Wise Up

Elisabeth Elliot

Her life, marked by tragedy, resilience and unwavering faith, impacted countless people around the world. By Major Billy Francis
Wise Up

Elisabeth Elliot, born on December 21, 1926, in Brussels, Belgium, emerged as one of the most influential Christian women in the 20th century. Her life, marked by tragedy, resilience and unwavering faith, impacted countless people around the world.

I had the privilege of having a personal relationship with Elisabeth. We were acquainted during my time at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary from 1993 to 1998. Elisabeth was an adjunct faculty member and frequent special guest. She played a significant role in shaping my understanding of worship. 

On our initial encounter, I was tasked with leading a worship session on the piano before she went to the podium. I selected three songs: two hymns and one contemporary song. After the service, Elisabeth expressed her appreciation for the worship time but advised that she preferred hymns exclusively. Elisabeth always embodied elegance and grace, while consistently conveying profound truths. During those early years, no other person influenced my ministerial and worship journey more than Elisabeth. 

Elisabeth’s early years were fashioned by a unique blend of cultural experiences. Her parents, Philip and Katherine Howard, were missionaries in Belgium. Her family then moved as missionaries to Ecuador. Tragedy struck when she was a teenager. In 1948, her father was murdered by the Waorani (the Auca) indigenous tribe. Her profound loss would set the stage for Elisabeth’s lifelong commitment to faith and service. 

After her father’s death, Elisabeth determined to continue the mission work her family had begun. In 1953, she returned to Ecuador where she married her husband, Jim Elliot, who was also in Ecuador as a missionary. They had met while attending Wheaton College. In one of Jim’s love letters to Elisabeth, he uncannily observed, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” 

Elisabeth chronicled her journey into the heart of the Amazon rainforest in her memoir “Through Gates of Splendor”—a poignant account of Jim’s tragic death in 1956 by the hand of the same people who had killed her father. After that, Elisabeth returned to the United States. While her faith had been shaken, she dedicated herself to writing and speaking. She offered comfort, inspiration and profound understanding of the complexities of faith in the face of adversity. On June 15, 2015, Elisabeth Howard Elliot Leitch Gren died in Magnolia, MA at the age of 88.

So What?

In what ways does your life demonstrate the qualities of grace, service and truth? Do you consistently and transparently express your faith in Christ to others, without reservation? 

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