Elisabeth Elliot once wrote, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.”
And by God’s grace, what a woman she was! Born Elisabeth “Betty” Howard in 1926, the daughter of missionaries to Belgium, Elliot died this past week at the age of 88 after a long battle with dementia.
“One of my heroes went to be with Jesus,” said David Shibley, founder of the Global Advance missionary organization, speaking for many. “Elisabeth Elliot personified wisdom, courage, grace, and a passionate pursuit of authentic discipleship, whatever the cost.”
It was at Wheaton College that the young Betty met a man named Jim Elliot. From their shared passion for taking the Gospel to those who had never heard, the couple decided to go to eastern Ecuador as missionaries, part of a team of five young families. Their objective was to share the Christian story with a violent, isolated Auca tribe.
And the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, impacted millions, challenged churches, and propelled the missions movement. The five men—Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Peter Fleming, Nate Saint, and Ed McCully—were slaughtered in 1956 on a lonely jungle landing strip by members of the tribe. The story and photos, told compellingly in Life magazine, galvanized a generation.
But Elliot stayed in Ecuador, and after meeting two Auca women who lived with her for a year, made the decision to go live with the tribe that had murdered her husband and his friends. She and her daughter stayed for two years, and many came to Christ. Others have since continued to work with the tribe, and most of them now follow Christ. And ministry continued for Elisabeth Elliot, who made a lasting mark through writing and speaking.
Her books “Through Gates of Splendor,” which tells the story of the Ecuador Five, and “Shadow of the Almighty,” on the life and ministry of Jim Elliot—a book that deeply impacted my life in college—became best-selling classics. Kathryn Long, professor of history at Wheaton College, told Christianity Today, “Those became the definitive inspirational mission stories for the second half of the 20th century. ..”
Elliot also wrote the highly regarded books “No Graven Image,” “The Savage My Kinsman,” “Passion and Purity,” and a biography of Amy Carmichael called “A Chance to Die.” Come to our website, and we’ll help you get copies.
Her forthright way of sharing her hard learned lessons garnered Elisabeth Elliot a wide audience. Her radio program, called “Gateway to Joy,” ran until 2001, and always began with these words, “You are loved with an everlasting love. That’s what the Bible says. And underneath are the everlasting arms. This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot.”
And the everlasting arms that upheld this amazing woman when a young widow also upheld her through the trials of old age. She suffered from dementia for the last decade. No longer able to give speeches or write, she was forced to put into practice one of her life lessons: “From acceptance comes peace.” Her husband since 1977, Lars Gren, told World magazine, “She accepted those things, [knowing] they were no surprise to God. It was something she would rather not have experienced, but she received it.”
Elisabeth Elliot died as she lived, faithful. She leaves behind a host of grateful admirers and disciples, including Kay Warren, who stated in tribute, “Elisabeth, thank you for shaping me into the woman I am, for modeling for me what it looks like to follow hard after Jesus, for never walking away from God in your darkest days and for holding true to your faith to the end. Thank you on behalf of millions of other women … who found in you a woman worthy to emulate.”
I’d only add that Elliot’s impact reached not only women, and will close today with her words: “I have one desire now,” she said, “to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” Amen.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: June 24, 2015