Elisabeth Elliot was an American Christian author and speaker. She was born Elisabeth Howard in 1926 in Belgium to missionary parents. After graduating from Wheaton College, she married fellow missionary Jim Elliot in 1953. Together they served with a group of missionaries working to reach the Auca Indians in Ecuador. In 1956, Jim and four other missionaries were killed by the tribe while trying to make peaceful contact. After Jim’s death, Elisabeth continued working with the Auca and was instrumental in many coming to Christ through her example of forgiveness and love. She later returned to the United States, remarried, and became a prolific writer and speaker on Christian topics, authoring over 20 books. Her life and example challenged many Christians in their faith and service to God.
Some key facts about Elisabeth Elliot’s life and ministry include:
- Born in 1926 in Belgium to devout Christian parents and spent much of childhood in the United States
- Studied at Wheaton College where she met her first husband Jim Elliot. Married in 1953.
- Together with Jim went as missionaries to Ecuador in 1952, working to reach the Auca tribe
- After Jim’s murder by tribe members in 1956, she continued to work with the Auca people with forgiveness and compassion
- Her efforts were instrumental in the conversion of many Auca to Christianity
- Remarried in 1969 to Addison Leitch, professor of theology
- Wrote over 20 books on inspirational Christian topics and themes from her life experiences
- Books included Passion and Purity, The Journals of Jim Elliot, and These Strange Ashes
- Traveled and spoke extensively at conferences and churches about her faith journey
- Died in 2015 at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy of serving Christ
The main highlights of Elisabeth Elliot’s Christian life and ministry included:
Even before meeting Jim, Elisabeth felt called to overseas missionary work. She had a heart to share the gospel and readily gave up comforts of home to follow God’s leading. Her passion for missions continued after Jim’s death and the work with the Auca tribe. She embodied the missionary spirit of denying oneself and wholeheartedly serving others.
Elisabeth deeply loved and supported her first husband Jim in ministry and life. She bravely joined him in Ecuador, making sacrifices to further the work. Her commitment to him continued even after his death. She fulfilled his wishes by publishing his journals and continuing friendships with fellow missionaries. Her care for his legacy showed her devotion as a wife.
Despite devastating grief, Elisabeth exemplified forgiveness after the killing of her husband. She chose to continue working lovingly with the same tribe, learning their language and customs. Her forgiveness opened hearts to the gospel message. She modeled Christ’s command to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).
Elisabeth authored many books sharing her experiences transparently and insightfully. She had a talent for writing about spiritual truths and biblical themes in personal terms. Her openness about struggles resonated with readers. Her books inspired and challenged the church for greater service and dependence on God.
In demand as a speaker, Elisabeth traveled extensively even into her later years to share her testimony. She spoke powerfully on topics like grief, marriage, singleness, and trusting God through trials. Her passion for the gospel and desire to equip believers made her messages impactful. She used her experiences to teach biblical principles.
In many ways, Elisabeth Elliot’s life embodied the call of Jesus to his disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24). She surrendered personal comforts and endured great loss to serve God’s purposes. Her steadfast faith and obedience, even through enormous hardship, continues to inspire Christians committed to serving Christ above all else.
Key Contributions and Impact
Elisabeth Elliot made a significant impact on the church in several ways:
- Missions – Her work reached a previously unreached tribe for Christ and inspired many to missionary service.
- Writing – Her books influenced generations of Christians in living out their faith.
- Speaking – Her speeches motivated many, especially women, to trust and obey God.
- Forgiveness – Her example of forgiving Jim’s killers demonstrated Christ’s love in action.
- Marriage and Singleness – She provided wisdom on God’s plan for all seasons of life.
- Suffering – Her life showed how to cling to God through even the deepest grief.
Though she experienced immense tragedy, Elisabeth allowed God to use that pain powerfully to reach others. Her sensitivity to God’s leading and her obedience to continue serving, no matter the cost, left an incredible legacy that still challenges Christians today. Her life remains a shining example of serving Christ above all.
