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Monday, September 27, 2010

Jim Elliot: Man of Courage


I am not sure how to begin this post dedicated to Jim Elliot. First, I would like to say that reading about the life Jim Elliot lived, consecrated to God even as a very young man, has deeply impacted my life.

A missionary martyr at only 29 years of age, Jim Elliot had dedicated the whole of his life to serving God, wherever His will led. Preferring to spend his free time during high school and college studying the Bible, Jim chose not to engage in many of the extracurricular activities in which his friends were involved. He did, however, play football, became a well-known "star" of the wrestling team, and perform amazing productions with the theatrical club. Jim Elliot believed that marriage was not in God's plans for his life, for surely a young missionary unencumbered by a wife and family could be used more effectively. For this reason, he chose not to date throughout high school and college. However, while studying at Wheaton College, Jim met a unique young lady named Elisabeth Howard, the sister of his close friend and roommate David Howard. She believed God wanted her to become a missionary, as well. A long friendship ensued, during which Jim and Elisabeth served together in various missions work when they were together (They were separated when Elisabeth attended another college while Jim returned to his hometown in Oregon). They both prayed fervently about their relationship, seeking God's will. Finally, Jim and Elisabeth knew that God had created them for each other.

Nate Saint and family
During their engagement, Jim worked with several missionaries building a mission church in Shandia, South America.  In the dreaded rainy season, a devastating flood destroyed almost a year's worth of work and left Jim with malaria. Gratefully, he recovered. In 1953, Jim and Elisabeth, deeply in love, were married, and after much complication, began a new ministry in Shandia, where they worked with four other young missionary couples. In nearby Ecuador lived a tribe of Indians, the Aucas, who had never before been successfully reached by "outsiders." All who had attempted to reach them in the past had been killed. The missionary families knew of the danger that most likely awaited them if they tried to reach the Aucas, yet the five courageous men determined to try, no matter the cost. After many plane trips searching for the Aucas' location and then many trips dropping gifts from the plane to win the tribe's trust, the men decided it was time to land the plane and communicate with the tribe from the ground. According to the book Jim Elliot: Missionary Martyr by Susan Martins Miller, the morning Jim and the other men left in their plane with the intentions of meeting the Auca Indians, Elisabeth Elliot had a terrible feeling that Jim would not be coming back. She longed to tell him, "Don't you know how dangerous this is? Don't you know you may never walk through this door again?" But she knew that Jim had received word from God and that he was determined to go. She kissed him farewell and tried to quell the awful dread and fear that rose within her.

Jim with his baby daughter Valerie
 While trying to reach out to the Auca Indians, Jim Elliot and the four men with him, including Nate Saint,  were slaughtered. Their lives were tragically ended, leaving behind five devastated widows and several small children, including Jim's own baby daughter Valerie. They also left behind much unfinished missions work, but most outstandingly, they left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.
It was later told by several converted Auca Indians who were present the day of the missionaries' deaths that when the men died, the sound of singing reached their ears, and a light "like a hundred flashlights" filled the sky. At the time, they did not know that these were angels of God.
Amazingly, only a few years after Jim's death, Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint returned to Shandia, where they ministered to the same tribe of people who had murdered their husbands. I find this dumbfounding. How could one grow to possess such strong faith? 

Missionaries Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Jim Elliot
Jim Elliot's story has impacted my life incalculably, and I will never forget the lessons his testimony has taught me. May the legacy of Jim and Elisabeth never be forgotten but cherished and shared with every generation to come! I hope to share their story with my children someday, and I pray that they will, in turn, share it with their own children, for this is how a legacy continues...

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." ~Jim Elliot

Check out these books about Jim Elliot, and prepare to be inspired:

Jim Elliot, a Christian Martyr Speaks to You (Robert Lloyd Russell)

Through Gates of Splendor (Elisabeth Elliot)

Heroes of the Faith: Jim Elliot (Susan Martins Miller)

3 comments:

ROBERT LLOYD RUSSELL said...

Thank you for this meaningful post.

I knew Jim Elliot well when I was a boy. He was quite a guy - the genuine article! He came from a family of Godly people (mom, dad, and siblings). Recently I had the great privilege of editing some of Jim's spoken messages.

May God richly bless your ministry for Him and give you much eternal fruit.

emily elizabeth said...

Thank you:) And it is wonderful that you knew Jim Elliot! I put the link to your book on the post:) It looks very good! God bless you!

emily elizabeth said...

I would love to hear about how you knew Jim Elliot. Are there any interesting stories you wouldn't mind sharing?