Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot is one of those books I’ve meant to read for a long, long time. In fact, it is one I almost can’t believe I haven’t already read! I’m really glad that Barbara gave me the virtual nudge to read it through this month’s Reading to Know Bookclub! Rather than write a cohesive book review, I’m going to share my thoughts on this one in bullet points:
- The tone of this story somehow caught me off guard. I haven’t read a whole lot by Elliot–Passion and Purity as a young adult, and miscellaneous devotionals here and there are pretty much it, to my recollection. I somehow expected this one to be much more heart-wrenching from a personal standpoint. Perhaps it is because Elliot was telling the story of all the missionaries, not just the story of her little family. I always looked at these women with such awe, as well as a little bit of dread–to be widowed at such a young age? Unthinkable! Elliot’s tone is very reserved, almost distant. I never got much of a glimpse of the real impact Jim’s martyrdom had on her life. Although I think this probably says more about me than it does about the Elliots or any of their workfellows, I just cannot imagine how devastating this would’ve personally been. Instead, what we get from them is their devotion to the cause of Christ, with very little emotion at all. This paragraph sums up the impact according to Elliot:
The other wives and I talked together one night about the possibility of becoming widows. What would we do? God gave us peace of heart, and confidence that whatever might happen, His Word would hold. We knew that “when He putteth forth His sheep, He goeth before them.” God’s leading was unmistakable up to this point. Each of us knew when we married our husbands that there would never be any question about who came first–God and His work held first place in each life. It was the question of true discipleship; it became devastatingly meaningful now.
- I was struck somehow how mundane and even boring (or at least terribly unspiritual) much of their work in Ecuador was. This bit reminds me a lot of homeschooling. (I’m not in any way equating my life with theirs, but the fact is that no matter where our place of ministry, there’s a whole bunch of “maintenance” that goes into it. It’s definitely not all mountaintop experiences!) So much of what I do here at home is my work–“the only person who can cope with all this is the [mother] herself.”
Although Roger had come to preach the Gospel there is much a missionary must accomplish and learn before he can expect to make successful contact with a primitive tribe. And even after he had mastered the language, built himself a home, gained the confidence of the Indian, he still has to spend a large amount of time in what is best described as maintenance. The jungle grows with incredible speed and therefore has to be kept at bay by the constant use of the machete. The generators that are used for current at the bigger stations break down with irritating frequency, roofs leak in the hard tropical rain, and the only person who can cope with all this is the missionary himself.
- I was struck by the devotion that the missionaries were taught as children–all of the ones for whom Elliot gives childhood details were brought up in very upright, consecrated households. They understood the drive to share the Gospel from a very young age. It really made me think about how I’m raising my own children.
- I really understood the importance of Nate Saint’s ministry. Without him, really none of the ministry of the other missionaries could’ve happened.
- Like Kisses from Katie, this book makes me question my own passion for Christ and devotion to Him. Could I do what any of them did? I know I haven’t been called to do what any of them did (or, in the case of Katie Davis, is doing), but would I have what it takes? Certainly not in my own strength.