the frontier from Paraguay into Brazil at IguazuFalls. The group we were with had decided to take a bus from Asuncion, cross into Brazil on foot and then take a plane to São Paulo after seeing the famous falls. As we entered the immigration shed (tin roof, rustic, as one would expect in this frontier area), I placed my passport on the counter followed immediately by Elmore doing the same with his. The official looked from my passport to Elmores’ then reached under the counter and drew out what appeared to me to be a 45 caliber revolver and began waving the weapon wildly around and shouting ‘Bonney and Clyde, Bonney and Clyde.’ I guess we made that fellow’s day! Anyway, he stamped our passports and we entered his country.”
Bishop David Roller, who served as a missionary to Latin America under Elmore’s leadership, remembers, “Elmore was one of the statesmen for the General Missionary Board when Yvonne and I began our ministry. The quality I most wanted to emulate in Elmore was his graciousness. He was always gentle to speak and careful in his care of people. That graciousness showed itself as he looked for ways to let our family know that the church would stand by us in ministry. Then when Elmore became the executive director, he always acted as though we had a special spot in his heart, but I know that it wasn’t just us … he made everyone feel like that. Elmore was a genuinely gracious man, a servant of Jesus and the church.”