Series: Women in the Shadow of the Almighty (Elisabeth Elliot)
Leslie Basham: Elisabeth Elliot takes us back to the moment Eve disobeyed God.
Elisabeth Elliot: Eve showed us the one principle of hell, which is: I AM MY OWN.“I am going to do my own thing. Nobody’s going to tell me what to do.” Probably in our heart of hearts, every one of us, in some form or another, has said that.
Leslie: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, June 10.
Nancy DeMoss: We see example of “battle of the sexes” everywhere. So where did all that conflict come from?
Earlier in the week, Bob Lepine explained that conflict originated in the Garden of Eden. Today, Elisabeth Elliot will pick up on that theme and show us how the mindset of Eve still affects all of us.
Leslie: First we’ll hear about some of Elisabeth Elliot’s background. A lot of listeners are familiar with that name because of her dramatic story as a young missionary in Ecuador. So before Elisabeth speaks on manhood, womanhood, and the Bible’s first couple, we’re going to listen to her dramatic story.
Elisabeth: Once upon a time, before you were born, there were in Ecuador a tribe of so-called savages. They were naked, they used stone tools, and they killed strangers.
Leslie: This group has sometimes been called the Auca Indians. They would have preferred to be called the Huaorani people. You’ll hear them referred to both ways.
In the late 1940s, an American oil company tried exploring for oil near the Huaorani, in the jungles of the Andes Mountains. But this oil company had a lot of trouble.
Steve Saint: The Huaorani had killed, I believe, in the early years 20-some employees, and it was getting hard to even get employees to go work in there because everyone was so terribly frightened of the Huaorani who could attack anytime, anyplace.
Leslie: So a young family bought some land from the oil company and moved to Ecuador. They didn’t want to explore for oil. They wanted this group to know the gospel.
Elisabeth: First, there was Nate Saint, from Philadelphia. He inaugurated the program of jungle flying in the eastern jungle of Ecuador.
Steve: I remember him going out every morning, pulling out the airplane, and loading it up. I’d help; or, I thought I helped.
Leslie: This is Nate’s son, Steve.
Steve: And then I’d run up on the little bank and watch him taxi across and take off into the jungle.
Elisabeth: Pilots who have watched film footage of some of Nate’s landings on those canyons of green trees in the jungle have said that it was impossible.
Steve: And then of course I’d wait in the afternoon for him to come back.
Elisabeth: Nate was a genius. He was a rather slightly built blond guy with a terrific sense of humor, a creative imagination, and an almost fanatical discipline and caution as a flyer.
Steve: But there was this one area that everyone knew belonged to the Huaorani, or the Aucas, as they called them, that nobody dared go in. In fact, my dad rarely even flew over it because he knew that if he had a forced landing, if he survived the crash, the Huaorani would probably find him and kill him.
Elisabeth: Nobody had ever gone into their territory and come out alive. Missionaries had been praying that God would enable them someday to take the gospel to these Aucas, but it had never happened. It wasn’t until 1956 that the first Operation Auca was attempted. Five young American men banded together to do this.
Leslie: Nate Saint was joined by Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Ed McCully.
Elisabeth: Then there was a fifth man, one I got to know pretty well. His name was Jim Elliot.
Leslie: Jim and Elisabeth met in college. Jim wanted to marry her, but he went through a long process asking God if he was called to singleness. The struggle of those years is told in the books Shadow of the Almighty and Passion and Purity. Eventually, he and Elisabeth were married and living in Ecuador.
Elisabeth: One day in October of 1955, Nate Saint flew into our station to tell us that he had discovered some Auca houses.
Leslie: The group started lowering gifts to this village from the air.
Elisabeth: You can imagine our excitement, our trembling, the prayers that went up
Leslie: And then these 5 men left to make contact with the Huaorani people.
Elisabeth: they sang together that hymn, “We rest on Thee, our shield and our defender.”
Steve: To the best of my knowledge, nobody had ever gone into the tribe and had face-to face contact with the Huaorani and come out alive. There was no way to resolve differences between people in the tribe except to kill, so I think anthropologists would accept that they are probably the most violent group of people that has ever been studied.
A homicide rate—people within the tribe killing other people in the tribe—of over 60%. That’s in addition to the people in the tribe who were killed by outsiders—either by oil company people or by Quichuas, the tribe living around them. So they were really killing themselves into extinction.
Leslie: Steve Saint says that while the five missionaries were trying to make contact with the Huaorani, a lot was going on within this violent tribe. There had been killings between clans, and more violence expected.
There was also a conflict between two men who each wanted to marry a young woman. She had tried to leave the village to get help from the missionaries.
