I pulled out the mail from the mailbox and while sifting through it I discovered a plain white postcard addressed to me. I couldn't believe it! Elisabeth Elliot had written me back! The postcard was typed but she'd signed her name in ink. I couldn't believe she'd taken the time to write me, a 14-year-old girl! An ordinary trip to the mailbox contained for me something I treasure to this day. "You are loved with an everlasting love, that's what the Bible says, and underneath are the everlasting arms," was the way Elisabeth Elliot opened every Gateway to Joy broadcast. Her show served as the soundtrack to my lunch break during my growing up years. Being homeschooled and eating lunch in our kitchen, I was privy to my mom's radio listening preferences.
At some point I began actively listening to the broadcast as well. I think it was after I heard the Nate Saint dramatized biography on Stories of Great Christians. I finally put together that the Jim Elliot featured in Nate Saint's story had been Elisabeth Elliot's husband, and that story was part of her story too.
This realization triggered interest in finding out more about the five missionaries killed by the Huaroni tribe in Ecuador and how Elisabeth Elliot--wife of one of the slain missionaries--ended up living with them for two years.
I spent my teen years reading anything I could get my hands on written by Elisabeth Elliot: Passion and Purity, A Chance to Die, These Strange Ashes, andThe Savage My Kinsmento name a few. I certainly wasn't the target audience for her writing. Actually, it was probably strange that I found a hero in Elisabeth Elliot instead of whatever pop star was popular at the time. But I'm glad I did.
She taught me to dream big. To not just settle for a mediocre life that lacks passion for God and other people. And most of all she taught me that God could be trusted. Her life told that story. If Elisabeth Elliot could trust God even after her husband was speared to death, then I could trust God too. She trusted God to help her forgive, love, and serve the tribe who killed her husband. She trusted God while she served as a widowed missionary raising her daughter in the jungle. She trusted God even years later when her second husband was killed by cancer. With each disappointment and tragedy, she kept trusting God. That is her legacy to me.
When I heard of her death I remembered her words that gave such comfort for so many years: "You are loved with an everlasting love, that's what the Bible says, and underneath are the everlasting arms."
I decided that I wanted to see those words everyday. So I made a 8 x 10 print of them and framed it. And I'm making it available to you too. You can download your own printable version of it here.
To read two excellent tributes to Elisabeth Elliot check out this The New York Times article, Elisabeth Elliot, Tenacious Missionary in Face of Tragedy, Dies at 88 or The Washington Post article by Tsh Oxenreider.