An exhibition dedicated to missionary Elisabeth Elliot has opened at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
She spent more than a decade taking the Gospel to isolated Indian tribes in the South American nation of Ecuador and even preached to those who murdered her husband.
She married Jim Elliot in the capital Quito in 1953 while they were preparing to evangelise the Huaorani tribe which was notorious for its violence against both its own people and outsiders who entered its territory.
It was a slow process as Jim and his missionary colleagues launched Operation Auca to reach the tribe.
They spent years learning the language and then started making contact by air, dropping gifts to the Huaorani and picking up gifts that had been offered by the tribe.
At the start of 1956, they set up camp near the Huaorani’s main village and met some of them.
But through a series of misunderstandings over the missionaries’ treatment of their tribal guests and signals from their plane, the Huaorani decided to kill the foreigners. The situation was made worse when shots were fired and a tribesman was injured.
Jim and his four colleagues were speared to death.
Elisabeth had a 10-month old daughter at the time and wasn’t involved in the mission.
One year later she wrote her most famous book and bestseller Through Gates of Splendor subtitled The Martyrdom Of Five American Missionaries In The Ecuador Jungle which detailed the meticulous preparation of Operation Auca and what then happened.
The following year Elisabeth returned to the rainforest to live with and preach the Gospel to, the very tribe that had murdered her husband.
Her decision to forgive them helped the tribe begin a new path as she advocated for their education.
Elisabeth stayed with them for two years and helped them become believers.
Her story of courageous ministry has impacted Christians for decades.
The museum’s lead curator and historian Amy Van Dyke told The Christian Post: “I remember learning about this story and this action of faith that these families had and, despite the results that happened, they knew that this was their purpose in life, and they knew that even in death, they were serving God.”
The curator added that Elisabeth’s returning to the tribe after they killed her husband was an act of forgiveness and love that served as the catalyst “for a revolution in the tribe’s culture” and that many of the Huaorani felt remorse for the missionaries’ deaths and embraced Christianity quickly once the religion was introduced to them.
The exhibit which is entitled Through Gates of Splendor is in a section of the museum which highlights individuals who have used God’s Word to impact their communities and the broader world.
“Elizabeth was obviously full of compassion because a lot of what she spoke about was helping people through suffering and through trials in life because she’s been through it herself,” Amy Van Dyke observed.
“She knew her purpose in life. She knew what she was supposed to do, what God had told her to do. This was her mission in life to not only do what she did with the tribe but then, from then on, to teach other people about how to live a life that is worthy to God and how to get through the tough parts of life. And she did it with a lot of grace.”