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Shadow of the Almighty is one of the great missionary stories of modern times. It is the life and testament of Jim Elliot, as told by Elliot’s widow, author and evangelist Elisabeth Elliot Gren. Shadow of the Almighty is the true account of Elliot's martyrdom, along with four fellow missionaries, at the hands of Ecuador’s Huaorani Indians. About this important and enlightening book, Eugenia Price writes, “It proves that Jesus Christ will bring bright creativity out of any shadow which might fall across any life and any love.” A story that has inspired Christian readers for more than half a century, it poignantly recounts a tragic event that was presented from Huaorani perspective in the 2006 feature motion picture, End of the Spear.
I have long known the story of Jim Elliot and the other four men with him as they met the Auca people of Ecuador. After preparing for months for a potentially dangerous interaction with an unreached people group, they were killed. But, until a couple weeks ago, I didn’t know much about Jim Elliot or what led him to that encounter. I highly recommend Shadow of the Almighty, The Life & Testament of Jim Elliot, compiled by Elisabeth Elliot. This classic book drips with saintly wisdom through the remnants of Jim’s letters and journal entries. Over the course of eleven years of entries, he touches on practically every topic imaginable–college, work, finances, dating, gardening, discerning God’s leading, prayer. It is not a book that a reader should expect to fly through, but to sit in. Multiple times I re–read a paragraph and then took time to stop, process and pray. I would apply Jim’s quote to his own book, “I see the value of Christian biography tonight, as I have been reading [David] Brainerd’s Diary much today. It stirs me up much to pray and wonder at my nonchalance… O Lord, let me be granted grace to ‘imitate their faith’”. From early on, Jim knew that the Lord might give him a short life, but he prayed that his life might be like fuel which, though it burns only a short time, burns brightly. This prayer reminded me of another man, called by God, whose life followed a similar pattern. Though Jim Elliot’s story is perhaps the most well–known, Christian martyrdom is not unique to him. In We Died Before We Came Here, Emily Foreman begins with her husband’s death by Muslim extremists. Emily, Stephen and their children followed God’s call to be missionaries in North Africa. The Lord had clearly, and individually, laid on their hearts to love Muslims and share with them the good news of Jesus. Similarly to Jim Elliot, Stephen had the idea years beforehand that the Lord might be calling him to die for the sake of bringing the gospel to unreached people. Emily writes very humbly about the Lord’s guidance and provision throughout her and Stephen’s journey to becoming missionaries. Their vision trip to their potential country was ripe with challenges–cultural, emotional, familial. The move to the desert was not easy and their ministry took a while to get off the ground. She struggled with wanting to do more ministry while feeling like she was failing other’s standards by not being a full–time homeschool mom. They missed their families. They were served odd food. And yet, there is so much joy and peace weaved throughout the pages of this book. God had clearly called them, and they knew, firmly, they were exactly where they were meant to be, even on the day Stephen was killed. As Emily writes after Stephen’s death, “God was not done yet.” In a culture with strong principles of vengeance and justice, the Christian witness of forgiving enemies was met with much surprise. Emily writes, “Stephen’s death had a profound impact on these people–and our family’s display of forgiveness is still talked about to this day”. Which also reminds me of the grace and forgiveness displayed by Elisabeth Elliot who later lived among the Aucas and shared the gospel with them. It is inspiring to read stories of incredible faith–filled people. And it is encouraging to realize, they are just people, like me and like you. Jim Elliot had weeks where he was busy and didn’t read his Bible. Stephen Foreman struggled to know what was right. But, if God used them, in their failings and struggles, then he could also use me, and you, here in Wheaton or around the world, to make his name and his glory known. Elisabeth, Jim, Emily and Stephen leave strong legacies that were a challenge and encouragement to me, and I think might be one to you, too.
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