Can someone you’ve never met so impact your life that you feel like you’ve known him or her forever? For me, the answer is yes. Why? Because of the influence one woman has had on my life from the time I became a Christian at age 16. Her name: Elisabeth Elliot . . . Actually, Elisabeth Howard Elliot Leitch Gren.
To me it seems that Elisabeth has lived through every possible season of life a woman could experience. She’s been married three times and widowed twice, yet has lived as a single woman for half of her 85 years.
She’s lived with her young daughter among a savage tribe of natives, walked jungle trails, met dignitaries and celebrities, taught
Elisabeth and daughter Valerie with the Auca women
college, helped translate an unwritten language, and been featured at women’s conferences. As an author she’s written about her firsthand experiences with loneliness, longing, heartbreak, passion, purity, and triumphant love.
Her life was part of a story that shook the world in 1956 when five young missionaries risked everything to preach Christ to the Auca Indians of Ecuador.
Though I’ve never met her, Elisabeth has made an indelible impression on me–especially during my first years as a Christian–through her books and personal testimony.
Elisabeth’s story began in 1926 when she was born to missionary parents. She grew up in a loving, Christian home and knew from a young age that God wanted her to be a missionary. She was quite, studious, serious, contemplative, and didn’t make friends easily. She was not a social butterfly. Not thought to be beautiful. Not into dating. And, of course, who should catch her eye but a handsome, athletic, popular boy–Jim Elliot.
Elisabeth Howard met Jim Elliot at Wheaton College in 1947. At first, he was really her brother’s friend.
Elisabeth wrote about those years in her book Passion and Purity: “There was a student on campus whom I had been noticing more and more. My brother Dave had been encouraging me to get acquainted with him. He and Dave were on the wrestling squad, so I went to a match, ostensibly to watch Dave. I found myself laughing with the crowd at Jim Elliot, the ‘India-rubber man,’ who could be tied in knots but could not be pinned.
I noticed Jim in the Foreign Missionary Fellowship—earnest, committed to missionary service, outspoken. I noticed him in dining hall lines with little white cards in his hand, memorizing Greek verbs or Scripture verses. I heard his name read out semester after semester in the honors convocation.
Finally Dave invited Jim to come home to New Jersey with us for Christmas vacation. We had long, long talks after the family went to bed. The more Jim talked, the more I saw that he fitted the picture of what I hoped for in a husband. He loved to sing hymns, and he knew dozens by heart. He loved to read poetry, loved to read it aloud. He was a real man, strong broadchested, unaffected, friendly, and—I thought—very handsome. He loved God. That was the supreme dynamic of his life. Nothing else mattered much by comparison. Continue Reading…