I’ve been re-reading Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot along with my junior high English class, and TGOS is also the May selection for Julia’s Heroes of the Faith Book Club at Dark Glass Ponderings.
This book tells the story of five young missionaries who accomplished what every Christian aspires to—they lived and died for Christ. However, their brief time on earth and the way God took them home have left an indelible impact on generations of Christians.
In 1956 Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian lost their lives in an attempt to bring the Gospel to the Woadani or Auca tribe of Ecuador. There is so much that could be said about these brave men and their wives. I’ve already posted about them several times at the links listed below. So today I’d like to focus on one lesson the book brought home to me.
The story of these five men reminds me how perfectly God matches a life path to each personality He creates. When I was young, it seemed like Christians who dedicated their lives to Christ were immediately forced to go to some faraway outpost or jungle setting where they had to give up civilized life in order to be holy. I feared that a life of service might mean the same for me and balked at the idea. Nate, Jim, Ed, Pete, Roger, and their wives are a good reminder of what I eventually learned about God’s leading in our lives. God’s purpose is uniquely suited to each of us. He wants us to be happy and fulfilled doing what He created us to do. Since God is the one who made us, who knows better what will please us?
He tells us this again and again. We just need to trust His Word . . .
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11~
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will [shape] the desires of your heart.” ~Psalm 37:4~
“For you created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” ~Psalm 139:13&16~
The missionaries in this book chose the jungle and enjoyed everyday life among the simple people there. They were pioneers at heart and loved rough, outdoor adventures. Even the actual film footage of their last days—when the five men were camping out on the beach—features them joking, laughing, singing.
And the photos and film of the men’s first meeting with the Auca people show how exuberant they were to have finally made contact.
The guys did not consider their lives to be filled with sacrifice. In the jungles of Ecuador, they felt they were fulfilling their purpose.
Through Gates of Splendor not only relates the details of the men’s jungle adventures, it also shares excerpts from the letters and diaries that reveal their hearts. As I read their hopes, dreams, doubts, and fears in their own words, I realized they were exactly where they wanted to be doing exactly what they’d dreamed of doing.
Each of the guys had been raised in homes that taught their children how to have personal relationships with Jesus Christ. Their parents read and discussed Scripture with them, brought them to church, showed by example how to live for Christ each day, and encouraged their children to discover God’s purpose for themselves. Most of the men and women involved in this story had felt God calling them to be missionaries since they were very young. So the Lord had been getting them ready to go to the Aucas for their entire lives.
What’s your purpose? How has God worked in your life to bring you this far? Have you ever felt God making an adjustment in your life when you’ve gotten off track? Feel free to share!
For more readings about the folks from this story, follow the links below: