Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Are You an April Fool? …an Everyday Fool?

~ The Elliot Family: A Comet and Distant Stars ~  

The story of Jim Elliot, the missionary who was one of five martyred in the jungles of Ecuador, has been well documented. The entire Elliot family—Jim’s father, mother, two older brothers, and sister—were all committed to serving the Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect of their lives. It was my privilege to know the family well. In this posting, I will focus on Jim’s brother Herbert Ironside Elliot (he was named after the great preacher Harry Ironside who was instrumental in his father’s salvation). 

Bert and his wife Colleen left to their mission field in Peru in 1949—some years prior to Jim’s departure for Ecuador. They have been serving as God’s ambassadors in that country continuously since then.

For many years Bert and Colleen served about half the year among the native people of the Amazon jungle. At first they traveled by canoe; later they had a motor launch named “Maranatha” (literally “our Lord cometh”—see 1 Corinthians 16:22).

The other half of the year they served native people in high areas of the Andes Mountains. Traveling by foot, by animal, and later by 4x4 vehicles, they brought the message of God’s love to the people of Peru. Somehow they also had time to work among the people of Peru’s coastal areas! 

For whatever reason, God has chosen that they should be childless—but they are the spiritual parents of thousands and have impacted many thousands more. In their labors for their Lord and Savior, they have established well over 150 churches throughout Peru. What a sense of joy there will be when someday they move from their humble dwelling on earth and are welcomed to their mansion in heaven!

Bert and Colleen chose to forego the luxuries of this life in order to bring individuals to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. They have endured many hardships. At one point they were targeted for assassination by the guerrilla terrorist drug lords misnamed the “Shining Path.” In order to help the people they love even more, they acquired additional medical and dental skills—going beyond offering  a cup of water in Christ’s name (Mark 9:41).   

Bert and Colleen Elliot are now in their eighties and still serving those around them in Peru as servants of Christ. Many years ago they ceased considering themselves as missionaries and rightly viewed themselves as Peruvians. The verse that reappears in my thinking is, “henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).  

Bert has commented that while his brother Jim was like a comet streaking across the sky which caught the attention of those on earth, God chose him to serve in a different capacity as one of the many dim stars from earth’s viewpoint—stars which are countless in the vast universe. There are many who consistently shine as lights where God has put them but never achieve the recognition that has come to Jim Elliot and the other four Christian martyrs at that time. 
But God chooses to use both a few streaking comets and the many stars!   

Bert and Colleen fully understand the meaning of “laying up treasures in heaven” (Luke 18:22; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Bert’s brother Jim who is well known for a written comment in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose," must be smiling as he looks down and observes the work of one of his older brothers!

Luke tells us what God says to those who are wealthy on earth but have neglected their spiritual life, "But God said, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:20-21). Are you an April Fool? Far more importantly, are you an everyday fool?

COMMENT:  There is more information about the Elliot family in the background section of the book “JIM ELLIOT: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You” edited by myself. For more information about this book see the right column of this blog. 

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UPDATE:   Bert Elliot went home to be with his Lord on February 17, 2012.  He had served 62 of his 87 years in Peru.  Colleen joined him a short time later.  The memorial service planned for Bert in his home town of Portland, Oregon was changed to a joint service for these two dear saints who labored for our Lord side-by-side throughout their adult lives. 


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