guest post by Larry Dinkins
This week, 60 years ago, five missionaries made contact with the Auca (literally “savage”) tribal group in the Ecuadorian jungle. Previously, no one had ever engaged this tribe without being killed. The previous year, gifts had been exchanged paving the way for this encounter. On January 3rd, the five married men, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Peter Fleming, Nate Saint (oldest at 32), and Ed McCully established a camp at “Palm Beach” along the Curaray River and waited. On January 6, two naked women and a man emerged from the jungle and made friendly contact, even agreeing to take a ride in the yellow Piper. By January 8, the anxious wives got word that all five of the missionaries had been slaughtered on that lonely beach. The coverage of the event by Life Magazine and its photo essay broadcast the news around the world culminating in what has become one of the most inspirational missionary stories of the 20th century.
Two years later, Rachel Saint (Nate’s sister) and Elisabeth Elliot with her 3-year-old daughter went to live among the Auca for a period of three years. Eventually most of the village, including six in the murder party, turned to Christ. Elisabeth returned to the states as a writer and speaker, producing a total of 28 books over the next fifty years, including Through Gates of Splendor, Shadow of the Almighty and The Savage, My Kinsmen.
In 1969 Elisabeth married Addison Leitch, a professor of theology at Gordon Conwell Seminary. He died of cancer in 1973. After his death, she married yet again in 1977 to a hospital chaplain named Lars Glen, a former lodger at the rented room at her home. That marriage lasted until her death at 88 in June, 2015.
Jim and Elisabeth Elliot have stepped “Through Gates of Splendor” into their reward, yet their words and influence remain six decades later. Elisabeth is a particular inspiration to me, especially how she handled suffering at multiple points in her life, first through the high risks of ministry in Ecuador and the wrenching experience of seeing cancer take her second spouse within only four years. Her last decade was a constant battle with dementia, a condition that she endured with godly acceptance as she had previously done with the passing of her husbands.