|Elizabeth Howard Elliot and Jim Elliot|
I was about five years old when five American missionaries were speared to death in the jungle of Ecuador. As I grew up the story of these men's heroism for their faith in Jesus Christ occasionally came to my attention but it wasn't until I was in my forties that I became much more interested in the wife of one of those men.
My job as a receptionist at a Christian radio station allowed (even encouraged) me to listen to many conservative spiritual preachers and teachers throughout the day. I grew to love many of them and hoped my phone would not ring too much during some of the broadcasts so I wouldn't miss anything.
Hands down, Elizabeth Elliot was my favorite. Her radio program, Gateway to Joy, aired for 13 years, but I didn't become acquainted with her until about 1994. I quickly learned to have a pad of paper and a pen handy for those 15 minutes every weekday so I could record the pithy wisdom from this woman of God's Word and rich experiences.
There are two messages from Mrs. Elliot that have stayed with me the most:
"Do the Next Thing" is a poem of unknown origin that Mrs. Elliot quoted often. The idea comes through that when you don't know what to do, just do the next thing. That next thing might be to stir the soup, change a diaper, or fold the laundry. It could be anything that needs to be done. Just do it and stop moping about. It is simple counsel and at times, just the right impetus to get us out of a blue mood and on the right track to healthy thinking.
The other message that has stayed with me is the title of one of her many books, this one, a biography of missionary Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die. For a long time I resisted buying the book because the title depressed me. But eventually I read it and learned that we should all be looking for a chance to die in the sense that we need to die to our selfish desires and live for the good of others. That was exactly what Amy Carmichael did. It was an inspiring and very interesting book.
Much is being written and said about Elizabeth Elliot this week, since her death just this past Monday. I need not go on except to say that it was my privilege to meet her in person years ago, probably in about 1999. She came to Denver to help a local Christian radio station celebrate it's 75th anniversary of broadcasting. She was lovely both inside and out. I knew I had come in contact with a most dear servant of the Lord and wanted to be at least a little bit like her.
When her radio program came to an end in 2001 due to health reasons, she bid us all farewell and tears slipped down my cheeks. I missed her but realized it was time to put into practice what my teacher had shared with me.