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Interview with Elisabeth Elliot

by Donna Morley

†††††††††For those of you not yet acquainted with Elisabeth Elliot, let me briefly introduce her to you. She was first known in January 1956 when newspaper headlines broke across the world reporting that Jim Elliot (Elisabethís husband), Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully and Pete Fleming were martyred by Auca tribesmen. Elisabeth's story about this tragedy, and her life as a missionary, in Quito, Ecuador can be found in her book Through Gates of Splendor.

†††††††††Since Through Gates of Splendor was first published, Elisabeth has gone on to become one of Christendom's most respected women. Many of us who know Elisabeth, through her writings, can vouch for the fact that she has taught us so much on what it means to live the selfless life.

†††††††††When I first interviewed Elisabeth Elliot she was writing the book, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael. For those of you unfamiliar with Amy Carmichael, she was a young woman in the late 1800's who grew up in Ireland and became a missionary in India. Amy's life and ministry was quite fascinating and a conviction to all who desire to follow the Crucified.

†††††††††After Elisabeth finished the book about Amy Carmichael, I read it with great interest, and when finished reading, I wanted to more than ever make the most of my life as Amy Carmichael did. This book is truly one of my favorite biographies..

†††††††††And now, enjoy hearing from Elisabeth on subjects ranging from missions, singleness and marriage.

Donna: ††††††Because you were first known to the world as a missionary,

can you describe for us the role of a missionary?

Elisabeth: To make the truth of God visible. I think that's what witnessing is about. Primarily, that is what the missionary is to do. Then, of course, he also makes it audible by giving the people the gospel which may involve reducing a language to writing and translating the Bible.

Donna:††††††††What type of person do you feel would best fit that role?

Elisabeth:††††Anybody God has called. One of the first qualifications is flexibility. The second qualification is that he must have a servants heart, ready to do anything that needs to be done without worrying about what his job description is suppose to be.

Donna:††††††††Since you were a missionary both as a single woman and as a married woman, what would you say are the benefits of both?

Elisabeth:††††The benefits of being single would be the same that Paul outlined in 1 Corinthians 7. Your more free to minister to other people than you would be if you had a family of your own. Your mind and heart can be directed more towards pleasing the Lord than pleasing your spouse. But, of course, it has its disadvantages in many countries where singleness is not understood at all. You're likely to be suspected of being immoral. The married missionary has the advantage of companionship because missionary work usually involves a great deal of loneliness. Marriage doesn't solve that problem but it does alleviate it. There's nothing more powerful than living as a Christian family before the people you are trying to reach. A missionary family can have a great influence for the gospel.

Donna:††††††††There are some women who feel restless and uncertain about going to the mission field when they are single. Do you feel it's valid for a woman to say, "I'll only go to the mission field if I am married?

Elisabeth:††††No. I think that's laying down conditions to one's obedience. We are not in a position to do that if we are disciples. We are not to be the one defining the terms. We must be at the disposal of our Commanding Officer, as Paul tells us in Second Timothy 2:4.

Donna:††††††††In your book, These Strange Ashes you mentioned many inconveniences you had to cope with as a missionary abroad. Compare those with what we have here in the United States.

Elisabeth:††††There are always going to be difficulties and hindrances. The enemy is going to see to that. After all, we do live in a fractured world. We can't ever expect to find ideal working conditions.

I would say that the simplicity of the schedule in the jungle was a great advantage. There are ways in which life was more complicated. For example, there was no prepared food, no refrigeration or washing machines.

Overall, I would say that life is infinitely more complicated in this country. Expectations are outrageously unreasonable. That could be a great hindrance to any real concentrated work.

Donna:††††††††You've experienced such things as watching a suffering person die, experiencing the deepest loss of two husbands, as well as experiencing great joy and blessing in ministry. Paul said, "I've learned to be abased and I've learned to abound." Both of these have unique temptations. What do you feel is the key in going through both?

Elisabeth:††††A deep and settled conviction of the sovereignty of God. He's in control all the time. He's never taken by surprise. Nothing can touch me without the permission of His love, His loving kindness. That is the most steadying, fortifying truth of my life.

I see all of life as a gift, even in the worst kind of situations. He's giving us not only Himself, which is the greatest thing in that situation, but He's also giving us the opportunity to learn to know and to trust Him. It doesn't make any difference what the circumstances may be.