Elisabeth Elliot Remembered

One of my heroes went to be with Jesus yesterday. Elisabeth Elliot personified wisdom, courage, grace, and a passionate pursuit of authentic discipleship, whatever the cost. After her husband Jim’s martyrdom in early 1956 she and her young daughter returned to live and minister among the very tribe that had treacherously killed her husband and four other missionaries. The success of the gospel among the Aucas (now called the Waodoni) has become one of the epic mission stories in all church history. She recounted the drama of those days in her two classics, Through Gates of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty. These are not just two of the greatest missions books ever written, they are two of the most impactful books of the twentieth century. Other missions classics would flow from her pen including her biography of missionary Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die. She is one of my favorite contemporary Christian writers.

Elisabeth Elliot was one of the most influential Christian leaders of the twentieth century (although she would have eschewed such a claim, and such acclaim). I was privileged to meet her after she spoke in chapel when I was in seminary. I asked her if she was helped in her writing by taking journalism courses as a college student. She responded that she never took any journalism class in college. Instead she credited her father as a great influence on her writing; he urged his children to love the dictionary and read it, not merely as a reference book, but as they would read any book – from start to finish.

Were it not for her writings, including editing The Journals of Jim Elliot, we might never have read her husband’s immortal lines, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” She also brought us great insight of her own: “Leave it all in the hands that were wounded for you” (from Through Gates of Splendor). Today, Elisabeth walked through those gates.

I encourage you to enrich your life by reading an Elisabeth Elliot book. Start anywhere; all of her books are both spiritually and intellectually invigorating. And as you read, thank God for a life that was fully expended “for Christ and His kingdom.”

*Motto of Elisabeth’s alma mater, Wheaton College