Wife of missionary Jim Elliot, author, and speakerby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Throughout her life, Elisabeth Elliot has demonstrated faith, kindness, and love in every aspect of her life. Whether serving alongside her husband, Jim, in Ecuador, speaking on the radio, or writing another national bestseller, she remains completely loyal to her faith. As a student at Wheaton College, she demonstrated leadership abilities and the gift of evangelism. After her first marriage she endeavored to reach out to the very tribe of people responsible for her husband’s death. Today, she continues to encourage and uplift her audiences through radio broadcasts, speaking tours, and her writing.
Born to missionaries in Belgium in 1926, Elisabeth had four brothers and one sister. Her brother Thomas Howard is an author of several books. She began her college education at Wheaton College and studied Greek. It was there that she met Jim Elliot. On March 23, 1947, her diary reads “Met Jim Elliot. Good talk. Wonderful guy.”1 Their relationship continued throughout their college years. In Elisabeth’s mind, Jim fit her ideal picture of a husband.
“The more Jim talked, the more I saw that he fitted the picture of what I hoped for in a husband. He loved to sing hymns, and he knew dozens by heart. He loved to read poetry, love to read it aloud. He was a real man, strong, broadchested, unaffected, friendly, and I though, very handsome. He loved God. That was the supreme dynamic of his life. Nothing else mattered much by comparison.”2
Both Jim and Elisabeth knew they were called to the mission field and both thought it was as single adults. When Elisabeth graduated in 1948, she and Jim did not feel the call to be married. They were very much in love, but knew that God had called them both to singleness at that time in their lives. For four years they went their respective ways, both constantly seeking after the will of God and continuing with their communication through letters. In 1952, Jim was called to Ecuador as a missionary, where it so happened Elisabeth also was called a few months later. In 1953 they were married.
In the two years leading up to Jim and his friends’ deaths, Elisabeth and Jim worked side by side ministering and teaching the people of Ecuador. Two years later, on a trip in to make contact with a dangerous tribe of Auca, Jim and his companions were killed. Jim and Elisabeth’s daughter Valerie, was ten months old at the time.
After the death of Jim, Elisabeth spent time with her family in the states and learned what it meant to live without her husband. In the months after the tragedy, she wrote “The prayers of the widows themselves are for the Aucas. We look forward to the day when these savages will join us in Christian praise.”3 After just a few months, she returned to Ecuador. After three years had passed, Elisabeth began ministering with Nate Saint’s sister in the very village that the men who had killed her husband lived. As a result of their ministry and that of others, the entire village soon became convinced of the saving power of Christ. Through the death of her husband and his friends, Elisabeth witnessed a huge transformation in the lives of the Aucas. Of the entire ordeal she says,
“God performs all things according to the counsel of His own will. The real issues at stake on January 8, 1956, were very far greater than those which immediately involved five young men and their families, or this small tribe of naked “savages.” Letters from many countries have told of God’s dealings with hundreds of men and women, through the example of five who believed literally that “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”4
In 1963, after two years with the people who killed her husband and a total of 11 years in Ecuador, Elisabeth took her daughter, Valerie, back to the United States to live. In 1969 she married Addison Leitch, a professor of theology at Gordon Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts. Both Elisabeth and Valerie remember him as being a man of “humor and wisdom” 5. Four years later, in 1973, he died of cancer.
Shortly after this, Elisabeth met two new men.
“After his [Addison’s] death I had two lodgers in my home. One of them married my daughter, the other one, Lars Gren, married me. Since then we have worked together.”6
Elisabeth and Lars continue to live a life filled with the joy of Christ. Valerie is now a grandmother, making Elisabeth a great-grandmother. Valerie has a total of eight children who live in numerous places all around the world pursuing careers in ministry, the military, and housing developments.
Since she moved back to the United States, Elisabeth has written over 20 books ranging topically from the life of Jim, to that of Amy Carmichael, to devotional books on suffering, hardship, and the will of God. She was involved in speaking tours all over the US, but now is retired in her early 80s. However she still continues to write and share daily devotionals on her website, and Lars publishes an update on them and their family every month.
Throughout her entire life, Elisabeth has been a prime example of a woman
patiently and consistently seeking after the will of God. In her relationship
with Jim, her ministry to the Aucas, her role as both mother and wife,
and the fact that she is an internationally known speaker and author she
has not wavered in her faith or succumbed to the easy commercialism of
the world. She maintains her faith at all costs and continues to be an
inspiration and encouragement to people the world over.
1. Where did Elisabeth go to college and who did she meet there?
a. Wheaton; Jim Elliot
b. Harvard; Franklin Roosevelt
c. Princeton; Nate Saint
2. Where was Elisabeth called to minister?
a. South Africa
b. Middle East
3. What is the name of Elisabeth’s only child?
a. Jim Jr.
4. What is the name of Elisabeth’s third husband?
a. Addison Leitch
b. Lars Gren
c. She was only married twice.
Answers: A, C, B, B
1 Elizabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity (Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House Company, 2005), 29
2 Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 2005), 35.
3 Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor (Wheaton: Living Books Publishers, 1982), 253
4 Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor (Wheaton: Living Books Publishers, 1982), 259 Back to the Bible: Gateway to Joy, Stories of Addison Leitch http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/Gateway-to-Joy/Stories-of-Addison-Leitch.html (accessed 7 December, 2007)
5 Elisabeth Elliot, About Elisabeth, http://www.elisabethelliot.org/about.html (accessed 6 December, 2007)