Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn. B&H Books. 322 pages. 2020
In this well-written authorized biography, Ellen Vaughn tells the colorful tale of how Elisabeth “Betty” Elliot came to be, through her adventures in the jungles of Ecuador. A second volume will continue with the rest of her story.
By effectively using a good amount of Elliot’s own writings from her journals and letters (a practice Elliot began when she was only eleven), the reader gets pulled into her incredible story as a missionary, translator, wife, mother and author. Even though I knew some of the facts about this part of her life, I found that I couldn’t wait to get back to the book to continue reading.
The “Foreword” is written by Joni Eareckson Tada, who considers Elliot a hero, and calls her “the most remarkable Christian woman of the last century”. Elliot herself saw Irish missionary and writer Amy Carmichael as a hero, writing that she was her first spiritual mother, someone who taught her the shape of godliness.
Elliot, who is referred to as Betty in the majority of the book, was born December 21, 1926 in Brussels, Belgium. The author writes that she was far from perfect and made plenty of mistakes. She writes that defining her core was a healthy willingness to die, stating that she really did see dying to self, and taking up her cross to follow Jesus—at all costs—as a biblical mandate to be obeyed.
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Betty Howard would attend Wheaton College, and it is during this time that we read a few of the thousands of letters that she and her mother exchanged through the course of their lives. It was in her Greek class that she first met Jim Elliot. Even as they began a relationship, Jim was sure that God wanted him on the mission field as a single man. They would eventually go through a five-year courtship, that the author tells us was not for the faint of heart.
The author talks about Betty Howard being an introvert, which at times put people off, as she could come off as insensitive.
Among the four almost soul-crushing deaths that Betty was to suffer was the death of Don Macario, who was helping her with translation work, and the theft of her suitcase, which contained nine months of her translation work on the Colorado language. Vaughn tells us that suffering would be one of the hallmark themes of Betty’s life.
Jim and Betty would finally get married so that they could establish the new mission at Puyupungu. The ceremony, the culmination of years of anguished longing, took place on Jim’s twenty-sixth birthday and lasted less than ten minutes. Their only child, Valerie, was born in 1955.
Jim and four other dedicated men, had a heart to reach the Waodani, a people that killed all strangers who ventured into their territory. Many will be familiar with how the men made contact with the Waodani through weekly “bucket drops” in which they attached gifts in a bucket or basket attached from Nate Saint’s airplane. Vaughn writes that these were five dedicated young men, representing the best human beings can offer to God—a passionate abandon to extend His kingdom and multiply His glory by sharing His gospel with those who have never heard it.
A part of the story that I had not heard previously was how Nenkiwi, one of the Waodani men, turned wrath that was against him toward the five missionaries. From a variety of sources, Vaughn is able to piece together exactly what happened that day on “Palm Beach” when the missionaries were speared to death. Betty and Jim were married for only 2 years and 3 months. She would write the best-selling book Through Gates of Splendor about the five young missionaries.
Amazingly, Betty still longed to go to the Waodani, indicating that the two things—the only things—to which she looked forward were the coming of Christ and her going to the Waodani. Betty, Valerie, and fellow translator Rachel Saint would eventually live with the Waodani tribe. Unfortunately, there were significant tensions with Rachel, as Betty found she could be of no service to Rachel linguistically. Every suggestion that Betty made was squelched. Betty and Valerie would eventually return to Shandia, where she tutored other American workers in Quichua, and continued her Quichua translation projects.
This volume of Betty’s story ends with her return in 1963 to America to live in New Hampshire, the site of many happy summers in her childhood. The author ends by considering a few of the themes that emerge from Betty’s early life.
This is a thorough well-written biography of Elisabeth Elliot that I highly recommend. I can’t wait for the second volume.
- The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. In this edition of the Gospelbound podcast, Collin Hansen visits with Carl Trueman about his new book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution, which Hansen considers the most important book published in 2020.
- The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. Here’s a review of Carl Trueman’s new book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution by Tim Challies, who calls the book “not only the most important book I’ve read in 2020, but also the best. I can’t recommend it too highly.”
- Carl Trueman on the Makers of the Modern Revolution. Justin Taylor writes: “The videos below—produced by Grove City College, where Professor Trueman teaches—won’t replace reading his thorough and brilliant book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution, but they can serve as an appetizer for the main themes and perhaps also be helpful to use in small groups and Sunday School classes or other discipling relationships.”
- The Most Important Cultural Book of the Year (Maybe Even Decade). Andrew T. Walker writes “In what I hope is not an overstatement, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Selfis the most ambitious book that Crossway has ever published in the cultural-criticism genre. I cannot recommend it enough to scholars, pastors, and laypersons. As a testament to my recommendation, it will now be required reading in every relevant course I teach.”
- Have You Seen the Providence of God? On this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper reads the Introduction to his forthcoming book Providence, which will be published January 12.
- New David Calhoun Book. David Calhoun, who I enjoyed two church history classes with at Covenant Seminary, has an upcoming book to be released at Banner of Truth. It is titled Swift and Beautiful: The Amazing Stories of Faithful Missionaries.
- The Grace and Truth Study Bible. Albert Mohler is the General Editor for the upcoming NIV The Grace and Truth Study Bible. The Bible will be published August 24, 2021.
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? by John MacArthur
We are reading through John MacArthur’s classic book The Gospel According to Jesus. What did Jesus mean when He said, “Follow me”? MacArthur tackled that seemingly simple question and provided the evangelical world with the biblical answer. For many, the reality of Jesus’ demands has proved thoroughly searching, profoundly disturbing, and uncomfortably invasive; and yet, heeding His words is eternally rewarding. The 20th anniversary edition of the book has revised and expanded the original version to handle contemporary challenges. The debate over what some have called “lordship salvation” hasn’t ended—every generation must face the demands Christ’s lordship. Will you read along with us?
This week we look at Chapter 22: The Cost of Discipleship. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- The heart of real discipleship is a commitment to be like Jesus Christ. That means both acting as He did and being willing to accept the same treatment.
- What is the mark of a true Christian? He confesses Jesus as the Son of God.
- A second hallmark of a true disciple is loving Christ even more than one’s own family.
- Those who are not willing to lose their lives for Christ are not worthy of Him. They cannot be His disciples.
- When confronted with a decision between serving self and serving the Lord, the true disciple is the one who chooses to serve the Lord, even at great personal expense.