Heroes of the Faith: Jim (1927-1956) and Elisabeth (1926-) Elliot
“We Go Not Forth Alone . . .”
Lights come in different forms (incandescent, fluorescent, and LED) and functionalities (fixed, portable)--you name it, you will find it!! While each has its place for individual practice, ALL of them are pivotal in the intended purpose--to provide illuminated visual enlargement, enrichment, and enhancement. In a world of egregious darkness, the Gospel is THE Light which offers the avenue to, and the attainment of, eternal destiny. Men and women throughout church history have ventured among pessimistic, protesting, even primitive and pugnacious, peoples, with the glow of the Good News--Jesus, the “Light of the World” (John 8.12)--leading the way. This was certainly the case for Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, missionaries to Ecuador. They developed a disciplined and dedicated design to demonstrate Matthew 5.14-16-- “You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” To the blackest of hearts, the Elliots shone the penetrating brilliance of God's redemptive message.
History—The Elliots’ “Everyday” Life
Jim (Oregon) and Elisabeth (Pennsylvania) came together as students at Wheaton College in the late 1940s. Jim’s roommate was David Howard, Elisabeth’s brother. Each had aspirations for missionary service (majoring in Greek for Bible translation purposes). Although their relationship grew, they began separately in Quito, marrying nearly two years after Jim first arrived. A daughter, Valerie, came along nearly a year-and-a-half later. Along with four other couples (Flemings, McCullys, Saints, and Yoderians), their goal was to evangelize the Waorani (or the pejorative Auca=“savage”) indigenous tribe.
Heritage—The Elliots’ Earthly Labors
The men eventually established an outpost at Palm Beach by initially distributing gift-drops from Nate Saint’s plane. The cohorts collaborated preliminarily to present the powerful compassion of Christ by transient means; then potentially to pursue through personal and communicatively tangible methods. Aware of the stark risks, they remained steadfastly resolute in their supplicated research. What appeared favorable turned fatal, on January 8, 1956, as Waodani warriors attacked the men, spearing and macheting them and casting their remains into the Curaray River. Jim was 28 years old. Instantly, five wives were widows, and nine children lost their daddies. Some thought, “How tragic!! Lives unnecessarily destroyed!”
Horizons—The Elliots’ Enduring Legacy
Truth be told, the motive behind these martyrs, these daring disciples, was truly, “How triumphant!! Lives unconditionally delivered!” Within three years after the killings, Elisabeth and Valerie, along with Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel, persisted to the point of ultimately residing inside the Auca village, and the corrupted compound slowly, yet steadily, transformed into a Christian community. Elisabeth chronicled the murders in the jungle, as well as crafted a memoir on Jim (please see below). For decades she remained a much sought-after speaker and prolific author. More telling, it is unknown the true numbers (thousands?) of impacted young adults, over the years since, who answered the call for foreign service. The unfolding eternal advantages left in the wake of the brutality far outweigh the ultimate earthly assassinations of these men. How far should we go to shine our lights as witnesses and serve the Light of the World?
Recommended Reading For Further Focus:
Elliot, Elisabeth. Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (Lives of Faith). HarperCollins; Reissue Edition, 1989.
Elliot, Elisabeth. Through Gates of Splendor (25th Anniversary Edition). Living Books/Tyndale House, 1956, 1957, 1981.