Wednesday, April 4, 2007

I've long been an admirer...

and reader of Elisabeth Elliot.  Like many Christians I was aware of her story as related to her husband, Jim Elliot.  He was a missionary to the Auca Indians tragically murdered by them while trying to give them the gospel.  But I was not aware of the earlier part of her life.

Again, my gratitude to James M. Boice who wrote about Elisabeth Elliot in his commentary on Romans, Volume 3, God and History, 1993, pp.1441-1442.

"Let me tell you about Elisabeth Elliot, who as a young woman went to the jungles of Ecuador to be a missionary.  After studying Spanish for a year, she was invited to work with two other lady missionaries who were trying to reduce the language of the Colorado Indians to writing so they could translate the Bible into it.  Elisabeth Howard--for that was her name then--prayed for an informant, someone who knew the Colorado language and would help her learn it, and the Lord supplied what seemed to be a perfect individual.  His name was Macario.  He was bilingual in both Spanish and Colorado, and he was delighted to have the interpreter's job.  One day, shortly after they had begun the work, Macario was murdered.  It was a pointless, terrible setback to what was apparently a sacrificial and spiritual endeavor.  But there it was!  No explanation.  It was simply something that God, for whatever reason, had allowed to happen.

Elisabeth went on with the work, and at the end of a year she had accumulated thousands of vocabulary cards and done a preliminary analysis of the Colorado language.  She had reduced it to a phonemic alphabet and was teaching the other two missionaries to use it.  One day when she was away, all her materials were stolen.  The women prayed about it, of course, but the materials were never recovered.  The year's work was lost, gone.  It had been for nothing.

The next stage in this story is better known to us.  Elisabeth Howard married Jim Elliot, who in a similar manner had been trying to rebuild a missionary outpost called Shandia station but who had a year's work washed down the river one night by a surprise flood.  The couple worked with the Quichua Indians.  After only twenty-seven months of marriage, Jim Elliot was speared to death by Auca Indians, whom he and four missionary companions had been trying to reach with the gospel.  Again, it was all so pointless and painful.  It was 'unsearchable...beyond tracing out.'

And that was not all.  After some years Elisabeth married Addison Leitch, a former president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.  But not long after, he died slowly and painfully from cancer.

What is Elisabeth Elliot's testimony?  She says, 'The experiences of my life are not such that I could infer from them that God is good, gracious and merciful necessarily.  To have one husband murdered and another one disintegrate body, soul and spirit, through cancer, is not what you would call a proof of the love of God.  In fact, there are many times when it looks like just the opposite.  But my belief in the love of God is not by inference or instinct.  It is by faith.  To apprehend God's sovereignty working in that love is--we must say it--the last and highest victory of the faith that overcomes the world.'"

(EE quote taken from "Denial, Discipline and Devotion" in Tenth: An Evangelical Quarterly, July 1977, p.64.)

1 comment:

  1. Oswald Chambers writes about believing in God who acts in ways that seem to contradict Himself. EE is right; we have to apprehend God's sovereignty in the center of the things that don't seem to fit his nature or make sense to us in any way. It is by faith that we apprehend.