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Stories & Blog

Following in the Footsteps of Elisabeth Elliot

Following in the Footsteps of Elisabeth Elliot

Today, June 15, 2022, marks seven years since Elisabeth Elliot went home to be with the Lord she had loved and served so faithfully. This giant of the faith inspired many of the missionaries on the field today, including me.

I remember the night as if it were yesterday. February 10, 2001: The Moody Bible Institute student body assembled in the sanctuary of a nearby church to hear from a woman many of us considered a living legend.

With Matthew 16:24-25 as her text, Elisabeth Elliot spoke with power and conviction about the cost of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (ESV).

The three prerequisites for a life of service to Christ from this text, she explained, are:

  1. Give up our right to self.
    Jesus is my captain. He gives the orders. No questions asked.

  2. Take up our cross.
    For most missionaries, this will not mean martyrdom, but persevering in small duties and that no one is going to notice.

  3. Follow.
    “This takes sheer, dogged endurance,” she testified.

What you may not know about Mrs. Elliot is that she was born in Brussels, Belgium. With missionary parents, five of the six children in her family went on to serve likewise. What a legacy! Her parents welcomed missionaries so often that 42 countries were represented in their home’s guestbook. I can just picture young Elisabeth sitting around the dining table, hearing first-hand accounts of God’s work in distant lands.

One such missionary her family hosted was Betty Stam.

At the age of eight, Elisabeth learned that John and Betty Stam were beheaded and martyred in China. Rather than being dissuaded from missions, Elisabeth declared, “What a wonderful way to go!”

Elisabeth graduated from Wheaton College, then answered God’s call to missions and moved as a single woman to the jungles in Ecuador. A year and half later, she and Jim Elliot were married.

After years of praying and seeking an opening, the day finally came for Jim Elliot and four other men to fly a small plane to the strip of sand near an Auca village. The men checked in with their families that first day over short-wave radio and reported their promising first contact. Radio silence over the next days, however, proved that the tide had turned against them. Soon the families’ worst fears were confirmed: All five men had been speared to death.

What is so remarkable about this story is what followed. Mrs. Elliot didn’t pack up her 10-month-old daughter and go home. Instead, she remained in her jungle station in Ecuador and continued the work the Lord had called her to. She gave literacy classes to young women and taught the Scriptures to the young men her husband had baptized.

All the while, she prayed, “Is there any possibility that you may be calling me to work among the Auca?” She knew her family and colleagues would think she was crazy. But a year after her husband’s death, the Lord answered her prayer and opened the door for her to live among the Auca people.

Elisabeth Elliot recounted her story for us Moody students that night in 2001. She concluded her message with this exhortation:

The will of God is always going to be different from our imaginings. It’ll be much bigger than we thought. It’ll be a good deal harder, but it will (and I am absolutely certain of this), for the obedient servant, be far more glorious than we could ever have dreamed. But that glory will be reserved until we get to heaven. It is a deep understanding and acceptance of the cross that will hold us steady in the toughest of times.

A few minutes later, I stood in line with my copy of The Journals of Jim Elliot to be signed by his widow. When my turn finally came, I gushed, “What an honor to meet you! You make me want to get my head chopped off for Jesus!” I don’t recall her exact words, but they were something like, “Well, that’s nice, dear.”

Thousands of men and women have answered the call to missions through the inspiration of Jim Elliot’s death and Elisabeth Elliot’s life. As we honor her memory, let’s pray for the Lord to raise up a new generation of disciple-makers with the strength of conviction to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus at any cost.

Do you want to follow in Elisabeth Elliot’s footsteps? Talk to a missions coach to start your own journey to the nations.

Angie Velasquez ThorntonAngie Velasquez Thornton served with her husband, Dan, and their two daughters in Senegal, Africa, for 10 years. They now live in Montreal, Canada, where she continues to make disciples with Crossworld. Read Angie’s blog.

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