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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

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

Robert Lloyd Russell is an award-winning Christian author.  But there’s also something very unique about him.

When Bob was only eight years old, he met Jim Elliot.  Having come from a down-and-out, dysfunctional home, Bob and his family moved to Portland, OR, having only one phone number and address as a contact.  They showed up at this contact’s doorstep without a place to stay.  Little did they know at the time, they didn’t just appear at any house.  It was the home of none other than Jim Elliot and his parents.

The time spent with the Elliots formed much of whom Bob is today, including being a child of God. 

In this first of a two-part series in which I personally interviewed Bob, I am confident you’ll enjoy learning about this special brother in Christ and the family who made international news when tragedy struck in Ecuador.

How did you come to know Christ and how old were you when it happened?

I was fortunate to have a Godly mother and Godly grandparents.  My mother and maternal grandmother were by far the most influential in my early life.  My dad was killed in an industrial accident two days after my first birthday.  Mom was left with three children—five, three, and one years of age—with no money or insurance.  When I was nearly eight she married a man fresh out of the Navy.  Looking back I really believe she was largely trying to provide a normal family environment for us.

It was a dysfunctional home.  My adoptive dad was abusive emotionally and physically.  As the youngest I learned how to survive by watching my older siblings’ reactions.  The positive thing that throughout this entire period mom insisted we always go to church.  I remember vividly Mom and Dad arguing on the way to church every Sunday—but this was one thing Mom never gave up on.

During my freshman year away at college the Holy Spirit started working in my life in many interesting and varied ways.  Eventually, toward the end of my freshman year I was totally exhausted—physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I had been carrying 19 credit hours per quarter while working 40-hour weeks to put myself through school.  One night I went outside and knelt down, gazed into heaven, and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life—and He did.  I was nearing my 19th birthday at that time.

You were eight when you first met the Elliot family.  Describe how you met them and what your first impression was of them?

Within less than a year, after my mom’s second marriage, we moved from the support of our extended family to Portland, Oregon.  My new dad was jobless, and the only name and address we had in Portland was Fred Elliot (Jim Elliot’s dad).  We showed up on their doorstep.  They took us in for a number of weeks.  Jim was living at home of that time.  Later, we lived with another church family in Eugene, Oregon.  Still later, in Salem, Oregon.  And then again with the Elliot family in Portland.

Did all the experiences living with the Elliot lead you to becoming born again?

Absolutely—but indirectly.  When I left home and was in my freshman year of college, I had pretty much mentally said good-bye to my upbringing.  But the Holy Spirit was working on me. A key issue in my mind was my memories of the Elliot family as well as other Christian families I knew as a child.  I knew they were different and possessed something real. 

How much time did you spend with Jim in those two years leading up to when he left for Ecuador?

Jim was in and out of the home during the time we lived there. Jim was often gone fulfilling opportunities to speak about His Savior (every chance he could get)—sometimes being away overnight.  He often taught our Sunday school class and youth meetings.  But he was home most of the time.

So tell me about that time with Jim from a non-Christian boy’s perspective.  What was he like?  What do you think drove him?  What were his likes and dislikes?

Everyone loved Jim—except perhaps some of those who didn’t like to see somebody on fire for God.  But he related well to everyone—for example he was student body president of his large high school.  He was an athlete, a leader, a funny guy, and just an all-around likeable guy who seemed to genuinely care about everyone he came in contact with.  He was an immensely popular guy. 

How was Jim’s family with the idea of him going to Ecuador?

Totally supportive.  The entire Elliot family was sold out for God.  The oldest sibling, Bob, was the president of a local chiropractic college, a gifted preacher, and a key leader in the local church.  In fact, Bob officiated at our wedding. 

The next brother, Bert, and his wife Colleen, were already on the mission field in Peru (they left in 1949).  In fact, they are still there today!  That must be approaching 63 years now!  They have spent their entire adult lives as missionaries to Peru and Peru is their “home.”

Then there was Jim. 

Jim’s younger sister, Jane, married Jerry Hawthorne, who for many years was a professor at Wheaton College.

The entire Elliot family exemplified the verse in John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”   The Elliot parents almost always had boarders of some kind—many times they were students at a local Bible school who could not afford to live in the dorms. 

Although you were around ten years old when Jim and his team left for Ecuador, were you aware of their goings-on while they were there?

