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The Making of a Missionary

Lisa Barry: If we could see clearly and literally all of the things that have shaped our lives good and bad, I think we would be amazed. Just think of it--people mold us, beliefs, circumstances, upbringing, tragedy, education, books and countless other things. Today on Gateway to Joy, Elisabeth Elliot along with her special guests, Bob Lepine and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, look at some of those influences and what kind of impact they have had.

Let's get started with this Wednesday edition of Gateway to Joy.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love," that's what the Bible says "and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot, talking with my friend, Bob Lepine.

Bob Lepine: That's right and we have also joining us in the studio, Elisabeth, Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I was thinking about people I know who have come up to me and reflected back on books or messages or talks they have heard you give, Elisabeth, lifechanging encounters through your obedience to do what God has gifted you to do in writing books and in speaking. I think about the book The Mark of a Man and how that was really around long before there were ever any Promise Keepers. It was a book calling men to be covenant keepers and then Let Me Be A Woman that you wrote for your daughter, Valerie. Of course the book Shadow of the Almighty and Through Gates of Splendor chronicling the times with Jim Elliot and the Aucas. Then Passion and Purity and Quest for Love--those books are really companion books related to the whole issue of purity. You have written books on suffering, 28 books--is that right?

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes, I believe so. That's a lot of writing, and Nancy, I know many of those books have been books that you have read. As you think back about Elisabeth's writing and her speaking does anything stand out as being most influential?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, I have read most of those books that you just referred to and been influenced by all of them in different ways. I was born just after Elisabeth's husband, Jim Elliot, was martyred by the Auca Indians, and then early in those years she wrote Shadow of the Almighty followed by others.

I came to know the Lord as a little girl and then almost teethed on Christian biographies. We didn't have a television in our home, and my parents encouraged us to do a lot of reading and they helped select reading for us. Of course I am so thankful for that today. I read every biography of missionaries and Christian workers that I could get my hands on. In those early childhood years the Lord brought across my path books like The Shadow of the Almighty; The Savage, My Kinsman later the Journals of Jim Elliot. These were among books that God used in a significant way to call me to a full consecration of my life to the Lord and to give me a love and a heart and a passion for ministry.

In fact, I remember as a little girl writing my parents a letter telling them that I felt that God had called me to be a missionary for him and in a very passionate way spelling out my heart to serve the Lord. I know that it was books like the ones that Elisabeth has written of a biographical nature that so stirred my heart, fanned a flame in my heart of passion for the Lord that still really burns hotly today. Those books were a key part of that.

Bob Lepine: I have a friend who in church this past Sunday said "Any time you are going to talk about Amy Carmichael on the radio give me fair warning so that I can tune out so as not to become under so much conviction. Anytime I hear about the life of Amy Carmichael, I'm brought to a terrible point of conviction." So this is a warning for my friend. This is a time to tune out. That book A Chance to Die chronicles one of the great heroes of our era, doesn't it?

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes, you realize she wrote 40 books? There are only about 17 of them that are still available. Everyone one of them is worth its weight in gold. I think I have read all of them, most of them more than once. She has certainly been a great watchword to me. She was a beautiful writer. There's a very recent book with all the poetry that she ever wrote that has come out as a really thick book. Have you got that?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Yes, I do.

Elisabeth Elliot: Mountain Breezes it's called.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Yes, it's a real treasure.

Elisabeth Elliot: So I was delighted that that was brought out because Amy Carmichael would never have thought of putting any of it in a book. It's fortunate that some of them were rescued.

Bob Lepine: You've read A Chance to Die as well, haven't you?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I have, and I tell you that if your friend is convicted all you need to be convicted by that book is just the title itself. Hers was a life, as has been Elisabeth's, of calling us to that life of self-sacrifice, of surrender, abandon; and that has helped me to have God's perspective on so many circumstances of life and see in it a chance to die. And then, in that an opportunity to offer up to the Lord some sacrifice that is pleasing to Him.

Elisabeth Elliot: I was gonna say I had a hard time with the English people who had worked under Amy Carmichael. They didn't like that title at all. I had to just argue with them a little bit.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, it's not a very comfortable title and probably the marketing people might not think it was wonderful.

Elisabeth Elliot: Well, for some reason it continues to sell constantly and there are very few books in the Christian bookstores that are that big and that thick; but it goes on. I was so glad that eventually they gave me their blessing. I don't know what Amy herself would have thought of it, but it's certainly something I learned from her writings. She cautioned the women who worked with her to say (whatever the situation may be) "always learn to see in it a chance to die." In other words, die to yourself. All your own ambitions and things you think you can do or ought to do or want to do.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That is so contrary to our natural way of responding, but it is God's way.

