If you have young children then probably you will have spent the summer holidays encouraging them to have a great time – but wanting them to stay safe. What do you make, then, of a mother who deliberately took her 3-year-old daughter into the Amazon rainforest to live among a fierce tribal people who had already killed her husband and four others?
This summer I had the privilege of meeting that daughter, Val Shephard. She is now in her 60s and we had invited her to be a speaker at the families’ camp that Julie and I organise each year. Her father, Jim Elliot, had been attempting to bring the good news about Jesus Christ to the Waorani tribe in Ecuador when, in January 1956, he and his four friends were brutally speared to death. Val has spoken about her father’s death in a four minute BBC programme which you can find here: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04tl78m
Two years after her father’s death two women from the Waorani came and asked Val’s mother, Elisabeth Elliot, to come to the tribe and tell them about God. And so 3-year-old Val found herself riding in a back-pack chair as her mother and a sister of another of the murdered men trekked into the rainforest to meet with and to live among the Waorani tribe. Val still vividly remembers those years in the jungle as she saw her mother sharing the love of Christ with these isolated people. She would have liked to have known her father but she is so grateful for her parents’ example of loving self-sacrifice and costly devotion to Jesus Christ.
Her father kept a diary and is known around the world as the author of these words: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot was re-phrasing what Jesus himself had said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). If we make safety our number one priority we will never be truly safe, but if we are willing to live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ and give our lives to his service then we receive as a gift from him life in all its fulness, a gift that is eternally secure.