Book Review: Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn (Four Stars)

Book Review: Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn (Four Stars)

Her most noble accomplishment was not weathering that excoriating loss. It was practicing—through both the high dramas and the low, dull days that constitute any human life—the daily self-death required for one’s soul to flourish.

An extraordinary exploration of the inner lives of Elisabeth (Howard) Elliot and her husband Jim. Jim is famous as one of five Christian missionaries killed by the Waodoni tribe in remote Ecuador in the 1956. Elisabeth, known to friends and family as Betty, had an even more amazing, albeit longer life.

“It was a long time before I came to the realization that it is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself.” EE

Drawing heavily on the journals and correspondence of both Elisabeth and Jim Elliot, Vaughn brings the reader into the intimate hopes, fears, and aspirations of both. Modern readers may struggle to connect to the America Betty and Jim grew up in mid-twentieth century.

“When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapters open with appropriate and thought-provoking aphorisms from the Elliots or people who inspired them. The book also chronicles the struggles, like today, among Christians over almost every aspect of the ministry.

“Many times I despaired ever really knowing them [the Waodoni], the secrets of their hearts. Then I realized that I did not know my own heart. In this we were one.” EE

A five-star story, but Vaughn intrudes. Her opinions or catty asides knock the reader out of the story. Comments like, “I’m not sure that’s true for the rest of us,” and “Thank God for a spinal anesthetic” (which EE didn’t have) distract.  Vaughn has done a great service by culling thousands of documents to create this biography, but it needs editing and tightening.

“I suppose the general opinion of missionary work says that it is intended to bring [people] to Christ. Only God knows if anything in my ‘missionary career’ has ever contributed anything at all to this end. But much in that ‘career’ has brought me to Christ.” EE