Bob Lepine: I think one of the aspects of your legacy, as I think about the last 40 plus years of ministry that you have been involved with, one of the things that you have done in the book about Amy Carmichael, in the books about Jim Elliot, as you have told stories about Gladys Aylward and about others; you've raised missionaries to the rightful place of hero status at a time when no one looks at missionaries as heroes. You grew up with that vision. Missionaries were real heroes as you were growing up. You shed that vision for a new generation in your writings.

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes, I remember Betty Scott visiting in our home when I was probably four-or five-years-old. I don't remember her vividly, but I just remember the fact that she was there. It wasn't until I learned that she and her husband had been killed by Chinese Communists, I realized what missionary life is really meant to be. The fact that that lady had sat at our dinner table was just stunning to me.

When my father came home (I was ten-years-old) with a newspaper, a Philadelphia newspaper, telling about the martyrdom of John and Betty Stamm. Chinese Communists had captured them, they were marched half-naked through the streets of a Chinese village; and she had to watch while they chopped his head off and then they put her head on the chopping block. She had her head chopped off. To think that that lady had sat at our dinner table, that made it just unbelievable.

It was when I was about 12 or 13 that I came across her prayer which I made my own "Lord I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to thee to be Thine forever, fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit, use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost now and forever." I copied that into my Bible and asked the Lord to give me that kind of martyrdom if he wanted me to have that.

Bob Lepine: When you went to your mom and dad and said I feel the call to the mission field, after they had had Betty Stamm at the dinner table and they knew what had happened to her, did they say, "Well we're so thrilled, God bless you?"

Elisabeth Elliot: My parents were missionaries, too. They were missionaries in Belgium and that's why I happened to be born over there. So they had missions in their minds and my mother, although she came from a very posh Episcopal Church where they didn't talk much about missionaries at all, she went to a missionary time at Stony Brook School in New York; and she heard missionaries speak then. It was then that she really began to ask the Lord, "Do you want me to be a missionary?" She couldn't imagine doing it, but she thought she ought to at least ask the Lord. So when she married my father they were poor missionaries in Belgium for just those five years when I was born and my older brother.

But five out of the six of us became missionaries so our parents of course sort of had to take a little gasp of breath each time they would hear that one more child had decided to become a missionary. They never in any way tried to stop us. Just the one who was not a missionary has always been in Christian work. So it was routine for us to read missionary biographies. I guess I have a shelf about so long of just missionary biographies. I devoured them and I am always trying to get young people to read those and get animated.

Bob Lepine: Okay, they accepted the fact that you were going to be a missionary, they may have even rejoiced in that. But then when you said, after your husband had been martyred by the Aucas, "I'm going into the village."

Elisabeth Elliot: That was hard on them. It was very hard on Jim's parents as well; and I got letters from both sides very carefully and graciously cautioning me very strongly, "Don't even think of going in there unless you feel absolutely sure that this is what God is wanting you to do." I took that very seriously. I prayed about it and as I realized that it might be that God would want me to go in there for some reason He was going to have to show me. I didn't see how it would ever work. If five men were killed, it didn't seem to make sense that one woman would go in there and come back alive. But, it happened. I'm sure it was very hard on my parents and I know it was hard on Jim's parents.

Jim's oldest brother is still a missionary and he has had at least 53 years in Peru, South America. No one has ever heard of Bert Elliot. Everyone has heard of Jim Elliot. He and his wife were never given any children, which was a great sorrow to them. Because of that they have been able to be free in the summertime in the Eastern Jungles where it's very, very hot and then the other extreme is in the high Andes where it's extremely cold. They are the happiest couple you have ever seen. Even though the Lord never gave them any children, they have hundreds of spiritual children; and when I hear the thousands of people that know about Jim Elliott, I always want to say, "I wish you could hear about Bert Elliot."

Lisa Barry: I think I hear the beginnings of a new book The Journals of Bert Elliot. I guess we'll have to wait and see on that. I hate to break in on the discussion, but we are almost out of time and I know many of you will want to get a copy of this final series of Gateway to Joy. It's called A Legacy of Faith. I consider this series to be an historic one. Think of it as twelve and a half years of Gateway to Joy rolled into one fabulous week. We are making it available today to those of you who ask for it. We'd like to suggest a donation of $5 or more when you contact us to request it. Our toll-free number is 1-800-759-4Joy. You can call any time day or night; 1-800-759-4569. If you prefer to write our postal address is Gateway to Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska 68501. Or dial up our Web site at gateway.org. Gateway to Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible and is supported by the generous gifts of people like you. Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be our guest again tomorrow so be sure and join us then for the next Gateway to Joy.

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