Elisabeth Elliot, 1926-2015: A Life of Reckless Abandon for the Lord

By John Stonestreet

The woman who wrote “Through Gates of Splendor” has gone through them herself. This is a special tribute to Elisabeth Elliot.

Elisabeth Elliot once wrote, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.”

And by God’s grace, what a woman she was! Born Elisabeth “Betty” Howard in 1926, the daughter of missionaries to Belgium, Elliot died this past week at the age of 88 after a long battle with dementia.

“One of my heroes went to be with Jesus,” said David Shibley, founder of the Global Advance missionary organization, speaking for many. “Elisabeth Elliot personified wisdom, courage, grace, and a passionate pursuit of authentic discipleship, whatever the cost.”

It was at Wheaton College that the young Betty met a man named Jim Elliot. From their shared passion for taking the Gospel to those who had never heard, the couple decided to go to eastern Ecuador as missionaries, part of a team of five young families. Their objective was to share the Christian story with a violent, isolated Auca tribe.

And the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, impacted millions, challenged churches, and propelled the missions movement. The five men—Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Peter Fleming, Nate Saint, and Ed McCully—were slaughtered in 1956 on a lonely jungle landing strip by members of the tribe. The story and photos, told compellingly in Life magazine, galvanized a generation.

But Elliot stayed in Ecuador, and after meeting two Auca women who lived with her for a year, made the decision to go live with the tribe that had murdered her husband and his friends…

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Elisabeth Elliot, 1926-2015: A Life of Reckless Abandon for the Lord