Theology & Worldview

Jim Elliot and The Example He Set for Missionaries

Jim Elliot serves as a prime example of a Christian applying mission work to every part of his life. His loved ones explain that from growing up and carrying a Bible around in high school in Portland, Oregon to serving as a missionary in rural Ecuador in adulthood, Elliot consistently exhibited a passion for missions and God (Fickas). Elliot’s pursuit of missionary work and his sacrificial death for Christ’s sake reminds Christians of the influence and necessity of missionaries. 

In 1945, Elliot chose to attend Wheaton College, where he dedicated his time to preparing himself for the mission field. One of the first ways to ready himself for becoming a missionary was by studying Greek. He acknowledged that possessing the ability to learn a new and complex language would allow him to efficiently spread the gospel overseas. Also, Elliot traveled into Chicago on Sundays to evangelize to people at train stations. This allowed Elliot to pursue mission work while at Wheaton College, equipping himself with the tools necessary for living in a foreign country as a missionary (Fickas). While at Wheaton, God revealed to Elliot that he would live a short life. Instead of turning away from God and missions, Elliot prayed, “God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus” (Shepard). Through this quote and his other spiritual habits in college, Elliot set an example of steadfastness for missionaries. 

While at Wheaton, Jim Elliot met his future wife, Elisabeth Howard, and continuously pursued a God-centered relationship with her. Although Elisabeth agreed to going out with him during their years at college, she later cancelled the date with him. However, throughout their years at college together, they remained close friends and maintained a relationship through romantic letters in which he referred to her as “Betty.” As time went on, their attraction and love for each other grew. Instead of letting their lives become all-encompassing and keep them from their callings, they did not begin dating right away and tried to focus on their personal pursuit of God and His plan for each of them. This demonstrates how even though Elliot had personal desires and worldly interests, he never let those take him away from God’s plan for him in missions (Fickas). Later, God rewarded the two faithful Christians with courtship, engagement, marriage, and a daughter named Valerie (Taylor). 

One of the conclusions Christians often must come to before moving to rural areas overseas is they may die for Christ. Many foreign countries can be unwelcoming to Americans, Christianity, or both. Jim Elliot knew this, but he still made the choice to be a missionary in the deep jungles of Ecuador. Specifically, Elliot tried to reach the Huaorani tribe with a small group of other male missionaries in Operation Auca. For several weeks, they sent down gifts from a plane, attempting to establish peace with the tribe before direct contact and communication. On January 3, 1957, they landed on a sandbar, and on the 6th they yelled into the jungle the few words they knew in the tribe’s language. When a few people from the tribe finally came, the first interaction went well, communicating with the unfamiliar natives with their limited Huaorani and even taking one, Nankiwi, on a plane ride(Taylor). Unfortunately, when the group with Nankiwi went back to the Huaoroni the villager lied to the tribe about the missionaries’ intentions. This provoked the other tribesmen into killing all the missionaries, including Jim Elliot (Fickas).

Although Operation Auca failed on that fateful day, the tragic loss inspired the wives of the missionaries to continue with the goal of evangelizing the Huaorani tribe. Their efforts led to a friendship between the Huaorani and the outside world that resulted in the evangelization of some of the same tribesmen that had supported Elliot’s death (Taylor). Elliot’s legacy not only lives on in the faith of the Huaorani tribe, but in missionaries all over the world who follow God and spread the gospel with a full, happy heart.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Fickas, Tmara D. Jim Elliot Biography: Story of the Man from ‘End of the Spear’ Movie.” Inspirational Christians, 24 Jan. 2019, https://www.inspirationalchristians.org/evangelists/jim-elliot-biography/. 

Shepard, Valerie Elliot. What Is a Missionary? The Incredible Legacy of Jim & Elisabeth Elliot.” Your Trusted Source for Bible Studies, Books, and Bibles, 14 July 2016, https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/what-is-a-missionary-the-life-and-legacy-of-jim-and-elisabeth-elliot. 

Taylor, Justin. They Were No Fools: The Martyrdom of Jim Elliot and Four Other Missionaries.” The Gospel Coalition, 8 Jan. 2016, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/they-were-no-fools-60-years-ago-today-the-martyrdom-of-jim-elliot-and-four-other-missionaries/. 

3 Comments

  1. Great report on Jim Eliot. His story is very inspiring. Good job!

  2. omg, one of my fav missionaries!!

  3. I loved reading the book The End of the Spear, and I also enjoyed the movie. What an inspiring story! Your article gave me even more insight into Jim Eliot, and I am so glad that I happened to see what you had written.

    I hope you are doing well.