Let’s travel closer in time and look at the life of Elisabeth Elliot. Elisabeth was born in 1926 in Brussels, Belgium, and she died in 2015 in Magnolia, Mississippi. She was the daughter of missionaries, she was wife to a missionary husband, and she herself was a missionary. She was an author and a speaker. That is the life of Elisabeth Elliot.
As a young lady, Elisabeth Howard went off to Wheaton College and there she studied the classics. She studied classics because she believed it would best prepare her for her life’s calling to be a missionary and translator of the New Testament. While at Wheaton, she met Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot thought God wanted him to be a bachelor, but five years later he changed his mind. Initially, he and Elisabeth went to Ecuador individually—she went as Elisabeth Howard, and he went as Jim Elliot. But shortly after they arrived in 1953, they were married in Quito, Ecuador.
Not too far from the site where they were working in Ecuador, Nate Saint noticed a settlement on one of his flights. After a few months of airdropping packages and sending messages, they decided they would go and visit the village in person. Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and the pilot, Nate Saint, all went to visit along the river there in the Amazon jungle.
Back at the missionary station, no word was received. People begin to wonder about them, and so they started to search. After a long series of time—and by this point becoming national and even international news— their bodies were discovered and it was realized that all five of them were killed, speared to death there in the Amazon jungle.
Life magazine ran a ten-page article to chronicle this sacrifice of these missionaries, and many people wondered and scratched their head at the seemingly senseless sacrifice of these young men so far away from home in the Amazon jungle. The next year, Elisabeth Elliot wrote one of her bestselling books, Through Gates of Splendor. There she quotes a line from one of her husband’s journals. It simply says, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to get what he cannot lose.” She clearly presented the idea that this was no senseless sacrifice.
In 1958, Elisabeth and Rachel Saint, who was the sister of the slain pilot Nate Saint, made contact with the very tribe that had killed her husband. Shortly after that, she went and served among them for two years as a missionary. She brought her young daughter, Valerie, with her. Valerie was only ten months old at the time of her father’s death. In 1963, Elisabeth and Valerie returned to the United States. She would go on to be an author and speaker, and over five decades would emerge as a leader in evangelicalism.
In 1969, Elisabeth married Addison Leitch. Leitch was a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. After just a few years of marriage, he died of cancer in 1973. Four years later, she married Lars Gren. He would go on to be her agent, and she wrote well over twenty books. In addition to her books, she also hosted a daily radio program that ran for a dozen years called Gateway to Joy. She was also known as a leader in evangelicalism and stood up not only for the gospel but for other issues that were raised at the end of the twentieth century.
But it was largely through the sacrifice of her husband and her desire to return to those same people who took his life, that she is known and has a place in church history. That is the life of Elisabeth Elliot, who once said, “Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.”