If you didn’t have the chance to read my first post, The Most Remarkable Woman I’ve Never Met, you can find the link here. And at the end of this post, you’ll find some other interesting links, including one to the last piece Elisabeth ever wrote, which has never been published as a book.
For Part II of this series, I decided to let Elisabeth tell you about her life in her own words.
From the About Elisabeth page of her website: “A year after I went to Ecuador, Jim Elliot, whom I had met at Wheaton, also entered tribal areas with the Quichua Indians. In 1953 we were married in the city of Quito and continued our work together. Jim had always hoped to have the opportunity to enter the territory of an unreached tribe. The Aucas were in that category—a fierce group whom no one had succeeded in meeting without being killed. After the discovery of their whereabouts, Jim and four other missionaries entered Auca territory. After a friendly contact with three of the tribe, they were speared to death.
Our daughter Valerie was 10 months old when Jim was killed. I continued working with the Quichua Indians when, through a remarkable providence, I met two Auca women who lived with me for one year.
They were the key to my going in to live with the tribe that had killed the five missionaries. I remained there for two years. After having worked for two years with the Aucas, I returned to the Quichua work and remained there until 1963 when Valerie and I returned to the U.S.
Since then, my life has been one of writing and speaking. It also included, in 1969, a marriage to Addison Leitch, professor of theology at Gordon Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts. He died of Cancer in 1973.
After his death I had two lodgers in my home. One of them married my daughter; the other one, Lars Gren, married me.”
Renee’s comments: She tells it all so matter-of-factly, but I can’t imagine how difficult some of those years were! The following is a transcript from an episode of the Gateway to Joy radio program in which Lars (husband #3) and Elisabeth talk about how they met. (It mentions that they’ve been married 23 years, but the program is about 10 years old. So Lars and Elisabeth have actually been married more than 30 years.) Also, I hope you can sense the humor underlying some of their comments!
Lars Gren: “For some of the people who do not know it, I want to tell how it was that we met in the first place. I’d been living in Atlanta, Georgia. And through remarkable circumstances and many providential turns, I wrapped up the business of being a manufacturer’s representative and went off to seminary at Gordon-Conwell, which is only about ten miles down the road from where we now live.
When I arrived for the first day of classes, it was the funeral of one of the beloved professors there, Dr. Addison Leitch. I attended that funeral. Afterwards, there was a coffee hour where students were to be given the opportunity to pay their respects and say a few words about what Dr. Leitch had meant to them. Of course, this was all directed to the widow.
During that time I listened, and then at the very end this woman stood up. And I remember a few words that the widow said. ‘I do not want you to worry, but I would like to say a few words in response to these kind remarks.’ I thought to myself, here’s someone who has just been to the funeral of a husband, and to be able to stand up and speak as she did. She really impressed me as being a woman of tremendous strength. I remember thinking to myself, ‘That is some kind of woman.’
I was an older student. As it turned out, I had about three or four days on campus living in the dormitory, and I realized that I was way, way beyond the stage of being able to do that. So I began at once to look for housing off campus. I was very surprised to bump into the Dean of students, who said, ‘There’s a Mrs. Leitch who has a place. It’s within walking distance.’ The next day after the funeral, I went and I met Mrs. Leitch at her house. We sat and talked for a little bit.
That evening I had a little note in the mailbox saying that the room was available if I wanted to take it. I took it. And it was only the day after Dr. Leitch was buried that I moved in, and the widow became my landlady. I lived there for two years before she kicked me out.
I ought to also say that there was this other lodger. He also lived there two years, and he also left when he graduated. About two years after he graduated, he returned and married Mrs. Leitch’s daughter.
It took me a little bit longer. It took me about four years after I got kicked out of the house to convince Mrs. Leitch to become Mrs. Gren. So that’s how we met. She was the landlady and I was the lodger.”
