Missions History: Elisabeth Elliot

“You can never lose what you have offered to Christ.” 
-Elisabeth Elliot
After missionary Jim Elliot was martyred by Auca warriors, his wife Elisabeth was heartbroken. Left a widow, with a 10-month old daughter to care for, what would she do next? Her decision would impact the future of the Auca people….for better or for worse.

Read on to learn the courageous story of missionary Elisabeth Elliot.

Early Life

Born to missionary parents serving in Belgium, Elisabeth (née Howard) grew up in a devoted Christian home. Each day, after breakfast and dinner, the family would have devotions and sing a hymn. Her parents were loving, disciplined, and godly. 
When she was just an infant, the family returned to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania. Her father, Philip Howard Jr., was the editor of the Sunday School Times, which provided standardized curriculum for many churches.
Young Elisabeth accepted Christ at an early age and made a public profession at the age of 10. And, when she was 12 years old, she surrendered her life to the Lord. God saw her willing heart and called her into missions.
Because her father was a trustee, Elisabeth received free tuition to attend Wheaton College. Although she originally intended to major in pre-medicine, she later switched to English and then classical Greek. 
Between her junior and senior years, God called Elisabeth to linguistics work. This would play an important role in her work in Ecuador. 

Becoming Mrs. Elliot

While studying at Eaton, Elisabeth met a dashing young man named Jim Elliot. He was hardworking, handsome, and called to missions. Although Elisabeth grew to admire the young man, she would have to wait for God’s timing. 
After graduating from Wheaton, Elizabeth went to serve as a missionary in Ecuador. A year later, Jim started serving in another part of Ecuador. According to The Gospel Coalition, “Elisabeth eventually accepted Jim’s marriage proposal and the condition attached to it: to learn the Ecuadorian Quichua language before they got married.” 
Elisabeth became Mrs. Elliot in 1953 when she and Jim were married. Jim had a burning desire to make contact with unreached tribes and share the gospel. He decided to focus on the Auca tribe, a violent group who had killed every newcomer so far. The Aucas were elusive, violent, and unpredictable.
However, Jim’s mind was made up. After locating the tribe, he and four other missionaries flew into Auca territory in January of 1956. Despite an initial friendly contact, the missionaries were speared to death within days. 
The news of the five modern martyrs sent shock waves around the world. Inspired by their heroism, many Christians volunteered for missionary service. Others sent letters and support for the families left behind. 

Faithful to the Call

Left a widow, with a 10-month-old daughter to care for, Elisabeth was faced with an incredibly difficult decision. Would she return to the United States—to the comfort of family and friends? Or would she stay in Ecuador and serve God alone? At the local church’s prison ministries, we know that, sometimes, serving God can be a lonely task. But He is always with us to help us!
Courageously, Elisabeth decided to stay in Ecuador and continue to serve among the Quichua people. Just months after her husband’s tragic death, she wrote in a letter to a friend, “Please pray especially now for the downriver group. I feel about them now as I once did about this group— “impossible to reach”. But “it is God who will tread down our enemies” and bring them into subjection unto Himself.”
Through God’s hand, Elisabeth met two Auca women who had migrated to her village. With their help, Elisabeth was able to make contact with the Auca tribe. She would go on to serve with the Aucas for two years. God used Elisabeth and other missionaries, including Rachel and Nate Saint, to reach the Aucas with the gospel. And their lives would be transformed by God’s Word.

Writing and Speaking Ministry

Elisabeth made several trips back to the USA and finally moved home in 1963. She soon remarried and became Mrs. Addison Leitch, wife of a theological professor. God gave her a busy ministry of speaking to Christians and writing books. Over the years, she wrote over 20 books, including Let Me Be a WomanThrough Gates of Splendor, and Shadow of the Almighty
After losing her second husband to cancer in 1973, Elisabeth continued to serve God. She married Lars Gren, a hospital chaplain, on her birthday in 1977. He served in the ministry alongside her. From 1998 to 2001, Elisabeth hosted a radio program called Gateway to Joy. In 2004, Elisabeth began to suffer from dementia. And, on June 15, 2015, Elisabeth entered gates of splendour in Heaven.  

What About You?

God may not call you to serve on foreign soil. But, like Elisabeth, are you faithfully sharing the gospel with the people around you? Eternity is too long to waste time on things that really don’t matter. We need to speak boldly and tell people of their need and Christ’s sacrifice. Join us at the local church’s prison ministries to learn more.
Are you searching? Jesus has the answers for addictions and stubborn habits. For more information, send the Crossmans a private message here on Facebook or come to a church service at Prince Albert Baptist Church. Take the first step in a walk of freedom!

For more information, call (306) 940-9554 or email anchorofhopeheb@gmail.com