On January 8, 1956, Jim Elliott and four fellow missionaries were speared to death on the banks of the Curaray River as they attempted to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Huaorani tribe in remote Ecuador. Surrounding tribes called the Huaorani the “Auca,” meaning “Savages.” Elliott and his party had been warned of the danger of trying to reach this primitive people, but Jim had said, “No one is a fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
Elisabeth Elliott lost her husband that day and was left to raise their ten-month-old daughter. Elisabeth in a remarkable act of Christian magnanimity, forgave the Huaorani people for killing her husband, and along with Rachel Saint, widow of Nick Saint who perished along with Jim Elliott on that faithful day, took up her husband’s missionary mantle, and lived among and labored to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the Huaorani people.
She would spend two years among the Auca and fulfill the missionary vision her husband blazed with his death. She epitomized the self-sacrificing evangelistic passion that has characterized Christian missionaries throughout the history of the Church. She succeeded in converting these people despite the heartache she suffered and the hardships she faced.
Elisabeth remarried in 1969. Here husband Addison Leitch was a professor of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She was widowed again in 1973, and would go on to become and adjunct professor at Gordon-Conwell herself. She married yet again to Lars Gren in 1977 who was a hospital chaplain.
She was a prolific writer and poet sharing from her experiences as a daughter, wife, widow, mother, and missionary from a Christian perspective. Possibly her greatest and most well-known book was, Through Gates of Splendor, which chronicled the story of her first husband and his fellow missionaries brave attempt to bring Christ to the Auca and their tragic deaths. She was a sought after speaker at various venues of faith throughout her life until dementia slowly robbed her of her faculties. She passed from this life to her reward this past June 15, 2015, at the age of 88.
She was without question one of the most influential Christian women who ever lived. She can take her place beside those great men and women of faith listed in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews of whom it was written “the world was not worthy,” Hebrews 11:38. The Church is bereft of another saint who has passed through those gates of splendor.
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