"If you could have lunch with anyone in the whole world, who would it be?"
That was the question I had to answer about 15 years ago in some sort of icebreaker game. I said Elisabeth Elliot. At that point in my life her story had greatly influenced and affected me and I would have loved to sit down to lunch and ask her to tell me more. For several years I devoured her books and was enthralled by her story. I got to hear her speak once at a women's conference during my senior year of college. I remember being shocked that the small, fragile-looking woman standing at the podium with her hair pulled back in a tight white bun was the spiritual powerhouse whose story had so affected me. I suppose that if she knew my thoughts she would have reminded me that the Holy Spirit was the powerhouse; she was just the jar of clay.
I read several of her books including Shadow of the Almighty, The Savage My Kinsman, Passion and Purity, Let Me Be A Woman, Quest for Love, and The Shaping of a Christian Family. Shortly after I heard her speak I found and bought a copy of the January 30, 1956 Life magazine that first told the story of her husband and four other missionary men being killed by Indians in Ecuador. A few years ago I was given the DVD of the 2006 film End of the Spear, which also tells the story of the death of these five missionaries, and what happened following. Needless to say, Elisabeth Elliot's story and ministry has affected my life.
(Elisabeth Elliot in 1956 Life magazine)
There is one piece of her life that especially still amazes and challenges me. When she was at the lowest point possible...her husband killed by the very people they had been praying for and working to serve; left alone to raise her toddler baby girl...she responded completely opposite of my expectations. If I were in her shoes I think I would have gone home. Slept in a warm bed. Hugged my toddler close. I think I would have allowed others to cook for me and pity me. I might have lived for a while in a fog of sadness, curling up regularly on my bed to cry and wonder and question. But Elisabeth went back. She stayed in Ecuador and after a short time went to live with the very tribe that had killed her husband. She took her toddler to live in a tent among the savages, and they became her kinsmen, as her book title professes. She did not sink in to her own loss, but rather allowed God to use her hardship to strengthen her faith in Him and serve as a testimony of Christ's unfailing love to this Indian tribe.
Yesterday I learned that Elisabeth Elliot died this week. And as I reflected on her life and ministry I went back to her first book I ever read. I was first exposed to the Elliot's story my junior year of college by reading Shadow of the Almighty late at night in my dorm room. These are the quotes from Jim Elliot's journal that I underlined back them....all of them still an incredible challenge to my thinking and living today:
"We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century does not reckon with. But we are 'harmless,' and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with the principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are 'sideliners' -- coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!" (p.79)
"'We are the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.' And what are sheep doing going into the gate? What is their purpose inside those courts? To bleat melodies and enjoy the company of the flock? No. Those sheep were destined for the altar. Their pasture feeding had been for one purpose, to test them and fatten them for bloody sacrifice. Give Him thanks, then, that you have been counted worthy of His altars. Enter into the work with praise." (p. 89)
"Paul went to Salonica and lived a life that more than illustrated what he preached; it went beyond illustration to convincing proof. No wonder so much work in the Kingdom today is shoddy -- look at the moral character of the worker." (p.121)
"Remember always that God has taught you the importance of a building ministry. Staying for some time in one group, stressing certain things consistently, is the best way to accomplish lasting work for God." (p.126)
"Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as an heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So, with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly -- all of them, straight at the Enemy's hosts." (p.132)
"Believers who know one-tenth as much as we do are doing one hundred times more for God, with His blessing and our criticism." (p.138)
"Faith makes life so even, gives one such confidence in his movements, that the words of men are as wind." (p.172)
"I have been thinking lately that life in the will of God is better in each phase that we enter, so I can say honestly today, 'This is the best year of my life.'" (p.228)
"It is a never-failing source of amazement to me how the lofty teachings of our Lord -- having been fitted to primitive situations -- are frequently more readily understood by a jungle Indian than by a cultured person who is a product of twentieth-century civilization." (p.233)
"You wonder why people choose fields away from the States when young people at home are drifting because no one wants to take time to listen to their problems. I'll tell you why I left. Because those Stateside young people have every opportunity to study, hear and understand the Word of God in their own language, and these Indians have no opportunity whatsoever. I have had to make a cross of two logs, and lie down on it, to show the Indians what it means to crucify a man. When there is that much ignorance over here and so much knowledge and opportunity over there, I have no question in my mind why God sent me here. Those whimpering Stateside young people will wake up on the Day of Judgment condemned to worse fates than the demon-fearing Indians, because having a Bible, they were bored with it -- while these never heard of such a thing as writing." (p. 237)
"The will of God is always a bigger thing than we bargain for." (p.249)