One of my most vivid memories was the going-away party at the church when Jim was leaving for the mission field.  At that age I did not fully understand or appreciate what it all meant.  Of course, I did not have any conception that would be the last time I would see Jim Elliot this side of heaven.  Also, at the time, Jim was just another guy—certainly not famous.  n

Don’t miss tomorrow’s post of the second part in the series in which Bob discusses the news of Jim’s team’s martyrdom and the impact it has made in our Lord’s kingdom!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When Obstacles Come...

When that steep mountain is staring you in the face...

When you can't see the forest through the trees...

You put on your armor and gear up...

Hannah-Claire and Cade

You don't let that mountain tell you how big it is...


You tell that mountain...


How utterly big your God is...

Then you can glide through the obstacles!

Me and The Fetching Mrs. Salem

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends!

WATCH OUT!!!  This Thursday, Dec. 29, I am featuring a personal interview I did with Mr. Robert Russell, a friend, student, and housemate of Jim Elliot (and his family), the team leader who, with four others, were martyred while reaching out to the Waorani natives of Ecuador in the 1950's.  Don't miss it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Perspective on Death and Life

I apologize to all my readers.  I have not been very good at blogging the past month.  As you may or may not know, I came down with a horrendous flu that also sent Hailee and Harpy to the hospital.  Then, when I became fully recovered, my spiritual mother went to be with the Lord last Sunday.  You can read about that HERE.

Before I learned of Lynn's passing, last week I wrote a post about Jim Elliot and his team who were martyred while trying to reach the Waodani people in Ecuador.  Read it HERE.  I mentioned lessons I learned from a documentary I watched called Beyond the Gate of Splendor.   Then, days later, the woman most dear to me in this life next to my wife and daughters left me.

I hate this world.  I really, really do.  Now that doesn't mean I'm going to "off" myself so I can enter that "gate of splendor" prematurely.

John 15:19 states: 

"As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

So me and the world have a mutual hate relationship.  All I know is that there is a very real enemy out there who wants to kill us (John 10:10).  And there's a very real human condition theologians call "depravity" which means we and all creation on earth are all subject to the "sin condition" brought to us care of Adam.  And I sometimes "do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing" (Rom. 7:19).

But some day...

But some day...


As in Sandi Patti's song, Another Place, Another Time:

So I'm waiting
For another and another place
Where all my hopes and dreams will be captured with one look at Jesus' face
Oh, my heart's been burning, my soul keeps yearning
Sometimes I can hardly wait for that sweet, sweet someday
When I'll be swept away
To another time and another place.

I know.  I know.  I can hear all my friends say, "Now, Anthony, there's work to be done here on earth.  Advance His kingdom while you have breath.  Let's get busy."

Thank you, guys.  I understand.  But I also believe we need to rejoice in His glorious coming.  Anticipate "all creation moans." 

Death was not God's plan.  You really come to realize how true that is when someone you love dies.  It's so...unnatural.  The heart of God is for mankind to enjoy relationship forever with each other, including with Himself! 

I have conducted some 50 or 60 funerals.  Each time, I am reminded of that "another place, another time."

Jim Elliot was 29 when he died.  My spiritual mother was a young 74.  My mother was 67.  My father was a young 83.  All of my older relatives I used to love and hang out with as a child--all my grandparents--are all gone.  I think it's perfectly okay to think about them and to wonder what they're doing this very second in glory.  What are they saying to Jesus.  What's He saying back to them.  What are they saying to each other?

Ah, the joy and laughter that must peal in the heavenlies--cackles and squeals of joy echoing against the pearly gates.  What a wonderful thought it is to be among them.

This life is nearly over.  Whether you're my age (53) or just three years old.  Relatively speaking, life is so, so short.

Until that time when the Lord calls me up yonder, I want to honor Him, my King, AND those who have gone before me.  Those heroes in my life and in public life.  I want that cloud of witnesses to cheer me on as I run this race, dragging as many as I possibly can through that Gate of Splendor.

See you there, Lynn.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Farewell to a Mother

Yesterday morning, my spiritual mother who first led me to the Lord in April of 1979 went to be in the presence of our Savior for eternity. 

I cannot possibly find words to describe my relationship with her nor how she has impacted my life.  It cannot possibly be contained in a very large book.

So instead, I would simply like to say thank you to Lynn.  You have molded me into the man I am today.  I will never, ever forget you.  Though the pain of our earthly separation is unbearable, I have a deep anchor of hope and a wonderful anticipation for the time when we will be together again in glory.

Thank you, Mom, for believing in me, even when others and even myself did not.

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.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Insanity of Obedience

We’re not even the Duggers and we get stares.

