Friday, July 08, 2011

Book Review: Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose by Janet and Geoff Benge

As a missionary, it’s hard not to know about Jim Elliot, because his story is so famous, and so intense. And of course there is the oft-cited Jim Elliot quote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” This man had a heart to share Christ with the Auca tribe of Ecuador. They were a tribe that no one knew much about, because they were incredibly isolated. Also they pretty much killed anyone who they saw. But Elliot truly believed the calling on Christians to bring the good news of Jesus to all tribes, and he wanted to share with the Aucas.

He lived in Ecuador for a time, ministering to the Waodani Indians in the jungle, and bit by bit the pieces came together to be able to go into Auca territory and try to make contact with them. He learned some phrases from their language from a woman who had left the tribe, they were able to find an Auca settlement from the air, and the Lord brought other men who had a heart to share Christ with the Aucas as well. The missionaries initiated contact from the air via a loudspeaker and dropped regular gifts to the tribe. After several months, Elliot and four others decided to build a base near the Indian village. But just a few days after arriving in Auca territory, Elliot and the others were speared to death by warriors from the tribe, even though they had first had a few friendly encounters with the curious Aucas. Not included in this biography is the reason why they were killed- one of the Aucas that initially came to visit lied to the others in the tribe about the missionaries’ intentions. 

This story made international headlines in the 50s, as the men were quite young (Elliot was 28) and American. So, many people vaguely know of the story. But wow, reading all the details surrounding it was just incredible. I have always wanted to read “Through the Gates of Splendor”, an account of his life and death written by Elliot’s wife Elisabeth, but this account is quite good, and hard to put down!  If you want to be inspired by someone who believed that missions work was more important than his life, read this book. 

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