Through Gates of Splendor
written by Elisabeth Elliot
originally published in 1957
Jim Elliot felt a stirring in his heart which led him to the natives of Ecuador. There, scores of tribes who had never heard of God, inhabited the jungles. It seemed like the place to go if one was to reach out to someone new, even though other missionaries had tried and fatally failed. This didn't stop Jim from carrying out his purpose. He knew that his own life and other lives from anyone who joined him on this trip would be endangered by the flighty warriors they were planning to convert. His own words show that he was willing to offer everything he could: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Also joining "Operation Auca" was Nate Saint, airplane pilot. He already was performing his own works for the ministry, by his routine rounds of flying his yellow airplane around Ecuador, delivering food and supplies to the inhabited stations in the area. His service to Jim Elliot's expedition made everything work together. Without an airplane to fly over the dense jungles, it would take days to go far on foot.
One of my favorite descriptions comes from Nate Saint's notes, after the men had dropped a gift to the natives from the airplane: "In a sense we had delivered the first Gospel-message-by-sign-language to a people who were a quarter of a mile away vertically, fifty miles horizontally, and continents and wide seas away psychologically."
In addition to Jim Elliot and Nate Saint, three other men played their part of that 1956 expedition: Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian. These five worked together for months while they tried to make friends with the Auca people. Even then, it wasn't only those five men, but in fact, the five wives and all their young children who lived in Ecuador at the home bases and stations, adding their own helpful components to the mission work.
Some think that a person becomes an inspiration to the world when they die trying to do a most honorable thing. But I've found that the inspiration comes from the grueling effort put into such a weighty project, and never turning back to debate whether you should really finish it or not.
After the mission came to an end, the fruit of the men's work was seen. Their accomplishments turned up through the voices of people they had touched. To quote from an Indian they converted, who prays in simple earnest: "Send some more messengers, and give the Aucas, instead of fierce hearts, soft hearts. Stick their hearts, Lord, as with a lance. They stuck our friends, but You can stick them with Your Word, so that they will listen, and believe."
This is one of those books I'll remember for a lifetime.