Steve: So the old man in the group kept pointing their anger at my dad and his four friends so that they wouldn’t kill each other. He said, “Hey, wait a minute, if we’re going to kill anybody, let’s kill the foreigners.”
I remember my mom calling me into her room and telling me that my dad wasn’t coming back. I was just dumbfounded. I couldn’t imagine. This was total nonsense. Of course my dad is coming back!
Elisabeth: Jim Elliot wrote in his diary, when he was 22, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Steve: It might seem like Jim Elliot and Nate Saint and Roger and Pete and Ed were super-Christians, but they weren’t. They were just common, ordinary men, and their five wives were common, ordinary women, who distinguished themselves by their willingness to be used by God.
Elisabeth:There is nothing worth living for unless it’s worth dying for.
Steve: We have way underestimated the key role that the five widows played. I watched them, and you know, they were sad, for sure; I mean, those were very somber days in our home. But I never, ever heard any of them even suggest, quietly, that God may have made a mistake, or even that they had made a mistake.
Elisabeth: There is a mystery here, but it is not unprecedented. Go back to Hebrews 11. Following all those wonderful, triumphant accounts, we read, “Others were tortured.” They faced jeers and flogging, fetters and prison bars. “They were stoned; they weresawed in two” (vv. 35-37 NIV). Talk about endurance!
Is it worth it? How many things can you think of that are worth suffering for?
Leslie: In the meantime, the Huaorani people were feeling regret. They knew that some of the missionaries had guns but chose not to shoot their attackers. On Huaorani woman who was tired of the killing had already escaped and was spending time with Nate’s sister Rachel.
And remember the old man in the village who said, “Let’s kill the foreigners”? His wife and some other women escaped and found their way to Elisabeth Elliot.
These grieving missionary women shared the truth of God’s Word in these new relationships. Eventually they were invited into the village to explain the Bible to this murderous tribe.
Steve: When they got in and started living with the tribe, the tribe wanted to know all about Waengongi [God] and how the world was created. And when Aunt Rachel finally told them about Waengongi, she said, “Waengongi the Creator does not see it well that people should kill other people.”
When they found out that He didn’t want them to kill, it gave them an excuse to stop the killing. Almost immediately, a few of the warriors said, “We’re not going to spear anymore.” Then more, seeing that they had given up their vendettas, decided to do the same.
You have to understand, anyone who said, “I’m not going to kill anymore,” was just a prime target for any of their enemies to come and kill them. So they did that at the risk of their lives. But probably 90% of the killing, at least within the groups that were contacted, virtually stopped.
Leslie: Then many of the people realized that their hearts needed to change. Steve Saint and his family continued to live among the Huaorani for decades, watching God transform lives.
Steve: I have Minkaye, one of the men who killed my dad and the others—in fact, theman that, from the accounts that they’ve told me, actually did, in fact, spear my dad to death—is living at our house now. He’s up from the jungles because we’re going to be doing a short speaking tour together.
We love him; our children love him. Our grandkids absolutely love him. They call him Kaye; his name is Minkaye, but they call him Kaye. They just go right to him, and he carries them around and plays with them.
He is a different man. It is impossible to imagine that he lived with killing as a way of life. That is not just a decision not to kill anymore; that is a change of heart. Minkaye is a wonderful example of that.
Elisabeth: How many things can you think of that are worth living for? I want you to listen, ladies and gentlemen, young men, young women: There is nothing worth living for unless it’s worth dying for. Have you made up your mind?
Nancy: Elisabeth Elliot, the widow who forgave those who killed her husband, has gone on to influence generations of women through her many books and through the radio program that many of you listened to years ago called Gateway to Joy. My friend Kim Wagner describes the influence Elisabeth had in her life:
Kim Wagner: She was one of the first women that I heard that actually combined the truth of the Word of God and living all-out for Christ. I made sure I heard her radio program every day.
Nancy: Author Mary Kassian owes a lot to this missionary as well:
Mary Kassian: I remember actually hearing Elisabeth Elliot on the radio, writing down the quote she said, pasting it in my office . . . and it hung there for ten years, I bet—this little quote. The particular quote that I had was that “It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than resentful over what is withheld. One or the other becomes a way of life.” Cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
Nancy: When Elisabeth stopped producing her program, Gateway to Joy, a new program was needed to take its place. That’s when Revive Our Hearts was launched. So we’ve been deeply affected by the ministry and legacy of Elisabeth Elliot as well.
Today we’re going to listen to a message that Elisabeth delivered at a conference back in 2000 called “Building Strong Families in Your Church.” I was at that conference, and I was privileged to hear Elisabeth speak at a special session for women.
She begins by talking about the need for leaders . . . and followers.
