Heroines of the faith: Elisabeth Elliot

“The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of christian,But the fact that I am a christian does make me a different kind of woman.” Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth’s parents were missionaries in Belgium, which is where she was born, but they returned to the States when she was just a few months old, and she was brought up near Philadelphia.

Elisabeth went to Wheaton College where she studied classical Greek in the knowledge that this would help her translate the Bible into the languages of unreached people groups. She met her first husband, Jim, while she was there. Following college she went to Ecuador to work with the  Quichua Indians. A year later, Jim also came to work with the  Quichua. Jim and Elisabeth were married in Quito in 1953.

Jim had always had a heart for unreached people groups. The Aucus, a fierce tribe who killed everyone who came into contact with them, were  not too far away. Jim and four others determined to reach them and so made a trip into their territory in 1956. They made friendly contact with three of the tribe members but then all of them were speared to death. As Jim said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Left alone with a 10 month old daughter, Elisabeth Elliot continued work with the Quichua tribe. Then God led her to two Auca women who were living amongst the Quichua, whom she invited to live with her. They stayed for a whole year, and taught her and fellow missionary, Rachel Saint, the Huao language spoken by the Aucas. One of the two Auca ladies was the key to Elisabeth being able to live and work with the Aucas, the people who had killed her husband. She spent two years with them with her three-year-old daughter, Valerie, and Rachel. She then returned to her work with the Quichuas, finally going back to the States in 1963.

Since then she has led a very productive life, speaking and writing. She became an adjunct professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and was one of the stylistic consultants for the New International Version of the Bible. She also remarried, and now works with her current husband. She is one of the most influential Christian women of our day.

Photo credit:www.elisabethelliot.org

Information for this post came from here and here.

Heroines of the faith: Gladys Aylward

Gladys Aylward, born of working class parents in London, England, in 1902, became a domestic servant at the age of 14. From the time she attended a revival meeting at which the message was about dedicating one’s life to the service of God, her heart was in missions. She longed to go overseas as a missionary to China. However, when she applied to the China Inland Mission, she was turned down because of her inadequate education–she failed the mission’s entry exam. They also thought at the age of 28 she was too old to learn Chinese.

Undeterred, by 1932 she had saved up her money and eventually spent her life savings on a one way train ticket to China, via Russia. She couldn’t afford the boat fare. She had been invited to work with Jeannie Lawson, an older missionary who was looking for someone to take over her work.

The two of them decided that the best way to reach out in their city, which was an overnight stop for mule trains carrying consumer goods, was to open an inn. So they founded the “Inn of the Eight Happinesses.” (A movie, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness” starring Ingrid Bergman was based on this work.) After the first few months when they had to be coerced to stop, the mule drivers willingly stayed there because the food was good, the beds were warm and the innkeepers provided free entertainment in the evenings. They were storytellers, telling tales of a man named Jesus.

Gladys learned Mandarin from them, and adopted Chinese dress and culture.

After Jeannie’s death following an accident, Gladys Aylward served as a “foot inspector” for the Chinese government, traveling around the countryside enforcing the ban against the cruel practice of footbinding in which an infant girls feet were tightly bound with cloth to make their feet tiny–thought to be a sign of beauty, but crippling the girls in the process. It enabled her to get into many situations where she could tell the good news of Jesus. She also gained great favor when she stopped a prison riot.

Gladys took in orphans, adopting several herself. When the Japanese invaded her region of China in 1938, and with a price on her own head, she led 100 orphans to safety over the mountains. It was a twelve day journey with some nights spent unprotected on the mountainside, but eventually she delivered all the children to the safety of an orphanage in Sian. She promptly collapsed with typhus.

After 10 years back in Britain, she was denied re-entry to China by the Communist government, so settled instead in Taiwan where she became a friend of Tony (my husband’s) family. Again, she founded an orphanage. She died in 1970.

A book about her life by Alan Burgess, The Small Woman, was published in 1957.

Picture taken from Google images http://www.christianity.com

Information for this story was primarily obtained here and here.

If I were a missionary…

Globe
Photo Credit: rogiro (Creative Commons)

Some people might say that Tony and I are already missionaries.  Firstly, we have crossed cultures from the UK to the USA. (I sometimes wonder why here to the affluent West which is already so heavily Christianized when we would have willingly gone to any country in the world.)  And secondly, we are missionaries in the sense that all of us are. John 20:21 says, "As the Father sent me so am I sending you." The word missionary simply means "one who is sent."

We have the privilege and opportunity of traveling to many countries around the world. Wherever we go, we train local people how to reach out to their own spheres of influence, making disciples and starting churches. We don't mind how small the group is; all we are looking for is the one or two who are "John Knoxers" for their area. (John Knox is famous for praying, "Give me Scotland or I die!") These people take what we say and translate it into their own context, sometimes with results that far surpass anything we could have imagined.

But supposing we were called to leave the West to live and work in another culture?

Here's what I would do–hopefully being led by the Lord. In this scenario, language study is happening, finances are taken care of, either by support from home or through a business venture in the new country.

