Friday, December 30, 2011

INTERVIEW: Bob Russell: Acquaintance of Jim Elliot - PART TWO

Jim and his team’s disappearance made national news in America.  What was going through your mind while they were missing?

Our local church was in intense prayer—most of the adults had some knowledge of what the five were trying to do and their specific efforts to that point.  When they were “missing,” there was heavy concern and intense prayer. 

Our family first heard (of their deaths) through the media.  My most vivid memory of Fred (Jim’s father) at that time is how he clung to Revelation 12:11: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” 

The feeling of Jim’s dad and others was that the five had “overcome the Accuser by conversion, confession, and consecration.”  That was the phrase they used—it was brought up at Fred Elliot’s memorial service.

I believe you are in possession of wire recordings of Jim’s messages.  How did they fall into your hands?

Fred and Clara Elliot, Jim’s parents, were always very good to me.  Fred was my primary spiritual mentor.  Sometime after Fred died, my wife and I were at the Elliot home. We were harvesting apples off Clara’s tree for her.  As we sat around the table having lunch, Clara remarked, “I wish I could hear Jim’s voice again!” 

I replied, “Sure, Clara.  We all do.”

Later she said again, “I wish I could hear Jim’s voice again.”  Once again we replied in an acknowledging manner.  When she said it a third time, we realized there had to be more to her statement and so we began to probe. 

It turned out that in a closet was an old wire recorder.  Wire recorders were forerunners to magnetic tape.  The machine no longer worked. 

I was a mechanical engineer in the electronics industry and volunteered to see if I could make the old recorder work.  Eventually I managed to get sound out of it and so I transferred everything with Jim’s voice onto cassette tapes and returned it all to Clara.  In amongst the recordings were four messages of Jim’s and a number of personal communications from Jim and Elizabeth’s honeymoon and from their time on the mission field. 

Sometime later Clara insisted that I have the old recorder and all the wires—she said she knew I would value them.  Then my wife Connie and I spent countless hours transcribing these messages.

Last year, 2010, I had those messages published in book form entitled, “Jim Elliot: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You.”

Clearly, Jim and his team remain an inspiration to the Christian world today through films, documentaries, books, etc.  Why do you think his story touches lives so profoundly?

I think there were many reasons.  For one thing, when the tragic event occurred, it was a different world than today.  Five protestant missionaries being killed was front page of all newspapers.  It was the lead story on radio and television for several days.  LIFE Magazine, then an extremely popular periodical, devoted an issue to the story.  Virtually all mainstream publications devoted many pages of prints and photos to the story.

Second, it was in the early days of the Billy Graham revivals which increased the spiritual awareness in society.

Third, it seemed like such a tragic loss.  But this was contrasted with the loved ones of all five  families holding their heads high—even in their personal loss—confident that they served a sovereign God who was not caught by surprise.  There was a strong, deep undercurrent of confidence that  “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). 

Fourth, to the average person on the street it seemed like such a tragic loss of five intelligent and bright men.  It was a subject of debate.  Were they foolish?  Why didn’t they prepare better?  Is God real?  If so, why would this happen?, etc.

Additionally, I think it became a great teaching moment in Bible schools around the country. And I am sure that there are other factors. 

The net result has been thousands of individuals accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.  Thousands more committing their lives to His service.  Of course, we know that a high percentage of the Waorani tribe, or Aucas as they were then known, have become believers.  When we get to heaven we will all be amazed at the impact of those five lives!

When you finally see Jim again in glory, what do you think you’ll say to him?

Great question?  My first reaction might be, “Hi, Jim.  Where are your Dad and Mom?”  I’m sure I will also want to spend time with Jim, but my strongest ties were with his Godly parents!

What lessons would you say you learned from the Elliott family?

One of the overall lessons I learned from the Elliot family is to be faithful wherever God has put you.

Bert Elliot, whom I mentioned has spent his life ministering to the people of Peru, has put it this way: “While my brother Jim was like a comet streaking across the sky which caught the attention of those on earth, God chose him to serve in a different capacity as one of the many dim stars from earth’s viewpoint—stars which are countless in the vast universe.  There are many who consistently shine as lights where God has put them but never achieve the recognition that has come to Jim Elliot and the other four Christian martyrs at that time.  But God chooses to use both a few streaking comets and the many stars!”

Another obvious lesson is the tremendous influence Godly parents can have on their children who in turn influence their worlds for God. n


If you’re interested in knowing more about the man, Jim Elliot, Bob highly recommends a book edited by Jim’s widow, Elisabeth, entitled The Journals of Jim Elliot that can be purchased HERE.

And do yourself a favor and visit these two websites from Bob that I highlighted as links, and even drop him a line to tell him how the Lord has used his story to touch your life!

Bob’s blog:  Abundant Life Now

Bob’s author site:  Author Site

2 comments:

  1. As many others I am inspired by the lives of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. It was great to hear the thoughts of a family friend of the Elliot's. Thank you so much for sharing this story! It is also motivating to keep teaching the truth to my children in shaping their world.

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  2. Thank you, Charissa, for your comment. All I can say is, You go, girl! Shine for the Lord's kingdom.

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