Whether our family of nine is strolling down a WalMart aisle, eating an incredibly nutritious McDonald’s meal, or piling into church, folks stare at us like we had just jumped the Grand Canyon on bicycles.  

Is it so unbelievable these days to have seven children, four of which were rescued out of horrendous orphanages?

In a very graceful way, I encourage people to not see us as “special,” but as obedient.  There was a time in my life when I didn’t want to ask God to challenge me with “impossible” things, because then I’d have to be obedient.  I can laugh at that now, but don’t we do that?  We get comfortable with our level of “surrender” and we dare not ask for more.  We, ourselves, determine how much we can handle, rather than ask God to go overboard with us if He wants to, knowing that He won’t give us anything that we can’t handle.

In a way, we are all hedonists.  Historically, hedonists weren’t really pursuing pleasure at any cost.  Their mission in life was to avoid pain and discomfort.

God wants us to get out of our comfort zone as a lifestyle.  We hear that phrase a lot, huh?  “Get out of your comfort zone, Christian!”  Every single day of our lives, during each moment that we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), we must continually say “not my will, Lord, but yours.”  We must tell him to tell us what He wants to do in us and through us.

Often, we get comfortable knowing that we have an assurance of our calling in this life.  We get so complacent in that assurance, in fact, that we make that calling a kind of status quo.  We don’t think (or want to think) that the Holy Spirit, at any minute, may want us to change direction in that calling or add to it or change it in some way. 

“This is how God made me, and dadgummit, that’s how I’m a’ gonna stay!”

You know, sometimes it’s even innocent.  Sometimes we just don’t know better.  We don’t know how we should relate to God, so we just carry on doing what we’ve been doing for years, perhaps.  There’s certainly minimal pain in that.  What a bonus! 

I have had to fight this religious demon of complacency in a profound way in my own life.  And trust me, I have not arrived!  Sometimes I’m AFRAID to ask the Father to use me as a ship’s helm, to let His hand touch me to steer our big family and calling.  It is not always easy.  Nor is it always fun.

Still, God’s grace is there.  He loves us just the same, but oh, how much more we can step into a spiritually explosive destiny just by asking for more!   But there’s that “thing,” though.  What if I ask for more and He gives it me?  And it’s painful!

What if, by asking God to give me more, our finances are placed in jeopardy?  What if He asks us to dress in black and move to Iran?  What if—oh, Lord forbid!—He asks us to adopt an orphan or two or three or four?  There’s goes our life.  Well, uh, yeah, exactly!

I was ministering to someone the other day and mocking a catchphrase that’s very popular right now.  If you ask someone how they’re doing, they might respond, “Just livin’ the dream, baby!  Just livin’ the dream.”

But just listen to what the apostle Paul says his life experience was like:

            I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.   

~2 Cor. 11:23-28

            I wonder if Paul were asked how he was doing if he would say, “Just livin’ the dream, baby!  Just livin’ the dream.”  You know what, he probably would!  But his perception of “the dream” is radically different from mine often.

            The closer I get to calling hospice care for myself some day, the more I realize how little my own life matters to me.  What I am trying to “save” is really nothing, in the scheme of things.

            I had mentioned to the congregation in Illinois a message I preached in a church in Mozambique once.  It was about “perspective.”

            If you take every grain of sand on the face of the earth, the moon, and all of the planets in our universe with sand.  That sand represents eternity. 

            Now pick up one grain of sand.  That represents my life.  And I’m trying to “save” that because…?

Putty.  That’s all we are.  We’re not special people in the least!

People may look at us like we’re crazy, but at the end of the day, we want to put our heads on our pillows knowing that we pleased the Lord in obeying whatever He would have us to do, regardless of what others think.  And sometimes those “others” include those whom we love the most.

One thing we’ve learned is that obedience is not only doing what we know God is telling us to do, but asking Him to do whatever He wants in us, even if it makes little or no sense to us or others. 

If God wants that, then I want to throw away my life for myself and give it to our amazingly loving and all-powerful Lord and Savior.  PLEASE join me in that quest.  You’ll never be the same, and you’ll never look back.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

UPDATE: Yep, We're Still Alive!

SOOOOO sorry you haven't heard from us.  We have been without internet for some time now because we have moved cross country, with a detour in Illinois to speak in a church of some new, great friends we met through my wife's and my blogs.  And what a journey!  To catch all the drama (and there has been a LOT of it), go here to my wife's most recent post.

In the meantime, here are some pics of our wonderful time in the middle of Illinois...

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