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Christian Author Elisabeth Elliot Reaches ‘Gates of Splendor’ at 88, Leaves Legacy On Missionary Work

( [email protected] ) Jun 16, 2015 11:17 PM EDT
Legendary Christian author Elisabeth Elliot, who is best known for her best-selling books that influenced a generation of Christians to go into missionary work, died on Sunday. She was 88 years old.
Photo: ElisabethElliot.org

Legendary Christian author Elisabeth Elliot, who is best known for her best-selling books that influenced a generation of Christians to go into missionary work, died on Sunday. She was 88 years old.

According to a report from CBN News, Elliot's husband, Lars Gren, stated that his wife battled dementia until her death. She was previously married to two other men, including martyred missionary Jim Elliot, who died trying to reach the Waorani tribe in Ecuador back in 1956.

"She accepted those things, [knowing] they were no surprise to God," Gren said. "It was something she would rather not have experience, but she received it."

CBN News reported that while she wrote numerous books, her most famous works involved the martyrdom of her first husband, Jim. He and four other martyred missionaries tried to reach the Aucas, now known as the Waorani, with the gospel.

"Our daughter Valerie was 10 months old when Jim was killed," Elliot said. "Since then, my life has been one of writing and speaking."

Elliot recalled the events in the aftermath of Jim's death on her website. She noted that until then, any outsider who tried to meet the Waorani was killed.

"I continued working with the Quichua Indians when, through a remarkable providence, I met two Auca women who lived with me for one year," Elliot wrote. "They were the key to my going in to live with the tribe that had killed the five missionaries. I remained there for two years."

Elliot wrote about the missionary work in Ecuador in the book Through Gates of Splendor. According to Kate Shellnutt of Christianity Today, it became a bestseller in addition to Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testimony of Jim Elliot.

"The daughter of missionaries to Belgium and a graduate of Wheaton, Elliot went on to write more than a dozen additional books and launched a radio show, Gateway to Joy, which ran through 2001," Shellnutt wrote.

Steve Saint, the son of missionary pilot Nate Saint, who was also martyred alongside Jim, shared his thoughts on Elliot's passing on Facebook.

"I think Elisabeth would be happy just being remembered as not much of a woman, that God used greatly," Saint wrote. "To the rest of us mortals she was an incredibly talented and gifted woman who trusted God in life's greatest calamities, even the loss of her mind to dementia, and who allowed God to use her. He did use her."

Saint noted that Through Gates of Splendor influenced many people "to consider missions and to give their lives to missionary service."

"That really wasn't much of a book, but I guess God uses what He wants to use," Elliot said of the reaction to her book.

Saint treated Elliot like family, referring to her as "a very dear aunt." He recalled a memory about her.

"She was usually very formal with the public (I think she was shy), but I remember telling her something about a boarding school we both went to and she laughed so hard I thought she was going to injure herself," Saint wrote. "She loved a good debate and could be somewhat argumentative."

One of the people influenced by Elliot's work included Tsh Oxenreider. She wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on the legacy of the legendary Christian missionary on her life.

"It's through this writing of hers that so many in my generation were influenced, particularly women seeking inner bravery to serve in distant lands, leaving their future in God's hands," Oxenreider wrote. "In reading Elliot's words, we found a bit of courage to walk by faith and step out into the unknown. By her willingness to open her heart and process grief through writing, we were given a smattering of peace to trust God for provision."

Oxenreider pointed out that Elliot's writings inspired her to "major in cultural anthropology in my university years and head to post-war Kosovo as soon as I graduated."

"I am not alone - many in my generation found similar courage and peace through her books, speaking, and radio program," Oxenreider wrote. "There is little telling the breadth of her global heritage. I am grateful for her life, and for the profound influence she left on my own. Rest in peace, Ms. Elliot."

Elliot also contributed content to various Christian publications, including Christianity Today.

"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," Eliot wrote in one of Christianity Today's first issues. "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."

According to CBN News, Elliot leaves behind her husband, Gren, daughter Valerie Elliot Shepard, son-in-law Walt, and eight grandchildren.


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