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  • Writer's pictureJamie Holden

August 28, 2022

August 28, 2022

Jim Elliot

In elementary school, I first read “Through Gates of Splendor,” the story of Jim Elliot. In our small Christian school, it was required reading. Like me, Jim was raised in a Christian home and felt God’s call to ministry early in his life. Very successful and skilled in many areas, family and friends encouraged Jim to be a youth pastor stateside. However, it broke his heart that so many people throughout the world had never heard about Jesus. This created a passion inside of Jim for foreign missions.

Jim attended Wheaton College, and then at the age of 23, he started training to be a missionary at Camp Wycliffe. There he began language studies with a former missionary to the Quechua people. This missionary first told him about the Auca Indians—an unfriendly, violent, murderous people in Ecuador known to hate outsiders. This planted the seed in Jim’s heart to reach these people for Jesus—-but it wasn’t quite time yet.

In February of 1952, Jim Elliot and Nate Flemming went to Ecuador to replace a retiring missionary. They learned the language and ministered to the people in the jungle. A year later, Jim married Elizabeth, and she joined him on the mission field. They ministered to the Quechua Indians for three years before they felt God’s call to reach the Auca Indians he'd heard about years before.

Knowing the unfriendly and violent reputation of the Aucas, Jim and his team knew they couldn't just show up in their village. Creatively, they used the resources they had. Nate Saint was a pilot, and he configured a way to lower a basket of gifts from the plane. They did this for several months, giving gifts and using an amplifier to call out friendly phrases to let the Aucas know they came in a spirit of friendship. When the Aucas sent a gift back up in the basket, Jim and his team knew it was time to make contact.

They built their first attempt at contact on their use of the plane. Four of the missionaries went to the beach while the pilot, Nate Saint, flew over the village inviting the people to come out and meet them. A tiny group went to the beach, where they shared a meal with the missionaries, and Nate even took one for a ride in their plane. It looked like a breakthrough, and the missionaries encouraged their new friends to bring others with them next time.

They did. Only it wasn’t for the reasons the missionaries planned.

On January 8, 1956, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Nate Sait, Ed McCully, and Pete Fleming were waiting on the beach when they saw a small group approach. Believing they came in friendship, they radioed their wives asking for prayer and promising to call when their meeting was over. The call never came.

Instead of coming in peace, the few people in front were a ruse for those who would attack and slaughter the five missionaries. Even though the missionaries had guns and shot a few rounds into the air, they had made a pact beforehand that they would not kill anyone who did not know Jesus. They didn’t want to be responsible for sending anyone to Hell.

That day, all five missionaries died on the beach. But their legacy lives on.

Just under two years later, Jim’s wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter, Valerie, went with Nate Saint’s sister to continue the ministry to the Auca Indians. Because the Indians were so impressed that the missionaries didn’t fight back and that these women could forgive them and still wanted to minister to them, many Indians became Christians. Work among this tribe continues today because of the ride or die attitude of five men who would do anything to reach people for the Gospel.

Their testimony doesn't end there. Through Jim's wife's books and a movie about his life, many more people were challenged to go into foreign missions work. Even though I'm not a foreign missionary, throughout my life, I have been inspired and encouraged by Jim’s quote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Many times I’ve thought of these words when the Holy Spirit has been challenging me to take a step of faith and follow Him ride or die.

Today their testimony challenges all of us to follow God's call on our lives even when it seems foolish or even dangerous. Their story challenges us that seeing people spend eternity with Jesus is more important than self-preservation here on earth. They truly had a ride or die attitude. In life and death, they were totally committed to Jesus.

They inspire us to do the same.

By: Jamie Holden, Mantour Ministries

Today’s Scripture: For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:24-25, NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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