One of the highly influential books in my early Christian life was the story of five American missionaries seeking in the 1950s to reach the Auca, now Waorani, tribe of eastern Ecuador in South America. The book is called Through Gates of Splendor and was written by Elizabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the missionaries. All five of the men were killed by the tribe with whom they were hoping to share the love of God in Jesus Christ. When the news of their story went public, their deaths changed lives around the world forever. Yesterday, I finished reading that book again for the first time in years and I’m just as inspired as I was when I first read it.
Those five missionaries were all high achievers and would have excelled in any venture in life. They chose a life dedicated to sharing Christ with unreached people groups like the Aucas, a tribe with the worst reputation for violence. In excerpts from their diaries we get a glimpse of their driving passion. They were ready to live or die for Christ. No matter the outcome, whether they lived or died, Christ would get the honor and God’s will and God’s purposes would be accomplished. Elizabeth Elliot said, "I have one desire now - to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” She and her husband, Jim, lived that way. Jim Elliot once said, "When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die!” That wisdom, the faith, that spiritual maturity inspires me.
The title of the book is derived from the fourth stanza of the hymn “We Rest on Thee." This hymn was sung by the missionaries before the men left for “Operation Auca,” the trip to go face-to-face with the Waorani tribe that would kill them with lances. The lines read:
- We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender.
- Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
- When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
- Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
At its heart, this book raises questions every believe must answer:
Will I give my life for the sake of Christ Jesus?
Am I willing to go where he sends me even if it is "unsafe” in the eyes of the world?
Am I willing to give the Lord full control of my life?
Am I willing to put God first in all things?