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Men and Women of Faith: Elisabeth Elliot

Men and Women of Faith: Elisabeth Elliot

As one of the most influential writers of our Christian faith, Elisabeth Elliot has truly known the meaning of sacrifice, forgiveness, and perseverance. A short biography will never do her justice, and can read multiple biographies on her life and never truly touch who she is and her relationship with Christ until you delve into her breathtaking books, which tackle some of the hardest life topics with an immense amount of grace. 


She was born in 1926 in the city of Brussels, in the country of Belgium.  Elizabeth Howard, the daughter of missionaries and a young lady, went off to Wheaton College and there she studied the classics. Doing so because she believed it would best prepare her for her life’s calling to be a missionary and translator of the New Testament. While at Wheaton, she met Jim Elliot, a man who thought God wanted him to live a life of singleness, but five years later he changed his mind. Initially, he and Elisabeth went to Ecuador separately but shortly after they arrived in 1953, they were joined in marriage in Quito, Ecuador. 

Excerpting from an article we read a condensed version of some of the most touching parts of her influential life. 


“Not too far from the site where they were working in Ecuador, Nate Saint noticed a settlement on one of his flights. After a few months of airdropping packages and sending messages, they decided they would go and visit the village in person. Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and the pilot, Nate Saint, all went to visit along the river there in the Amazon jungle. 


Back at the missionary station, no word was received. People begin to wonder about them, and so they started to search. After a long series of time—and by this point becoming national and even international news— their bodies were discovered and it was realized that all five of them were killed, speared to death there in the Amazon jungle.


Life magazine ran a ten-page article to chronicle this sacrifice of these missionaries, and many people wondered and scratched their head at the seemingly senseless sacrifice of these young men so far away from home in the Amazon jungle. The next year, Elisabeth Elliot wrote one of her bestselling books, Through Gates of Splendor. There she quotes a line from one of her husband’s journals. It simply says, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to get what he cannot lose.” She clearly presented the idea that this was no senseless sacrifice.


In 1958, Elisabeth and Rachel Saint, who was the sister of the slain pilot Nate Saint, made contact with the very tribe that had killed her husband. Shortly after that, she went and served among them for two years as a missionary. She brought her young daughter, Valerie, with her. Valerie was only ten months old at the time of her father’s death. In 1963, Elisabeth and Valerie returned to the United States. She would go on to be an author and speaker, and over five decades would emerge as a leader in evangelicalism.


In 1969, Elisabeth married Addison Leitch. Leitch was a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. After just a few years of marriage, he died of cancer in 1973. Four years later, she married Lars Gren. He would go on to be her agent, and she wrote well over twenty books. In addition to her books, she also hosted a daily radio program that ran for a dozen years called Gateway to Joy. She was also known as a leader in evangelicalism and stood up not only for the gospel but for other issues that were raised at the end of the twentieth century. 


But it was largely through the sacrifice of her husband and her desire to return to those same people who took his life, that she is known and has a place in church history. That is the life of Elisabeth Elliot, who once said, “Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.”

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. The cross was the proof of His love – that He gave that Son, that He let Him go to Calvary’s cross, though “legions of angels” might have rescued Him. He will not necessarily protect us - not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”

― Elisabeth Elliot 

“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”
― Elisabeth Elliot, 
Keep a Quiet Heart 

“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact.”
― Elisabeth Elliot, 
These Strange Ashes 

“If we hold tightly to anything given to us unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used we stunt the growth of the soul. What God gives us is not necessarily "ours" but only ours to offer back to him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of, if we want to be our true selves. Many deaths must go into reaching our maturity in Christ, many letting goes.” ― Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ's Control 

Biographical portions gathered from:

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