Elisabeth Elliott, pioneer missionary and Christian author, entered the presence of Jesus on Sunday, June 14, 2015, after a long battle with dementia. A prolific author, her most famous book, Through Gates of Splendor, told the story of five missionaries (including her first husband Jim Elliott) who died while trying to reach the Auca people in Ecuador. Splendor had a significant impact on me as a young adult as I encountered men and women in the pages of the book who were willing to give all in the service of Christ. And, not only did they give all but they considered their sacrifice worth it in the service of their Savior. Jim Elliott famously wrote in his journal,
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain that which he cannot lose.
The day of her death, I just happened to re-read These Strange Ashes, the book detailing the first year of her life as a single missionary woman in the jungles of Ecuador and the faith lessons that she learned. Each lesson ultimately centered on the the sovereignty and goodness of God — in other words, how she learned to submit to the assignment given to her by God. But, she wrote about submission to God’s will with a full understanding of the cost. She wrote,
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.
I had the opportunity to meet her, but I only really knew her through her many books and articles. Through those vehicles, she was a teacher and an encourager. More often, she was one who rebuked me as she asked the Lord to “deliver us from our sad, sweet, stinking selves!”
She ends the most recent epilogue of Through Gates of Splendor with these words that are a fitting match to the current sermon series:
We are not always sure where the horizon is. We would not know which end is up were it not for the shimmering pathway of light falling on the white sea. The One who laid earth’s foundations and settled its dimensions knows where the lines are drawn. He gives all the light we need for trust and obedience.
Christianity Today has an excellent summary of her life here, with a lot of links if you want to learn more about her extraordinary life.
All is well,
(picture from elisabethelliott.org)