One of the most influential Christian women of the 20th century, Elisabeth Elliot, has died.
Elliot, the Christian author and speaker whose husband, Jim, was killed during theirshort-lived but legendary missionary work among unreached tribes in eastern Ecuador in the 1950s, passed away Sunday at 88, according to reports. She had beensuffering from dementia.
She wrote two books about her husband’s martyrdom and the years she and her newborn daughter spent living among the Aucas, the tribe that killed him. HerThrough Gates of Splendor ranked No. 9 on CT’s list of the Top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals. The book became a bestseller, as did her Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testimony of Jim Elliot.
The daughter of Belgian missionaries and a graduate of Wheaton College (which offers a full biography), Elliot went on to write more than a dozen additional books and launched a radio show, Gateway to Joy, that ran through 2001.
Her former radio producer, Jan Wismer, described Elliot’s ministry as a “pioneer and prayer warrior” in a 2013 tribute by Today’s Christian Woman (a CT sister publication). Wismer noted:
Elisabeth believed in asking this foundational question: Is this God’s will for me, right now, in this place? … Unapologetically, Elisabeth espoused such truths as: give to get, lose to find, and die to live. Setting her sights “on things above” (Colossians 3:1), Elisabeth ministered among three indigenous groups in Ecuador before helping listeners and readers find joy in the ordinary affairs of life—like cooking meals and cleaning toilets—on her globally syndicated radio program. She called it living sacramentally, and her rock-solid principles shaped my life.
Last year, as Elliot’s health declined, WORLD interviewed her third husband, Lars Gren. Elliot met him while he was a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and they were married for 36 years, until her death. The magazine noted:
Gren says Elliot has handled dementia just as she did the deaths of her husbands. “She accepted those things, [knowing] they were no surprise to God,” Gren said. “It was something she would rather not have experienced, but she received it.”
Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, praised Elliot in a 2013Facebook post: “I owe my deepest, most transformative lessons on trusting God to her steadfast, passionate pursuit of a God who often offers no explanations or answers—at least not the kind that easily satisfy my very human questions.”
Tweets sent in Elliot’s memory recall some of her book’s most quotable lines:
- “Leave it all in the hands that were wounded for you.” (Through the Gates of Splendor)
- “This gift for this day; God still owns tomorrow.” (Let Me Be a Woman)
In one of the first issues of CT, Elliot wrote:
We have proved beyond any doubt that He means what He says—His grace is sufficient, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. We pray that if any, anywhere, are fearing that the cost of discipleship is too great, that they may be given to glimpse that treasure in heaven promised to all who forsake.
The story of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and companions Peter Fleming, Roger Youderian, and Ed McCully—most famously narrated in Elisabeth Elliot’s Through Gates of Splendor—is perhaps the most chronicled missionary account of the past 100 years, and remains an inspiration for many. (Wheaton College offers video tributes to the martyrs, as well as a special collection of Elisabeth Elliot’s papers.)
CT noted the death of Rachel Saint in 1994.
[Photo courtesy of elisabethelliot.org]