Tim and John Elko on Living Their Faith and God’s Provision
OXFORD, Miss. — When Tim Elko left Lutz, Florida, and came to Ole Miss, he never dreamed he would be part of a story that would define Rebel baseball for years to come — a story that would ultimately include a National Championship.
Thank you Ole Miss ❤️ pic.twitter.com/MmBcpsYC3Q
— Tim Elko (@TimElko) July 9, 2022
Nor did John Elko, Tim’s father, dream his son would experience such an extraordinary culmination to his time at Ole Miss. But what both Tim and John Elko were always sure of and never wavered in was their mutual faith in God and His plan for Tim’s life.
Tim and John Elko will be the keynote speakers for this year’s Breakfast of Champions, sponsored by the Ole Miss chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on February 18. The Elkos sat down with us to talk about the importance of faith in their daily lives.
Tim tells us his faith began at an early age.
“My parents grew me up going to church, but I think I was probably about eight years old when I really realized that I wanted to live my life with Jesus in my heart. That was the first time I gave my life over to Christ, and from then on, I tried to grow in that. I came to realize that God had given me special gifts, one of them was playing baseball, and I could use that to help impact others, probably in my high school time but really when I got to Ole Miss. When I got to Ole Miss, I really felt like I could maybe impact people through baseball and help people find their way with Christ as well.”
Former Ole Miss first baseman Tim Elko
Athletes spend numerous hours with their coaches, so those people need to be good mentors and leaders. Although John was there for Tim’s travel and summer league practices and games, leaving for college brought a new area of concern.
John explained that, although the college choice was Tim’s, he wanted his son to select a program where the coaches would watch over Tim since he would be on his own for the first time.
“I always told Tim and I told Coach (Mike) Clement that I felt on our tour that I could trust him and Coach (Carl) Lafferty,” John said. “I felt they would be good with Tim.”
That feeling proved correct as Tim found a mentor in Coach Clement. “Coach Clement, our hitting coach, was a huge help when I got to Ole Miss. He’s such an amazing man of Christ who cares about people and relationships, and I felt like he was exactly what I hope I’m like one day,” Tim explained.
Tim’s advice to young athletes
Tim is often in the limelight. People of all ages look up to the former Ole Miss first baseman, but young people, especially, aspire to be like him. Many of those young people will face some of the same challenges Tim saw during his journey as an athlete who lives his faith.
We asked Tim what advice he would give to young athletes today.
“First, I just try to lead by example, and I hope that how I act — whether on the baseball field or not — when people are watching, I hope they see what a man of God is. Of course, no one is perfect. I always tell kids to lead by example, and you’ll maybe see some of your peers change themselves, too as well.”
Tim Elko’s advice to young athletes
Tim continued, offering important advice for those who might fear being considered different. “I would also say don’t be afraid to feel like you’re different because you’re not like people who aren’t Christians or aren’t at least trying to walk the walk for Christ,” he noted.
“Don’t allow the world to tell you, ‘Oh, you’re not doing it right.’ Just try to walk the walk of how Christ would want you to live. Of course, you’re going to mess up. We’ve all messed up along the way and will continue to mess up. Do as best you can to try to live how you think God would want you to live, and don’t let outside influences of the world tell you you’re not doing it right.”
Tim also says people should act on feelings when they feel God is leading them to act. “I try to always do my best whenever I feel inside that God wants me to say something or gives me a feeling like I should go talk to a guy,” he explained.
“I always try to act on that because that was something I was taught growing up. If God is kind of nagging you to do something, you should probably do it because that may have an impact not only you but on somebody else’s life in a big way. Maybe it doesn’t right now, but it may plant a seed. Anytime I felt God’s given me a feeling to go do something, I do a pretty good job of trying to be obedient to that.”
Placing trust in God in times of adversity
Elko has faced battles and used his faith as his shield when he could have easily turned to the world for comfort or solutions. Instead, Tim chose to place his trust in God and have faith in His plan for Tim’s life.
“For me, there were a lot of struggles during my time at Ole Miss. In my first year, I wasn’t playing that much. I was hoping I would, but I wasn’t. So, it was kind of like me asking, ‘God, why did you bring me here?’ I prayed about it and didn’t know if I was going to leave or stay. God was just telling me I should stay. So, I stayed. God’s always working in your life, even when something bad is happening or something that you don’t think should be happening is.
“I think you’ll eventually see God used that for a reason, whether it was to mold you into more of the person He wants you to be or to put you on a plan He wants you to be on. Maybe it’s to affect someone else’s life or anything along those lines. I would say in times of what seemed like what shouldn’t be happening was or when things weren’t going right, what has helped me is just to try to stay as positive and joyful as I could, of course, with God’s help in doing that. God is joy and love and all things. So continue to stay strong in faith towards him because I think God blesses you when you’re obedient to Him, and try to live how He would want you to live.”
Tim Elko on facing struggles
Ole Miss fans recall the game against North Alabama when Tim ran awkwardly through first base. Later, they would learn he tore his ACL.
Many fans focused on the negative of what it meant to lose Tim, but Tim and John Elko held onto faith.
.@TimElko on what ole miss means to him
man, i love this dude pic.twitter.com/IxHf31BLHM
— Not Ole Miss Problems (@OleMissNoProb) June 27, 2022
The men recollected the injury and the following events.
“When I tore my ACL, I was like, ‘God, what are you doing? This is my best year yet at Ole Miss. Everything is going great. Why would you do this?’” Tim recalled.