Elisabeth Elliot: “Well, it is amazing to me when I think back to how the Lord brought you to my house. Of course, [I go by the name] Elisabeth Elliot. That happened to be my first husband’s last name, Jim Elliot. Then my second husband was, as Lars has told you, Dr. Addison Leitch. He died of cancer after four and a half years of marriage to me. As far as I can tell, Lars, you’re looking pretty hale and hardy today. We’ve had, what is it now? Twenty…”
Lars Gren: “Twenty-three, twenty-two. Well, once you past twenty, you know, you sort of lose count. We get so enamored with each other that it just blends one year into the next. But it’s been a delightful time. I can’t believe the time has gone by—the years that have gone by like that. They’ve flown by.”
Elisabeth Elliot: “Jim was a young man when he died. He was 28. Addison Leitch was almost 65 when he died. [I was 47.] And he and I had had just those four and a half years together. But as you say, he was an interesting, very remarkable man actually. And had a tremendous sense of humor. Which has been the case with all three of the husbands that God has given me.
Let me say here, you can imagine how many women have said to me, ‘I don’t understand why God would give you three husbands when he’s never even given me a date.’ Well, how am I supposed to answer that question? I thought it was a miracle that I got married the first time.
Variety is the spice of life, they say. And I surely never expected to have the variety of three very different husbands. To each of whom I have had to learn to submit. I was not born submissive.”
Lars Gren: “But it’s been a whole lot easier with me than the first two, hasn’t it?”
Elisabeth Elliot: “No comment.”
Lars Gren: “Oh. Here I thought it was so much easier. After all, I have few demands. Ha ha . . .”
Elisabeth Elliot: “22 years is quite different from 27 months. Jim lasted twenty-seven months, and Add four and a half years. So it’s now been over 22 years that I have been still learning to submit . . . But Lars has blessed me in many ways. I think probably the biggest job that he has nowadays, is helping me with travel when I’m invited to speak. He takes the books, and I’m just amazed at the numbers of books that seem to disappear from the book table when Lars is in charge. He’s a very laid-back man. Yet he has been given a gift by God to know how to deal with people. I am unutterably grateful . . .”
Renee’s comments again: I’ve always thought that God brought Lars along just in time to help take care of Elisabeth, don’t you agree? . . . Not long after those interviews, Elisabeth began slowing down. She no longer accepts speaking engagements and rarely travels. Also, she no longer writes. However, you can continue to be blessed by her words in several ways.
Here’s a link to the Elisabeth Elliot website. The site contains links to the archives of her newsletters and the transcripts of her radio shows. Also, the site posts a new devotional each day taken from Elisabeth’s writings. (I added a link to Elisabeth’s devotionals in my sidebar, for my convenience and any of you who might be interested.)
Elisabeth has been quite prolific in her writing. I wish I had more of her books to give away to all of you! However, they’re definitely worth the investment of your time and money. Some of my favorites include, Loneliness, Discipline: The Glad Surrender, On Asking God Why, and Keep a Quiet Heart. At this link you’ll find the entire collection of Elisabeth Elliot books Amazon.com has to offer.
During the mid 90’s, Elisabeth had in mind to write two more books. Though she worked on and off, nothing seemed to come together for her. At one point she said to Lars, “I think that I have written enough and said what I needed to say.” In September 2010, Lars shared what he calls “Elisabeth’s last words” as a PDF. You’ll find the draft of her unfinished book here.
I could never put down in two posts all that Elisabeth has written about her years ministering to the tribe without her beloved Jim. . .
Or the months she nursed Addison through his bout with cancer
Or the joy she took in watching her daughter Valerie marry and raise a family.
But I hope the bits and pieces of her life story that I shared here have given you a better picture of this amazing lady.
This post is the last entry in the Progressive Blog Party hosted by Amber at Seasons of Humility. Today Amber has posted a beautiful letter from Iraq by Brigadier General Anthony J. Rock as she focuses on what sacrificial love really means. Also, she’s added a linky list of the other blogs involved in the “party” at the bottom of her post. You may wish to follow this link to her blog so you can read the letter and then hop off to visit the other blogs!
Many blessings, friends!