Through Gates of Splendour by Elisabeth Elliot
It’s been 65 years since the tragic, yet incredibly inspiring, news broke in the headlines across the world: the deaths of Jim Elliot (28), Peter Fleming (27), Nate Saint (32), Ed McCully (28), and Roger Youderian (31). It’s quite likely that you already know the story of these five young men who endeavoured to bring the gospel of Christ to the jungles of Ecuador. However, reading the words of Elisabeth Elliot, the widow of Jim Elliot, alongside journal entries of the martyrs themselves, is an experience that cannot be gleaned from any other source.
This bestselling book, ‘Through Gates of Splendour’, provides a riveting account of the passionate determination that these men, and their wives, had for bringing the life-giving news of salvation to the fierce Huaorani Tribe. These people, then known as the Aucas, had suffered severely at the hand of men, resulting in them developing a pattern of killing not only strangers but even some of their own. It was a desire to see if Christian love could wipe out the memories of past treachery and brutality, that drew the five missionaries from different outposts throughout Ecuador. This desire would cost each of them their lives.
Following how each man was drawn into the mission field, met their wives and eventually became a part of Operation Auca, this narrative will challenge you to consider how much you are willing to sacrifice in your own life to bring the gospel to people. Near the beginning of the mission, whilst taking the time to learn the languages and culture of their hostile neighbours, Peter Fleming wrote these words in his diary:
I would gladly give my life for that tribe if only to see an assembly of those proud, clever, smart people gathering around a table to honour the Son – gladly, gladly, gladly! What more could be given to a life?
Concerning the little plane that was used to access the tribe, Nate Saint said:
Every time I take off, I am ready to deliver up the life I owe to God.
While the courage and unconditional love of these men and women will stick with you for a long time, this is ultimately a story of the power of God’s grace. Few people know that the widows of these men eventually led their husband’s killers to a Christian faith that ended generations of tribal revenge killings. Mincaye Enquedi, a member of the Huaorani Tribe involved in the fatal attack, was one such person who was reached and saved.
I have read this book several times, with various portions affecting me differently each time. However, only recently have I learnt that the title of this book was inspired by the hymn ‘We Rest on Thee’, which was famously sung by the missionaries before embarking on the journey that would ultimately claim their lives. The words of the hymn highlight the source of their courage - a source which is still available to each one of us today:
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 splendour,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
You might also be interested in:
Devotedly by Valerie Elliot Shepard: The personal letters and love story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot
Jim Elliot: Ecuador Adventure by Colin D. Jones & Graeme Hewitson: The story of Jim Elliot and his four friends on one of the most infamous missionary adventures of all time.