Elisabeth Elliot was a young missionary in Ecuador when members of a violent Amazonian tribe savagely speared her husband Jim and his four colleagues. Incredibly, prayerfully, Elisabeth took her toddler daughter, snakebite kit, Bible, and journal . . . and lived in the jungle with the Stone-Age people who killed her husband. Compelled by her friendship and forgiveness, many came to faith in Jesus.
This courageous, no-nonsense Christian went on to write dozens of books, host a long-running radio show, and speak at conferences all over the world. She was a pillar of coherent, committed faith; a beloved and sometimes controversial icon. In this authorized biography, Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, bestselling author Ellen Vaughn uses Elisabeth’s private, unpublished journals, and candid interviews with her family and friends, to paint the adventures and misadventures God used to shape one of the most influential women in modern church history. It’s the story of a hilarious, sensual, brilliant, witty, self-deprecating, sensitive, radical, and surprisingly relatable person utterly submitted to doing God’s will, no matter how high the cost. For Elisabeth, the central question was not, “How does this make me feel?” but, simply, “is this true?” If so, then the next question was, “what do I need to do about it to obey God?”
“My life is on Thy Altar, Lord—for Thee to consume. Set the fire, Father! Bind me with cords of love to the Altar. Hold me there. Let me remember the Cross.” –Elisabeth Elliot, age 21
In this striking biography, Vaughn (Time Peace) sets out to discover the heart and soul of missionary and author Elisabeth Elliot (1926 2015). In the 1950s, Elliot served as a missionary to the Waodani tribe of Ecuador after her husband, Jim Elliot, and four others were killed by the tribe while trying to make contact. Vaughn recounts that story, bringing to light the deep desires, anguish, and imperfect life of Elliot, including her tense relationship with Rachel Saint, sister to another one of the missionaries who had died, who isolated herself from other missionaries among the Waodani. A deep thinker and lover of poetry who wanted nothing more than to do God's will, Elliot eventually found her calling in ministry to Christians rather than to those outside the faith. The biography's second half largely deals with challenges of navigating a life of biblical faith at odds with cultural Christianity: Elliot "chafed at the disparity between what she saw in the gospel and what she saw in the organized church," Vaughn writes. "She was quick to pick up the scent of hypocrisy and legalism, but she always applied such analysis to herself first." Even those well-acquainted with Elliot's works will find fresh perspective and revealing insights here.
This is well written and both challenging and encouraging. God is a very present help on times of trial. In His presence is fullness of joy!
One of the Best Biography’s I’ve Ever Read
Before reading this biography, I had no idea who Elisabeth Elliot was. I am a young woman in college, and I heard about this biography through the podcast “Revive Our Hearts.” Her life story sounded very interesting, so I decided to purchase this book. I could not put it down! Elisabeth’s life story was put together in such a fascinating way that always kept me on my toes. I’ve never had a biography impact my faith as much as this one has. Elisabeth Elliot was such a godly inspiration for me as a young woman, and now I will definitely be reading novel’s written by Elisabeth herself.
FASCINATING & INFORMATIVE!
“Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe ’neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing.” Old Saxon Poem
This poem was a favorite of Elisabeth Elliot’s and one she often quoted. She took to heart the advice “do the next thing” and she did so throughout her adult life regardless of her feelings or circumstances. I was first introduced to the writings of Elisabeth Elliot in 1984. That opened the door for me to start my collection which now includes every book as well as every pamphlet Elisabeth Elliot wrote. I had the opportunity to meet Elisabeth Elliot in person, share a brief conversation with her and receive a personal note from her. I have listened to many hours of her Gateway to Joy Radio Program and received her Newsletter for many years. I also have heard Valerie Shepherd speak at my Church as she shared about writing DEVOTEDLY(The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot). Also, I have given numerous copies of EE’s books to friends through the years.
I read Ellen Vaughn’s Authorized Biography with a very open mind. I believe her title BECOMING ELISABETH ELLIOT is an excellent description for everything she brings forth in her writing. She starts with Betty Howard’s (Elisabeth Elliot) life as a child and works her way slowly through her school years and time at a Boarding School in FL, Wheaton College, meeting Jim Elliot, their separate calls to the mission field, the separate training each went through prior to going overseas, serving in different areas, etc. Vaughn shows a young child developing into a teenager, college student, young adult, single adult missionary, young married, mother, widow, and single mother mIssionary in the jungle. All of this adds into the becoming of Elisabeth Elliot. To many who have followed the writing and speaking ministries of EE for many years, they know she was known as “Betty” to her family, close friends and those on the mission field. After her husband Jim Elliot and the other four missionaries were savagely killed while attempting to make contact with the Waodani Indians in the jungle of Ecuador, it was Betty that was chosen to write their story to share with the world. When Through Gates of Splendor was published, the world was introduced to Elisabeth Elliot. Little did anyone know what an effect the publishing of that book would have on the rest of EE’s life!
Vaughn has a monumental task in attempting to write the Biography of such a well known woman and one who is beloved by many. She has been allowed the use of EE’s personal diaries as well as Interviews with family members and friends. She also has spent untold hours researching through a vast number of existing articles, past interviews and even made a trip to visit the actual Waodani Indians and see the place that changed and shaped the rest of Elisabeth’s life and ministry. It is through this lens that Vaughn writes how she observes Betty Elliot becoming Elisabeth Elliot. Elliot was not a saint — as her own diaries will testify. She was a woman of great depth and feeling. She struggled mightily to follow God and to do His Will at — any cost. Even when EE recognized her spiritual gift of linguistics, she would not force them to be used in an effort to ensure a quicker written language for the Waodani. She always kept her mind sharp (not the easiest thing to do in a jungle setting), was available to treat illnesses, snakebites, be a midwife or deal with whatever other crises might arise. She struggled with what her ministry should be. She struggled with loneliness, a theme that she would write several books about. She struggled with her grief over Jim’s death. Yet she never lost faith in God. God used EE’s extraordinary communication skills of writing and public speaking to influence many generations to make professions of faith, decide they wanted to have a deeper walk with God, dedicate their lives to working on the mission field and just understanding what it means to answer God’s Call on their life. This book states that it is only Volume 1. It is easy to see why there would need to be a Volume 2. So much of Volume 1 is obviously about her time in Ecuador and her early writings. At the conclusion, it quickly touches on the rest of her life but more as a hit and run approach than the detailed approach of her life in Ecuador.
Another favorite quote of Elisabeth Elliot’s and one she often shared explains what she learned from the death of her young husband and the other four missionaries:
“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact.”
Elisabeth Elliot continually sought the path of obedience, no matter the cost.
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by B&H Books & NetGalley. The opinions expressed here are completely my own and without influence.