Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lessons to Me in Remembering Jim Elliot and the Other Martyrs

It's so hard to find anything wholesome on TV at night.  I spun the roulette wheel and tried Netflix.  I was shocked to see a documentary, Beyond the Gate of Splendor, on Jim Elliot and his team who were martyred in Ecuador as they tried to reach the Waodani people.  How rich!  There were interviews with the widows, children, and grandchildren of the martyrs.

Someone once told me Elliot was too eager and jumped ahead of God.  Otherwise, he would have survived.  Today, I cower at that interpretation.

Sure, he was young--only 29 when he died.

Sure, he was energetic and eager.  Who isn't at 29?  From what the documentary stated, I think Jim and I would've been good friends.  He had a fantastic sense of humor.  Always laughing.  Always playing jokes on people.  And yet, he had a deep conviction for the things of God.

For most of his life, he chose the path of celibacy because he wanted to serve God with all he had.  Until...Elizabeth came into his life.  They fell in love, married, and started a family not long before flying to Ecuador on their mission.

I never knew that "Betty" stayed in Ecuador even after her husband was killed with the others.  I always thought that she flew home for three years, THEN returned to witness to the killers of her husband.  No, she stayed there!  She told herself, "Well, I'm a missionary, and this is where I'm meant to be."

For three years, she stayed the course, serving the Lord where she was.  Then one day, two women from the tribe who had carried out the ambush, came to her home.  They invited her to visit her tribe.                                                                                      "Are they going to kill me the way they killed my husband?" she asked them.  The women laughed.  "No, they usually kill only the men."  That was all she went by--"usually."  This remarkably brave woman accompanied the women by boat to the very spot where her husband and four others were brutally slaughtered with spears and machetes.                                                                    Soon, she was face to face with the killers themselves.  Little did she know at the time, that immediately after killing Elliot and the others, the tribe and rival tribe in the area had decided to not spear each other, that they would only use their spears to hunt animals for food.  The soil was fertile for the Gospel.  The killers and the tribe gave their lives to Jesus!
I did not know that Elliot probably had not even shared on iota of the Gospel with the Indian tribe before they were murdered.  They had flown back and forth into their village several times each day on a relationship-building mission. 

The way they came to be killed is ironic, really.  They were not killed because they were sharing the Good News!  There were three tribespeople they were becoming friends with every day.  Two women and one man.  The man and one of the women were interested in each other, but the tribe leaders were violently against the relationship.  So, everywhere they went, the leaders sent another woman, a chaperone, to accompany them.

One day, the lovebirds came back to the village without the chaperone.  The leaders grabbed their spears and were going to kill them both.  But the couple spoke up and lied--"The foreigners on the beach.  They threatened to kill us, so we ran away by ourselves to save ourselves!"

Three young warriors went to the beach and systematically murdered each of the five.

Here is a photo of Mincaye, one of those young men at the time, who thrust spears.  Elliot's wife converted him and he changed completely--grew on fire for the Lord!

Lessons to me?

*  The enemy will kill you even before you share one bit of the Gospel if he knows what you intend to do.

*  The enemy is a liar and the father of lies.

*  You can be energetic and even be labeled rambuncious.  It is very hard to "overshoot" God if you lay down your life for the cause.  Elliot's goal was reached.  The tribe converted!  He just became an instrument for the cause by actually dying.

*  No one...but NO ONE...can say that such-and-such would not have happened if missionaries had acted differently!  God is sovereign!  God is in control...of EVERYTHING.  Once we step over into the dimension of obedience with a pure heart to follow God, we'd be hard-pressed to err.  Just look at the fruit of their deaths. 

*  God has a beautiful irony in our lives.  For example, Mincaye, the murderer of Nate Saint, water baptized Saint's grandson in the very same waters that covered his mutilated body.  "All things work for the good for those who love Him."

*  If one is called to the mission field, nothing should deter that calling.  Nothing, not even death of a loved one!  I am astounded at Betty's courage in this.  AND to visit the killers face to face, not knowing what her own fate would be.

Do yourself a favor and look at this short video of Steve Saint, son of martyred Nate Saint, speaking with Mincaye, the converted killer of Steve's father and four others.


  1. one of my favorite stories! and a great video clip too.
    voice of the martyr's has an animated video of the jim elliot story for 8-12 year old kids. my kids love it, thought yours might too.

  2. It is awesome. Makes me think. Thank you for sharing.

  3. There are a hundred things I'd love to say - but the words just won't come....maybe some quiet time will help - but for now - continue to bring witness to His actions in our world!

    hugs - aus and co.

  4. They also have a movie on netflix about their story. It is called End of the Spear. I recently watched it, which is how I learned of this testimony. I was so moved by it. At the end of the movie, they had the real life people and it just moved me so much.

  5. Jim Elliot was an unusual kind of guy in that he approached "normal" Christianity (notice I did not say "average"). He was on fire for God. My favorite JE quote is "Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know such an extraordinary God."

    Jim was a friend, and my Sunday school teacher when I was a small boy. I actually lived in the Elliot home for some weeks while Jim was still there. Recently I was fortunate to publish some of his spoken messages.

    May God richly bless you, your blog, and your witness for Him.


  6. Thank you all for your comments.

    Bob, I am sure that my readers would love a personal interview with you. Please email me so we can discuss it! Thank you so much for your input.

  7. Have you read End of the Spear by Steve Saint? It's really an amazing story.

  8. Yes, I have, Debbie. It's a very famous book AND film. Haven't read or seen either. Can't wait to. Thank you.


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