In March 2012, the Elswicks were driving back from a family vacation in Washington D.C. and decided to kill time by listening to a podcast aptly named, “Missionary Talks.” As they listened to the missionaries speaking, Tony and Amber decided that they had put things off long enough and now is the time for action. They had both felt a call to mission at an early age.
With this said, you should also know that the Elswicks’ church, Church of the Redeemer, in Winter Haven, is part of a partnership of three churches that works closely with missionaries in Nicaragua. While the Elswicks were in D.C., Drew Bennet, their pastor and mentor was in Managua discussing ways that Church of the Redeemer could help build a church planting movement in Managua. At some point during that weekend, Robbie Lathrop (an MTW missionary in Nicaragua) turned to Drew and said, “I wish you could send someone from your partnership who would move down here to help get this started.”
Tony had a pre-planned meeting with Drew a couple of weeks later to discuss progress in his seminary work and life in general, and it was his plan to tell Drew that he and Amber had decided to become missionaries. Not realizing that they had decided to pursue missions, Drew came to the meeting to ask Tony to consider serving in Nicaragua, so you can imagine that it was quite an eventful breakfast.
A couple of months later, Tony and Amber were on a plane to Nicaragua for a vision trip. Their impression of Nicaragua was that it was a very unique place. They visited the Lathrop’s pineapple farm, Pinas de Paz, met some local pastors, and visited the National Children’s Hospital. It was evident that with a high level of physical poverty came a high level of spiritual poverty as well. Tony and Amber came back convinced that this is where they wanted to work and spend their lives building a church planting network that could bring the wealth of Christ to the fine people of Nicaragua.
They began the process of becoming missionaries through Mission To the World, MTW, which is the Presbyterian Church in America’s mission agency. In January 2013, they were approved as missionaries and began the journey of support raising. In February 2015, they moved to Nicaragua to start language and cultural learning.