“My dad can attest to this: I never felt really down about the whole thing after the first night it happened. I was sad and kind of cried in my bed that first night, but after that, I remember texting my dad after I got the results. I told him they said, ‘There’s a chance you could play.’ Really from that moment on, God just gave me peace about the whole thing. I felt like I was going to play no matter what. I was going to come back and be fine and play and help us (Ole Miss). My dad felt the same thing and encouraged me the whole time. That’s a Godwink right there.”
Tim Elko on his injury and faith he would return
For a parent, watching your child in pain is brutal. However, John was optimistic about Tim’s injury from the outset.
“It’s hard to walk the walk, John began. “When we think about James, we remember the verse that tells us to consider it true joy when you’re faced with trials. It’s so easy to say, and it’s very difficult to be joyful when you’re under horrible circumstances. When Tim tore his ACL, I always knew Tim was going to find a way. He always finds a way,” John added.
John explained his thoughts in those early times after the injury. “When the ACL happened, the first night was devastating. I never believed that was it for Tim; I knew that couldn’t be it for him,” he said.
“God took Tim so far, and I knew he wasn’t going to just drop him there. When Tim had an opportunity, and the doctors said there was a chance, then Tim said he wanted to do it, I knew and had no doubt in my mind he was going to do it. We had a phone call, and we both felt it. I just felt God was going to work a miracle. Tim felt it too, and from that point right through the world series and everything else, there was never a doubt That’s God. That’s the Holy Spirit leading you through life. Yeah, trials come along all the time for everybody. We all have trials, whatever they may be. It’s hard to walk the walk, but when you have God in your life and Jesus in your heart, all things are possible. As dark as it may seem, there may be crying at night, but in the morning, there’s smiling.”
33 days after tearing his ACL, Tim Elko goes yard.
Amazing 👏 @OleMissBSB pic.twitter.com/VAKO8AURLM
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 8, 2021
Feeling the presence of God in their lives
People have “aha” moments. We asked Tim and John if either had experienced such a moment where they felt the presence of God in their life.
For John, that moment came when he accepted Christ as his savior. “When I got saved was my defining moment,” he said.
“I grew up going to church, but it was on Christmas and a couple of times a year. But in my forties, I got saved. When that happened, for me, it was like getting hit by a hammer. I started reading the Bible because I was challenged by my parents about tithing. I said, ‘I’m going to read the Bible and prove to you there’s no tithing in there,’ because I didn’t know. I started reading the Bible, and I forgot all about the tithing stuff because all of a sudden when that word (The Bible) opens to you, you realize he’s writing about you. Those things he’s talking about in there, that’s you. That’s the issues and the things you’ve been in. That makes you realize, ‘Wow, I missed it. How did you miss all this?’ For me, that was the eye-opener,” John explained.
One of Tim’s defining moments came during high school, and another at Ole Miss. His great grandma and Pop Pop had passed away. Tim’s team was playing to advance in the playoffs, but Tim had been struggling at the plate.
“I was on deck, and I knelt down and prayed because I felt anxious. I remember I looked up in the sky and saw these two lone birds pretty close just flying. I felt an overwhelming presence of peace and that the birds were them in a way watching over me. I went out and hit the walk-off hit. That was a God-filled moment. With the ACL stuff, as I have said, I just felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I knew God was there. I knew He was working through the whole thing.”
Tim Elko on two defining moments in his life
What the Elkos want people to know
Writing all the stories and examples of inspiration that Tim and John Elko provide would take many chapters. Their lives are testaments to what God can accomplish through people if they are willing to be used as a vessel for God’s goodness and grace.
When we asked the Elkos what they would like readers to glean from their stories of faith, they shared the following comments.
“I want people to know you’re never too far gone for God to love you,” Tim says. “In the Bible, half of the guys God used to spread the word weren’t Christians before. They were doubters, but God used them. The biggest story is probably about Paul, who was Saul. He killed and persecuted Christians, but God used him as an amazing disciple. I would say people sometimes look at Christians, and they are like, ‘They’re so good. I could never be like that. I’ve made too many mistakes. God could never love me.’ But I’ve made so many mistakes in my life, a lot of things I wish I didn’t do. But God still loves me and wants to use me,” Tim added.
“When you give your life to him, he can forgive you for anything, and you’re washed clean. Even if you become a Christian, you’re not going to be close to perfect. No matter what, God is always going to love you. He loves you right now where you are at. No matter how much wrong you’ve done or things you wish you didn’t do, He still loves you and wants a relationship with you. He wants the Holy Spirit to live inside you.”
John echoes his son’s sentiments. “Tim mentioned Paul. David is another example. David did some bad stuff too. You look at Psalm 51 where he asks for forgiveness. You’re never too far gone,” John commented.
“God loves us all regardless, but he does want you to turn to Him. When you do, He will take over. Hopefully, the things Tim’s done or how we live our lives will maybe somehow point people toward God. Then as we back away, we get smaller, and He (God) gets bigger and takes over. Our job is to point people in the right direction by the way we act and the things we say without judgment. Obviously, I am no better than anyone else. It’s not our place to judge. God does the judging.”
Ole Miss FCA: Breakfast with Champions
Those wanting to hear more from the Elkos can purchase tickets for the Breakfast of Champions by going to olemissfca.org. For more information, contact Jonathan Fulcher at (601) 934-4144 or email him at email@example.com.
Donna Sprabery is a former teacher, graduation coach, and academic coach for boys basketball. She graduated from the University of West Alabama with a major in business education and from Arkansas State University with a MA in Educational Leadership. A native of Meridian, MS, Donna enjoys traveling, gardening, writing, volunteer work, and cheering on the Rebels.