  • Pray! I remember a story Dr. Yonggi Cho told of starting a church in Japan. He sent what he described as "a mediocre Korean woman." She spent 40 days in prayer and fasting, and followed this by riding the elevator up and down in an apartment building, talking to the residents and helping them where she could. Within a short time, she had started a church with, if I remember the facts right, two hundred people–very successful for that nation.
  • Work with local people. It doesn't matter how well we speak the language and understand the customs, we'll always be outsiders. We may become trusted and accepted in time, but it takes insiders reaching out to their friends to see a viral spread of the Gospel. We'd train local people in Luke 10 principles, giving them the skills needed to make disciples and start churches in ways that can be multiplied. A good example is Guy Muse who works in Ecuador.
  • Help the poor and disadvantaged. This one would be very much as led by the Lord–I don't see it as essential, merely helpful in many contexts, especially in the Third World. I think of a couple of examples: Michele Perry, a good friend of ours, works with orphans in Southern Sudan. She takes them off the streets, giving them a home. Some of them go with her when she takes the Gospel to other villages. She has amazing stories of what God is doing. Another friend is working in a war-torn area of Russia with people who have been severely traumatized by the fighting. She brings them to her center, sees them healed, trains them and sends them out to plant churches.

What else would you do?

Suspended in a hammock: contextualizing the good news

Hammock
Photo credit: SadieMaeGlutz (Creative Commons)

We have friends in India who are seeing large numbers of both high-caste Hindus and people from other religions become followers of Jesus. They use the sacred books of those religions to point to Christ. When they have clearly demonstrated Christ within those books, they can then point them to the Jesus of the Bible. They are contextualizing the Gospel in a way that makes it understandable to those they are trying to reach.

There are pointers to Jesus in every culture.

The book, Bruchko, describes the extraordinary story of 19 year-old Bruce Olson, who sought to bring the Gospel to a murderous tribe in the South American jungle. These people had no words in their language that could express some of the concepts of a belief in Jesus. Bruce used some remarkably creative ways to bring across these ideas.

For example, there was no word to express "faith" in the Motilone language. The Indians used to sleep on hammocks suspended from the rafters of their communal homes. The best word for faith that Bruce found was the word that meant to "tie in one's hammock." It beautifully expresses faith as suspending one's life from Christ and the people instinctively understood its meaning.

Some years ago we started a church in the low income housing projects. One day, a good friend from England, Norman Barnes, visited. He clearly demonstrated the efficacy of the blood of Christ in forgiving sins to our friends there. He had them each write down the things they had done that were bad, that they were ashamed of, or issues they dealt with like anger, onto a sheet of paper. When each one had completed their list, they put their papers into a pan. He covered it with a red cloth symbolizing the blood of Jesus. He took the pan outside, removed the cloth and set fire to the paper. Then he asked them to pull their sins out of the pan. Of course, they were just ash.

The kids talked about how the blood of Jesus dealt with their sins for weeks after that. Every time a person wore something red they would remind each other: "She's wearing red: do you remember how the blood of Jesus covers the things we've done wrong."

How can we contextualize the good news for the people we come across day by day? How can this be used to reach out to other cultures too?

Motivation for mission

Daisy chain

This story used to motivate me to reach out to my friends who didn't know the Lord. It comes from Things as They are: Mission work in southern India by Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), a missionary from Ireland who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She worked for 55 years without a furlough, and wrote many inspiring books.

The tom-toms thumped straight on all night and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this:

That I stood on a grassy sward, and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows, and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.

Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step . . . it trod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over!

Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks, as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.

Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simply agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I could only call; though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come.

Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were too great; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of hell.

Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees with their backs turned toward the gulf. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them, it disturbed them and they thought it a rather vulgar noise. And if one of their number started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. "Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite call to go! You haven't finished your daisy chain yet. It would be really selfish," they said, "to leave us to finish the work alone."

There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries set for miles and miles of the edge.

Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the rules. And being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest for awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls.

Once a child caught at a tuft of grass that grew at the very brink of the gulf; it clung convulsively, and it called-but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little one cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which they reproved her, reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere; the gap would be well taken care of, they knew. And then they sang a hymn.

Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew what it was-the Cry of the Blood.

Then thundered a voice, the voice of the Lord. "And He said, 'What hast thou done, The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.'"

The tom-toms still beat heavily, the darkness still shuddered and shivered about me; I heard the yells of the devil-dancers and weird, wild shriek of the devil-possessed just outside the gate.

What does it matter, after all? It has gone on for years; it will go on for years. Why make such a fuss about it?

God forgive us! God arouse us! Shame us out of our callousness! Shame us out of our sin!

What do you think? The story is compelling and emotional; most Christians are "making daisy chains" in a spiritual sense.  Is this the right motivation for misson?

 

Simple/organic church needs simple/organic mission

Missionary
Photo credit: Abdallah (Creative Commons)

For some time now, I have been pondering the question, "What does it look like for simple/organic churches to get involved in mission?" I'm referring here to the role of what is usually known as "the missionary"–one who is called to leave their own culture and live in another nation, either short or long-term.

Here are some of the questions I have:

  1. How, if at all, are simple/organic churches currently involved in missions?
  2. How could/should their involvement differ from traditional mission work?
  3. What is the most effective church planting training they can receive?
  4. Who are the most effective people to reach unreached people groups?
  5. Are there any mistakes of traditional missions that we can learn from and avoid?
  6. How can this be financed?
  7. How can people be supported in the field?
  8. What language and cross cultural training is needed?

What other questions do you have?