Westmont Magazine A Heart for Little Children
Growing up in the Philippines, where his parents were Presbyterian missionaries, deeply influenced Chris Elwood ’92. “I loved living overseas,” he says. “It was amazing to see my parents in action and to be a part of their work.”
Chris’s father, who is an ordained minister, taught theology at a seminary, trained pastors and wrote numerous Christian books for Filipinos. But his ministry extended beyond the classroom. The poverty and plight of street children touched his heart, and he and his wife established Little Children of the World in 1987 to help destitute children. Although they retired from the mission field 10 years ago, the Elwoods continue to be involved with LCW (www.littlechildren.org). Chris serves on the board of directors.
“My parents’ work gave me a different perspective on Christmas,” he says. “I used to think about what I was getting. But when they opened our home to orphans, my attitude changed. Watching their delight at getting their first pair of shoes made me forget about my gifts. It was more fun to watch them get theirs.”
While LCW focuses on children, it seeks to help their parents as well. Aid recipients actually get involved in managing the family-centered, community-based program. Not only does LCW encourage faith in Christ, but it meets physical needs by providing health care, housing, education and job training. “Because the ministry is holistic, it strikes at the root of poverty and represents more than just a Band-Aid,” Chris says.
Since leaving the Philippines to attend Westmont, Chris has returned every two or three years. He took fellow students on a short-term mission with LCW in 1990 and led a group from Grace Church that built a health clinic after he graduated.
His latest trip was also the most memorable. He represented his father, ill with Parkinson’s disease, at the dedication of three buildings for LCW. “When I gave the speech he had written in the Visayan language, the crowd erupted,” he says. “It was a wonderful time of celebration.” Chris remembered enough of the language he had learned as a child to make the presentation.
With majors in philosophy and English and a minor in psychology, Chris planned to go to graduate school. But after four years of playing varsity tennis, he realized how much he enjoyed the sport. He decided to coach the men’s team instead and remains at Westmont where he teaches physical education activity classes as well. He has led Warrior teams to four Golden State Athletic Conference crowns and to third- and ninth-place national finishes. He also works as the teaching pro at Santa Barbara’s Valley Club.
“I find mentoring very fulfilling,” Chris says. “The chance to relate to students in an informal way and to have an impact on their lives is why I continue to coach. Sports are a great way to learn about life.”
Chris’s wife, Tabitha Bahu Elwood ’95, expects their first child in the fall and will take a break from teaching English at Santa Barbara High School, where she has worked for five years.
Chris looks forward to having a child of his own and dreams of writing children’s stories — and of watching his child open presents on Christmas morning.