Naming the countries in Africa that Eldred Echols didn’t visit during his lifetime is probably easier than naming the ones he did visit, said fellow Africa missionary Wendell Broom.
And Echols’ influence on mission work spreads through the entire continent.
Eldred L. Echols died May 25 — his 83rd birthday. Although the obituaries said that he passed away at his home in Fort Worth, Texas, he felt more at home in southern Africa, Broom said. Echols, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, recently made his final visit to South Africa, but was only able to stay there for 10 days before health problems sent him back to the United States, Broom said.
Echols was an “enormous pioneer,” making his first trip to Africa in 1943 after graduating from Abilene Christian College, Broom said. There were no international flights at the time, and the boat on which he sailed across the Atlantic went through waters patrolled by submarines. He worked throughout Africa, planting churches and establishing Bible schools. He was the first church of Christ missionary to enter Nigeria, said long-time friend Glover Shipp.
After 35 years of mission work, Echols returned to the United States in 1978, teaching at Michigan Christian College until 1981 when he joined the staff at the Richland Hills church, in the Fort Worth suburb of North Richland Hills.
Echols “was the smartest man and most humble man I have ever known,” said Jon Jones, former Richland Hills pulpit minister who is now Director of relief ministry Bread for a Hungry World. “He gave me a new love for world missions and shared wonderful insights on the word of God.”
He was preceded in death by his first wife, the former Jane Holland. Survivors include his second wife, “Cricket” Cranfil Echols; children Cherry Hart and husband, Clay, Steve Echols and wife, Ann, and Cindy Anstis and husband, Todd; five grandchildren; several stepchildren, stepgrandchildren and stepgreat-grandchildren; and sisters Nina, Opal and Juanita.
Memorials may be made to the Eldred Echols Memorial Fund at the Richland Hills Church of Christ. To contribute, call (817) 281-0773 or log onto www.rhchurch.org.