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Missionary Spotlight: Who is Jim Elliot?

“Missionaries are very human folks, just doing what they are asked. Simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody.” – Jim Elliot 


What a great and humbling quote, yet one that I struggle to believe…often. Missionaries seem to be extraordinary people doing what I can’t or even won’t do. This becomes more complicated when you look at the life of someone like Jim Elliot who not only went to a difficult place; he gave his life for the sake of the gospel! 


Jim Elliot was born in 1927 and, from an early age, was greatly influenced by the stories of missionaries like David Brainerd, Amy Carmichael, and William Carey. In response to the passion welling up within him, Jim enrolled at Wheaton College to study linguistics and prepare for mission work. It was here that he met Elisabeth, who would become his wife. You may be more familiar with the life and ministry of Elisabeth Elliot, who carried on the mission work for many years and published numerous writings about those years.  


Following their time at Wheaton College and their wedding, Jim & Elisabeth, along with others, would head south to the country of Ecuador. During the coming years, they would devote themselves to “jungle ministry,” attempting to reach an unreached tribe known as the Aucas (Ow-cuz). Known today as the Waodani (Wah-o-dah-nee), there was much personal risk to this jungle ministry. Others had attempted to reach the tribe, but the Aucas had killed every outsider who tried to “invade” their territory. 


After years of learning language and working with other tribes, Jim sought to make contact with the Aucas. His fellow missionary, Nate Saint, was a pilot and rigged up a drop basket in which they could use to “break the ice” by leaving gifts. Eventually they would land the plane and set up camp. While seeking to take the gospel to a group of warriors, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming and Jim Elliot were killed by the very ones that they were trying to reach.  


It was January 8, 1956, when Elisabeth would wait by the two-way radio to hear the daily report. But the report would never come. The next day as another pilot flew over the area, the feared result was confirmed. You might think that everything would end there, but just two years later, Elisabeth, her daughter (Valerie), and Rachel Saint (Nate’s sister) moved back to Ecuador to continue to share the good news of Jesus. Eventually, by the grace of God, many of the Aucas would trust Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. 


68 years later, we remember the life and ministry of Jim Elliot and the others. Jim wrote in his journal a few years before this fatal day this statement:  


“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” 


These men and their families were willing to give up their life for the sake of the gospel that some might come to know Jesus! Elisabeth forever immortalized their story in her book, Through the Gates of Splendor. As you read this article and maybe one of Elliot’s books, you will come to the reality that while their story is extraordinary, they were just NOBODIES trying to tell others about SOMEBODY! 

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