Lessons from Her Life and Ministry
Elisabeth Elliot’s remarkable story provides many valuable lessons for life and faith, including:
The power of forgiveness
Despite her husband’s murder, Elisabeth chose forgiveness and love in continuing work with his killers. Her example shows the incredible witness and freedom that come from forgiving others.
Elisabeth clung to God and his perfect will even through overwhelming grief and hardship. Her trust in God remained unshaken. Her life testifies to faith persisting even in deepest valleys.
Obedience to God’s call
Elisabeth followed God’s call wherever it led, whether to Ecuador or back to the same tribe that killed her husband. Her obedience highlights surrendering all to God’s purposes.
God’s comfort in grief
Through intense grief over Jim’s death, Elisabeth testified to finding comfort only in God as her rock and salvation. She learned to rely completely on his love and care.
Using pain for ministry
Instead of being embittered by suffering, Elisabeth allowed God to use that pain to reach thousands through writing and speaking. Her ministry highlights turning hurt into service.
Importance of complete devotion
Elisabeth exemplified complete abandonment to Christ, even when it cost everything. Her example calls all believers to true devotion by making Jesus preeminent.
These powerful lessons shaped the church through Elisabeth’s transparent testimony of finding hope and strength in Christ alone, even in life’s darkest moments. Her willingness to serve God sacrificially continues to inspire complete devotion to him.
Frequently Asked Questions
How did Elisabeth meet Jim Elliot?
Elisabeth and Jim Elliot met as students at Wheaton College. They were brought together by their mutual passion for missionary work and bringing the gospel to unreached tribes.
What tribe did Elisabeth and Jim serve with in Ecuador?
The Elliots served as missionaries to the Auca (also known as Waorani) tribe, an isolated and violent indigenous people group in Ecuador.
How long was Elisabeth married to Jim Elliot?
Elisabeth and Jim Elliot were married in 1953. Their marriage tragically ended with Jim’s murder in 1956, lasting just under 3 years.
How did Jim Elliot die?
Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were killed by Auca tribe members while trying to make friendly contact. After months of interacting peacefully from a distance, they ventured onto Auca land but were quickly attacked and speared.
Did Elisabeth remarry after Jim’s death?
Yes, in 1969 Elisabeth married Addison Leitch, a professor of theology at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. They were married for nearly 30 years until Addison’s death in 1994.
What books did Elisabeth Elliot write?
Some of Elisabeth’s best known books are Through Gates of Splendor (her account of Jim’s death), Shadow of the Almighty (their missionary life), Passion and Purity (guidance on relationships), and The Journals of Jim Elliot.
How did Elisabeth impact the Auca tribe after Jim’s death?
Elisabeth lovingly continued serving the Auca people and was instrumental in leading many tribe members to Christ through her forgiveness, compassion, and sharing the gospel. Several even converted after she lived among them.
How did Elisabeth Elliot’s life demonstrate complete surrender to God?
Even amidst devastating grief, she clung to God’s goodness and will. She forgave her husband’s murderers and lovingly served them. Her complete abandonment to God’s purposes, despite enormous loss, modeled true surrender to Christ.
In summary, Elisabeth Elliot lived a remarkable life of Christian devotion, service, and suffering. As a missionary, she surrendered all to bring the gospel to the Auca tribe in Ecuador alongside her first husband Jim Elliot. After Jim’s tragic murder, she became a powerful example of forgiving one’s enemies and allowing God to use pain for ministry. Through her extensive writing and speaking, she impacted generations with her transparency, wisdom, and passion for complete obedience to Christ. She continues to inspire the church today through her profound trust in God’s faithfulness even amidst unspeakable grief. Elisabeth Elliot’s life stands as a testament to the beauty and rewards of following Christ wholeheartedly, no matter the cost.