Would you give your life for something you believed in? Jim Elliot died trying to bring people to Christ. This might be all you know about this famous martyr, but he didn’t start out as a missionary in Ecuador. Early on in life, Jim’s parents introduced him to many missionaries who sparked his interest in mission work. In college, he became ever more focused on his goal of spreading the Gospel to the world. Finally, he went to the mission field where he began full-time missionary work. Passionate followers of Christ, like Jim Elliot, will give everything they have, including their lives to reach others, just as Christ did for us.
Jim Elliot’s mother had concerns about her son’s safety as a missionary in a foreign country, but Jim recalled that the independent way his parents raised him had helped prepare him for this life. His munificent parents let their children go alone on camping trips for days, and sometimes even weeks. Jim learned many skills from these trips. They encouraged their children to get jobs early in life. Wanting their children to be self-sufficient and independent, they gave them more freedom than most children had. Because of this independence, Jim later felt comfortable going on his own to live in a foreign country.
His camping experiences prepared him to be able to live without many conveniences as he did in the jungles of Ecuador. As a young boy, Jim had many advantageous opportunities to interact with missionaries who were just coming back from the mission field. His parents would have them to dinner and Jim would ask them probing questions about their work. It was stated in Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose, “It was these visits that began to fire his young imagination with the importance and adventure of missionary life” (Benge, 1999, p.17).
As Jim grew into adulthood, his life was actively focused on preparing for the mission field. While attending Bible college, Jim learned about becoming a missionary. He attended camps that trained people to be missionaries. During college, Jim kept an informative, detailed journal on interesting facts about missionary life. Later, he began giving speeches to college students. Jim ardently told the students how unfair it was that the United States had more missionaries and Christian resources than any other country.
He stated, “There was one Christian worker for every five hundred people in the United States while the rest of the world averaged one Christian worker for every fifty thousand people” (Benge, 1999, p. 22). Using these facts, Jim hoped to encourage the students to become highly interested in being missionaries outside of the United States. After college, Jim began praying for a committed missionary partner. He reunited with different friends from college who shared his passion. Many of his partners fell through, but finally, after much praying and searching, he found someone devoted and dedicated to partner with.
Now that Jim had a partner, he was finally ready to be a full-fledged missionary in Ecuador among the Quichua Indians. During that time, Jim was increasingly focused on his work. He did not even stop for marriage. Finally though, after living in South America for quite a while, he did marry his college sweetheart, Betty Howard, right there in Ecuador. They even had a child there. Jim and Betty lived out the verse in the Bible that says, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (New International Version, Joshua 24:15).
While in Ecuador, Jim learned of an isolated tribe called the Aucas; this was a tribe no one had been able to reach with the Gospel because they were so violent. Determined to reach them, Jim Elliot and his resolute partners moved out to a remote location called Palm Beach so they could preach to the vicious tribe. They were only there for a few, short days before Jim and his partners were killed by the very people they were trying to reach. As Jim Elliot was facing death that fateful day, he put his hand on the pocket where he had a gun. He knew he would not use it though.
Jim and his partners had made a solemn promise to each other, “They would not kill those they came to share the gospel with in the name of Jesus Christ” (Benge, 1999, p. 175). What causes a man to be willing to die for a cause? Most people do not set out to die, but people who passionately follow Christ surrender their will to wherever He will lead them. Therefore, they will be obedient to Christ even unto death. Even Jesus prayed, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as You will” (King
James Version, Matthew 26:39). Jim Elliot developed a passion for Christ early in life. As he grew into a man, his desire to be a missionary became his life focus. When he was finally able to do the Lord’s work in Ecuador, he was willing to give his life to do it. Even though he had a gun on him, Jim did not use it; this showed that he was truly ready to die for the Lord. There is so much to learn from Jim Elliot’s example, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he can not lose” (Elliot, 1958, p. 108).
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