“Your letter of a month ago has sat on my desk, amid stacks of papers that need grading, and yearbook material, and declamations. Finally, a moment (which is likely to be broken) has come when I could try to answer.”A Letter from Elisabeth Howard to Jim Elliot in “Devotedly”
About the book…
Many are familiar with Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, the young missionary couple in Ecuador who ended up paying the ultimate price when Jim was killed by natives in 1956, leaving Elisabeth as the widowed mother to their daughter, Valerie. After Jim’s death, Elisabeth went on to do what he charged her with just before he died, “Teach the believers, darling, teach the believers.” Her teaching and writing has influenced many lives, including my own. Now, their daughter, Valerie, gives us a very personal and honest account of their love story. Various journal entries and letters are woven together with Valerie explaining and commenting on in a delightful way. For the first time, we get to become better acquainted with Jim and Betty as they were in the days before he was a martyr, and she a renowned Bible teacher and author.
About the author…
Valerie Elliot Shepard is the only child of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. She spent her childhood in the jungles of South America, and spent the remainder of her growing up with her mother in the U.S. She married Walter Shepard after graduating from Wheaton and then homeschooled their eight children. She is a pastor’s wife and writer.
Some personal thoughts…
Elisabeth Elliot is one of my heroes. It was actually through the story of Jim Elliot that I began to take my walk with the Lord seriously. Their story sparked in me at a young age, the desire to spend my life for Christ. To be a “fool for Christ’s sake.”
When I saw this book was about to be released by their daughter, I immediately pre-ordered it. It’s a thick book, and not a word was wasted. It took me about two weeks to read through, and I intentionally went a little slower than I normally would, because there was so much to soak in and consider. Upon completion of the book, two things stood out to me very clearly.
1. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot were human.
It’s easy sometimes, to put those in the faith that we admire on a pedestal without even realizing we are doing it. At least, for me it is easy. The Elliot’s were no exception to this weakness. Many people consider them a perfect example, or have thoughts like, “If only I were as holy as Jim or Betty.” If you are that person, I encourage you to read this book. As it is comprised mostly of their own letters and journal entries, we are given a front row seat to their humanity.
Jim Elliot uses a curse word, more than once.
Elisabeth Elliot repeatedly apologizes for her pride and critical spirit.
The fight for purity, was not without difficulty, temptation, and challenge.
They were real humans, broken souls, desperately in need of a Savior. Just like you and me.
The best part, is that He rescued them and used their lives to share His light with so many others.
2. They were devoted to Jesus Christ.
Their letters, even from the earliest stages, were packed with Scripture and prayer. They wavered in their faith, yes, but they always pointed each other back to Christ. They walked through seasons of doubt. Seasons of fear. Seasons of intense loneliness. Their hearts broke and ached, just like ours do. But it was back into the Word they went for comfort. Both on individual and mutual basis.
It was because of their devout devotion to Christ, that marriage was so challenging for them to figure out. But as you see in the Elliot’s love story, God is always working. The story He is writing is far greater than our wildest dreams, and one day, like them, we will look back and see how every sorrow had a perfect place in making us more like Jesus. In bringing us closer to the Father who loves us best.
But as you see in the Elliot’s love story, God is always working. The story He is writing is far greater than our wildest dreams, and one day, like them, we will look back and see how every sorrow had a perfect place in making us more like Jesus. In bringing us closer to the Father who loves us best.
A timely vacation…
I started reading Devotedly on a plane as I traveled to Seattle to visit a dear friend of mine. We drove to Portland one of the days I was there, to visit the world’s largest used bookstore (need I explain?) While we were in Portland, I had a light-bulb moment and realized I was in the location of several chapters in the book I was reading. So, of course, we drove around and visited some of the sights that Jim and Elisabeth journaled and wrote about. One of those places, was Mt. Tabor Park.
After afternoon meeting, Jim took me to Mt. Tabor Park where we sat and talked for several hours. He says he still does not know whether God wants him to be married. “We rest on Thee.”Elisabeth Howard’s Journal September 5, 1949
I definitely wasn’t planning on my book and vacation to line up so perfectly, but I’m thankful they did! My friend, Elise, and I thoroughly enjoyed the historical sight seeing. God is so good to give us little gifts like that!
Things worth mentioning…
Letters are a very personal thing, and while I was encouraged and edified by reading the Elliot’s story in their very own words, I’m not sure how I would feel if someone were reading my love letters. Several letters, especially closer to their marriage (and understandably so) were rather personal and private in my opinion. I did skim over a few, simply because I felt as though I were invading on their privacy.
They discuss all manner of things, and in their discussion of purity (for which they, especially Elisabeth, were strong proponents), they touch on physical intimacy and that which is better left for marriage, and what would be appropriate for different phases of their relationship. Jim also admits his growing desire for such closeness several times. Because of the frequency and maturity of the topic, I would not be comfortable recommending it to those who are not of marrying age.
Here at The Corner Shelf, you’ll find Devotedly: The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot on The Middle Shelf.