Living Legends: A Thank-You to Longtime Missionaries
By Julie Campbell
In their forty-two years on the mission field, Tom and Jean McCracken have left an indelible impression on the lives of countless people.
“Their heart and passion for the spread of the gospel is evident in the churches across Brazil,” said Jonathan Todd who, along with his wife Beth, took over for the McCrackens as Church of God missionaries in 2018. “A question we are asked regardless of what region we are visiting in Brazil is, ‘Have you heard from Pastors Tom and Jean lately? How are they?’”
The Todds agree that “taking over for the McCrackens” just isn’t possible.
“I don’t know that anyone can ever take over for Tom and Jean. But we are serving in a similar capacity working with the Church of God seminary, Instituto Teológico Boa Terra, and helping to connect congregations, as well as encouraging church planting initiatives,” said Jonathan. “The McCrackens have left enormous shoes to fill, and no one can fill them.”
Jean Laptiste Fadiga was part of the Church of God in Trinidad when Tom and Jean were there in the late 1960s and early 70s, and she remembers them fondly. “I thought of two words today: influence and impact. The McCrackens had a great influence on the lives of many and made an impact there.”
Beth McCracken-Harness, the McCracken’s oldest daughter, remembers her mother’s fearlessness on the mission field. She once killed an anaconda with a hoe while she was gardening and also killed a river rat that was coming into the kitchen at the same house by throwing a butcher knife at it.
“But the thing she is most proud of is having taught people in the interior of northeast Brazil about the Bible. They were so glad to see her. One little girl would call out, ‘A pastora está aqui!’ [The pastor (feminine) is here!],” said McCracken-Harness, who is also an ordained minister. “She worked really well with people who had only a little bit of education and formed good relationships.”
Tom was known for his preaching, and his compassion and love for people.
“He once picked up a drunk man he found in the street and took him to the nearest police station,” said Beth. “My sister and I were in the back seat and were scared, but the man was passed out. Dad always said that the safest place is at the center of God’s will.”
Beth also recalls how welcoming and accepting her parents were of everyone they met, regardless of who they were.
“They wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “They accepted everybody.”
Although health issues made their permanent return to the States necessary in 2018, the McCracken’s legacy will continue for generations to come.
“Tom and Jean’s heart for theological education has been inspiring. The number of pastors they’ve taught in seminary courses and hearts they’ve touched is staggering,” said Jonathan. “A tradition with our seminary is for each graduating class to honor a pastoral couple by taking their name. The 2018 graduating class took the name “Class McCracken” to honor the legacy of the McCrackens. The McCrackens had returned to the United States before the graduation ceremony in July 2018, but the class carried a large, printed photo of them and shared how their lives had been touched by both Tom and Jean.”
Learn more about the ongoing work of the Church of God in Brazil, and find ways to get involved, at https://www.chogglobal.org/team/jetodd/.
Julie Campbell is an editor at Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and a freelance journalist. A former city girl from Chicago, she enjoys country life with her husband, Russ, on a five-acre apple orchard in Madison County, Indiana. She is a blessed mom of three wonderful young adult children and one very spoiled white boxer.
*Feature (top) photo: Tom and Jean McCracken, circa the 1970s.