Elisabeth Elliot (née Howard; born December 21, 1926) died this morning (June 15, 2015) at the age of 88.
She was a beautiful woman of whom the world was not worthy.
Here is her brief testimony, told in her typically understated way:
My parents were missionaries in Belgium where I was born. When I was a few months old, we came to the U.S. and lived in Germantown, not far from Philadelphia, where my father became an editor of the Sunday School Times. . . .
Our family continued to live in Philadelphia and then in New Jersey until I left home to attend Wheaton College. By that time, the family had increased to four brothers and one sister. My studies in classical Greek would one day enable me to work in the area of unwritten languages to develop a form of writing.
A year after I went to Ecuador, Jim Elliot, whom I had met at Wheaton, also entered tribal areas with the Quichua Indians. In nineteen fifty three we were married in the city of Quito and continued our work together. Jim had always hoped to have the opportunity to enter the territory of an unreached tribe. The Aucas were in that category—a fierce group whom no one had succeeded in meeting without being killed. After the discovery of their whereabouts, Jim and four other missionaries entered Auca territory. After a friendly contact with three of the tribe, they were speared to death.
Our daughter Valerie was 10 months old when Jim was killed. I continued working with the Quichua Indians when, through a remarkable providence, I met two Auca women who lived with me for one year. They were the key to my going in to live with the tribe that had killed the five missionaries. I remained there for two years.
After having worked for two years with the Aucas, I returned to the Quichua work and remained there until 1963 when Valerie and I returned to the U.S.
Since then, my life has been one of writing and speaking. It also included, in 1969, a marriage to Addison Leitch, professor of theology at Gordon Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts. He died in 1973. After his death I had two lodgers in my home. One of them married my daughter, the other one, Lars Gren, married me. Since then we have worked together.
She was the author of several books, many dealing with themes of suffering, loneliness, singleness, manhood and womanhood, and family.
Among her best-known books are those that told the story of her first husband, Jim Elliot, and their mission together in Ecuador: Through Gates of Splendor (1957), Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (1958), The Savage My Kinsman (1961), and The Journals of Jim Elliot (1978).
She also wrote a biography of Amy Carmichael (A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael) and an influential book on purity (Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under God’s Control).
As a college student, Elisabeth dabbled in poetry, and one day wrote a poem that should would look back upon as prophetic:
Perhaps some future day, Lord,
Thy strong hand will lead me to the place
Where I must stand utterly alone;
Alone, Oh gracious Lover, but for Thee.
I shall be satisfied if I can see Jesus only.
I do not know Thy plan for years to come.
My spirit finds in Thee its perfect home: sufficiency.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee now.
Lead on no matter where, no matter how,
I trust in Thee.
She made famous an anonymous poem that seems to describe her own life of perseverance, as two of her three husbands preceded her in death:
At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven that,
as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, ‘Do the next thing.’
Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Do the next thing.