Elisabeth Elliot, who has been described as one of the most influential Christian women of the 20th century, died yesterday at the age of 88. Here are nine things you should know about this important missionary, author, and speaker:
1. Elisabeth Elliot (née Howard) was born in Belgium, where her parents served as missionaries. She moved to the U.S. as an infant and would go on to attend Wheaton College. At Wheaton she studied classical Greek to enable her to work in the area of unwritten languages during her future missionary work.
2. While at Wheaton, Elliot met her future first husband, Jim Elliot. After graduation, and for five years before their engagement, Jim and Elisabeth served in different parts of Ecuador. Elisabeth eventually accepted Jim's marriage proposal and the condition attached to it: to learn the Ecuadorian Quichua language before they got married.
3. In 1953, Jim and Elisabeth married in Quito, Ecuador and continued their work in that nation. Jim had wanted to enter the territory of an unreached tribe and so chose the Aucas, a fierce group whom no one had succeeded in meeting without being killed. After discovering the location of the tribe, Jim and four other missionaries entered Auca territory. After a friendly contact with three of the tribe, they were speared to death. (That story is told in the book and movie, End of the Spear.)
4. After the death of her husband, and now alone with her 10-month-old daughter, Elisabeth continued to live among and minister to the Quichua tribe. During that time she met two Auca women who lived with her and taught her the tribe’s language. She then went as a missionary to serve the tribe that killed her husband. While there the people gave Elisabeth the tribal name Gikari, meaning “Woodpecker.”
5. During her time in Ecuador, Elisabeth wrote Through Gates of Splendor (the story of the five men, including her husband, who were killed by the Auca), Shadow of the Almighty (a memoir about the life and work of her husband Jim), and The Savage, My Kinsmen (about her life among the Aucas). When she returned to the U.S. in 1963 she began a career as a writer and speaker. She would go on to write 24 books.
6. For 13 years, Elisabeth hosted a 12-minute radio program aimed at women called Gateway to Joy. She opened each episode by saying, “’You are loved with an everlasting love,’ that's what the Bible says ‘and underneath are the everlasting arms.’ This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot . . .”
7. In 1969, Elisabeth married Addison Leitch, professor of theology at Gordon Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts. He died in 1973. After Leitch’s death Elisabeth had two lodgers who rented a room in her home: one of them married her daughter, the other one, Lars Gren, married her.
8. Elisabeth’s life has been portrayed in a play (Bridge of Blood: Jim Elliot Takes Christ to the Aucas), a musical (Love Above All), and a film (End of the Spear).
9. Elliot stopped giving speeches in 2004 when her health become poor and she started suffering from dementia. Her husband Lars Gren said Elliot has handled dementia just as she did the deaths of her husbands. “She accepted those things, [knowing] they were no surprise to God. It was something she would rather not have experienced, but she received it.”
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