Missionary and Martyr to Ecuador
What unbelievable inspiration I've been fed with this week as I've looked at the lives of this very special couple who committed themselves to serving God by seeking to reach out an unreached tribe of Ecuador. I've wept, I've laughed, I've soul searched and prayed, and more than anything I have been stilled with awe at God's grace and the wisdom of His plan.
Much loved and highly academic, Jim Elliot arrived in Ecuador in 1952, aged 24 with linguistic skills taught by a former missionary to the Quechua people. His aim, along with a team of 4 other bright missionaries (and their wives) of his own age, was to continue evangelising amongst the Quechua people, and in 1953 he married the woman he had agonised in prayer over for 5 years, fellow missionary Elisabeth. Between them, they translated the New Testament into the Quechua language.
In 1955, Valerie was born in the Ecuador jungle......
But family life didn't stop the next step of the mission. Their growing desire was to reach out to a tribe that was notorious for it's barbarism. Any outsiders that entered their territory were never seen again. This tribe was called the Aucas, the Quechua word for savage. They lived and died by the spear, killing many of the Quechus tribes folk, and causing the closure of an oil drilling company through killing several of the workers. They had no justice structure, and 6 in 10 amongst the tribe itself were killed from their own people by spear.
After being in Ecuador now for four years, they had been praying for an opportunity, and for God's leading to make contact with the Aucas, wanting to reach them with the Light if the Gospel. The Lord made a way, but it was not to come cheap. After spotting some Auca houses when out flying in their plane, a plan was made by the five brothers in Christ to fly over the Auca village and lower gifts from the plane to show friendship and peace. This went on for 13 weeks, with the gifts being received, and the Aucas in return fastening a baskets of their offerings to the rope dangling from the yellow plane. There was a small stretch of sandy beach near the savage tribes village, and the men were able to land there one day, and made contact in person.
The exchange was friendly, confidence increased, and as the men returned back home that night in their plane and return trips were being planned. After one particular trip, however, the men were not to come back. After no radio contact for a night and a morning, alerts were sent out from the wives and news soon hit America; broadcasts were swiftly on air with calls for prayer over these five missing men who had entered savage territory. Searches were made, and the men were found floating in the river after being speared to death. The Aucas had been led to believe by one of their fellows that the 'Foreigners' were going to kill them.
The wives and their children decided to stay to continue the work
Valerie was just 10 months old
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
They continued to live and work among the Quechua's, when one day, by God's incredible working, two women from the Auca tribe came to live with Elisabeth. They learned the ways of God, and Elisabeth was able to start learning the Auca language. These two ladies were to provide a link to the Aucas, and by God's grace Elisabeth was invited to live amongst the very tribe that had killed her husband just 2 years before. In 1958, along with Rachel Saint, Elisabeth and 3 year old Valerie moved into a traditional house with the Aucas.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
After just 2 years, the homicide rate decreased by 90% as the tribe were taught that there is a trail that leads to life, with an eternal home at the end, but those who would walk on it cannot murder. This destructive people confessed that had the missionaries not arrived, they would have killed each other off. Now they remain as a jungle tribe, but no longer living in darkness. The very men who killed the five young Christian men grew to be elders of faith in Jesus; hard men became tender, and learned the ways of peace. The village was won over to Christ, a people group taken from the clutches of satan and into the everlasting arms.
To watch a documentary about this whole story, please see Beyond the Gates of Splendour
Elisabeth went on beyond Jungle life and returned to America where she had a very full life writing over twenty books, and hosting a daily radio programme called Gateway to Joy for twelve years, that can still be heard on demand on....the Bible Broadcasting Website. A woman of the Word and prayer, she learned great wisdom and trust as she stayed stedfast in her commitment to bring the love of God and the message of hope to those in darkness.
She gave her life to encouraging others of the faithfulness of God, One who can be trusted in the midst of seeming chaos, Who is worth both living and dying for.
I hope you have been blessed by this very brief introduction to these remarkable people, and I pray that you will be tempted to pick up one or two of her books, and perhaps listen to some of her many messages available of youtube. Though she went to be with the Lord in 2015, she still has plenty to say to you that will strengthen your faith and help you to keep your eyes on Jesus.