Elisabeth: As Shakespeare says, “If two men ride on a horse, one must ride behind.”
Is there a difference between men and women? Is it merely physiological, or does it go much deeper?
Thirty years ago, women were eager to achieve status with men. Child rearing was no longer a preoccupation but an improvisation. Almost one-half of marriages were divorced (this was thirty years ago; I think things have gotten worse since then). The number women in prison tripled. Drugs increased, so that one in four pregnant women were on drugs.
The senior vice president of J. Walter Thompson said, “There’s not a woman anywhere who made it in business who is not tough, self-centered, and enormously aggressive. One who is nurturing, sacrificing, and peaceable undermines the struggle for equality.”
The feminist movement profaned sexuality. It treated as meaningless that which is loaded with theological meaning, and insisted on perfect equality with men.
Well, we might say, what else is new? But where did this notion of equality come from?
You know the answer. The Garden of Eden is where it started. What was it that happened there?
In the very first chapter of Genesis, we have four things that God did: We are created by God, we are made in His image, we are placed under moral responsibility, and we are equally objects of grace.
But in Genesis 2, we find this elaborated, and it’s very clear that Eve was created to be ahelper. But this “helper” took over, didn’t she? And she thought that God’s rule was certainly not to be listened to, so she decided to take things into her own hands.
She talked with Satan. Satan suggested that God was trying to cheat them out of a very good thing, so she decided to go with what Satan had to say.
In effect, she said to her husband, “You don’t have to listen to what God says. We can do our own thing.” What happened? Well, Adam wimped out.
My father told a story about a preacher who was preaching. He was talking about the difference between Adam and Eve, and what happened in the Garden. At some point in his talk, he said, “Where would man be without woman!” A voice from the back said, “In the Garden of Eden.”
Well, we were meant to be helpers. We were meant to be “sub-ordinant.” And that is a great blessing, that we are not given the requirements which are so stringent on the men. I thank God that the buck stops with Lars Gren; it does not stop with Elisabeth. That gives me freedom and joy.
Dr. Henry Krabbendam said, “The book of Genesis shows an irresponsible tendency in the husband to be irresponsible, and an irresponsible tendency in the wife to be dominating.” I think, in our heart of hearts, we know that that’s true. We do have an itch to dominate—probably all of us.
There me some very godly, sweet, quiet, “shrinking violets” here this morning who would certainly say that you have never been aware of any irrepressible tendency to be dominating. But you’re looking at a woman who has had three husbands, and they were very, very different husbands.
Jim Elliot lasted 27 months. Then 13 years went by. I certainly never expected to be married again. I thought it was a miracle I got married the first time, because I was not a girl who was sought after by the guys. I was tall—way too tall in my class. I was shy. (People have since explained to me that shyness is just one way of thinking about yourself, and that’s not a good thing.)
But miraculously, after 13 years of widowhood, Addison Leitch came along. He was a wonderful man. His wife had died. He had three daughters. He was a professor Tarkio College in Missouri. He and I had four and a half years, and he died of cancer.
So now, you’ve seen Number Three; I do trust that he is the last. He and I have had 22 years.
But these same principles come up again and again. There are typically compliant men who seem to be willing to take a backseat in churches. There are women who are delighted to take positions of leadership in churches.
Well, as Tim Bayley put it, “It’s no secret that the evangelical church has declined in faithfulness to God’s Word the past couple of decades. And it’s my conviction that this area of manhood and womanhood is one of the clearest examples of this decay.”
Eve became powerful in a way that Adam wasn’t. She was what we might call a take-charge woman. And we’ve been in a mess ever since.
She said, in effect, “I AM SOMEBODY. I will not be dependent. I have my rights. I belong in a higher place. I refuse subordination.” And it comes to a grab for power.
C. S. Lewis said, “No man who says, ‘I am as good as you,’ believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept, and therefore resents.”
That’s a perfect description of Eve. She took things into her own hands, and she was going to do it the way it ought to be done, and she was going to drag Adam into it. And Adam said, “If that’s what the little lady wants, that’s what the little lady’s gonna get,” and we’ve been in a mess ever since!
Nancy: Well, if we’re honest, each of us would have to admit that we have some Eve-like tendencies in our own hearts. Elisabeth Elliot has been helping us to recognize those temptations. She’ll be back tomorrow with hope for those who don’t want to act like Eve.
But even today, would you ask yourself, “Is there some situation right now where I’m trying to take matters into my own hands, rather than humbly and patiently trusting God for the solution?” Would you take that matter to God right now? Recognize that He is in control, and that ultimately He won’t do anything except for your good and His glory.
Used with Permission. Revive Our Hearts.