Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Motivated by His Glory

Episode Resources

Suffering Is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot

Other books by Elisabeth Elliot

Dannah Gresh: Jim and Elisabeth Elliot sacrificed the comfort of the modern life to tell others the good news about Jesus. Their daughter Valerie explains why.

Valerie Elliot Shepard: Their deepest desire in their hearts was to bring glory to God through being obedient. Jesus said if you lay down your life, you will save it.

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for February 11, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’re continuing in conversation today with Valerie Elliot Shepard, the daughter of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, and if you missed yesterday’s program, you will want to be sure and go back to our archives at ReviveOurHearts.com and pick that up.

Listen to it if you can because Val shares the story of the martyrdom of her dad and—totally different than the script anyone would have written for her dad’s life or her mom’s life—but God was writing the script. He is writing the script for your life, for your story.

The fruit and the ministry and the glory for Christ that has come out of that tragedy in January of 1956 . . . there’s no way to calculate this side of eternity all that God has brought about for His glory because of the sacrifice of those lives.

So if you missed that story, whether you’re familiar with it or it’s new to you, you will want to go back and hear that program from yesterday.

So, Val, welcome to Revive Our Hearts. Thank you for coming and sharing with our listeners. I know many of them are just sitting on the edge of their seats and so thrilled for the chance to hear you again or some for the first time.

Valerie: Thank you, Nancy. I feel privileged to be able to share.

Nancy: We want to unpack a bit more of that story. And let me just say, by way of introduction, some of our listeners are aware and others may not be, that Revive Our Hearts is kind of a daughter ministry of the ministry God gave your mother—a very fruitful ministry for many years—Gateway to Joy.

When I just say that, for those who were listeners, that’s like hearing from an old friend. They heard your mother for thirteen years on that program and heard you many times on that program. And by God’s providence, when your mother retired from that ministry, God raised up the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. So we stand on the shoulders of your mom and the very fruitful life and ministry God gave her.

I had the chance to meet you for the first time at your mother’s memorial service—two of them, actually. Those were sad but precious times of honoring the legacy and the life of this woman of simple, pure faith and trust in God.

And so, you were only ten months old when your dad was taken by the Auca Indians that he had come to serve. So nobody would have faulted your mom if she had just packed up her bags and taken her ten-month old child and gone home, but that’s not what she did.

Valerie: When she said goodbye to my father for the last time, she asked him, “What will I do if you don’t come back?” 

And he said, “Teach the believers, Darling. Teach the believers.” So they called . . .

Nancy: I’m getting goosebumps!

Valerie: They called the Indians that had come to Christ—believers—and in my father’s Plymouth-Brethren background, that’s what they always called Christians. They were believers.

So my mother, literally, did that with the Quichua Indians that we lived with until I was three-and-a-half. And she continued doing it the rest of her life, teaching the believers. But she had prayed after my father was killed that if the Lord wanted to use her to go to those Auca Indians—because my father and she prayed very faithfully for them . . . She continued to pray that He could send her. But she always said, “I didn’t think God would take me very seriously because I had a little girl.” It was dangerous to go.

So she continued to pray and continued to work very faithfully with those Quichua Indians that were the believers. She was teaching the women how to read, and she was also having to teach the men how to keep reading the Bible and teaching it. Teaching the Bible from her standpoint, she didn’t want to be in that position of teaching men, but she was the only one left with those Quichua Indians.

So the Lord opened up the way for us to go to the Aucaby bringing two Auca women out of their tribe, fleeing from the violence. This Auca tribe later was described by anthropologists as the fastest shrinking tribe in the world because they were killing off each other as well as killing people that came into their territory.

So one day a Quichua Indian came running up to the house, as a messenger. He had run probably for two hours to tell my mother that two Auca women had arrived at this little group of Quichua houses, and that they were scared to death that there were probably Auca men hiding in the forest right around them and were ready to attack. They were always afraid of the Aucas.

So my mother immediately got her tape recorder and her notebook and went with the messenger back—a three-hour walk to these Indian houses and met these two Auca women. Women who were completely naked, a string around their waist, who chattered on in their language, assuming everybody would understand what they were saying.

But what happened next was that Dayuma, who had also been a woman who fled the tribe several years before that, had met my father and had shared with him some Auca phrases. That’s how they had been able to shout them out from the plane. But Dayuma heard these two women had arrived, so she immediately came, and she could interpret for my mother.

And Rachel came—Rachel Saint was the sister of Nate, the pilot. And they both began to get to know these two women whose names were Mintaka and Minkamu. And these two women just said, “We might be killed, so we wanted to come and be with the Quichua.

And so then my mother thought she would spend the night and then she sent a messenger to go and get me. I came to this little group of Quichua) houses and spent another night with her in a Quichua house. And then she decided, “Well, these women don’t have any plans. I might as well just invite them to come live with us.”

So we moved into a thatched-roof house then. My mother had been in this house my father had built with concrete floors. She felt the Aucas would not be comfortable with screened windows and concrete floors, and the tin roof. When it rains, it’s a huge, loud drumming sound. So we moved into a thatched-roof house, and these two women moved in with us—perfectly content to just sit around and just talk and observe what life was like with my mother and observe the Quichuas.

Nancy: And you’re how old by now?

Valerie: I’m two-and-a-half to three years old.

Nancy: Do you have any memories of this?

Valerie: I don’t. I was playing a lot outside with Quichua children. But after they’d stayed with my mother approximately eight months, and my mother was slowly learning some of the language—again, Dayuma was helping—they said, 

“Dayuma needs to go back to the tribe. We need to go back to the tribe. We need to tell them that our people did wrong by killing the five men. We need to tell them that you believe in God, and that you are good people. So we’ll go back and tell them who you are and why those five men came. And we want you and Rachel to come and tell our tribe about God.”

So that was the open door that my mother and Rachel took, trusting God would keep them safe as they moved. We walked three days to go live with the Aucas.

Nancy: Did people think they were crazy?

Valerie: Yes. My mother had gotten many letters—as did all of the wives—“We hope that you will come back to the States. We hope that you will not end tragically like your husbands did. And stay safe.” That kind of thing.

All five women did stay in Ecuador—some for a couple of years. Marilou McCully was the first to go back because she was pregnant with her third child. But she came back to Quito and worked for several years with the Christian school children. She had a dorm for the Christian school kids, missionary kids.

And the other wives stayed a little bit longer in each of their stations, continued some work. Marge continued to do her work as the dispatcher of the news from Shell Mera, the radio station for MAF. And she continued to send packages of food and letters to each of the stations.

So when the opportunity came for my mother and Rachel to move in, we went. I was carried on the back of an Indian in a wooden chair. Sometimes I walked, but I was three-and-a-half. It was October, 1958, when we moved in to live with the Aucas.

They welcomed us with open arms. They’re very simple people. They were happy to have us. There was no violence at all. What had happened was these two women, Mintaka and Minkamu, had said, “These women are good, and they’re going to tell us about God.”

Dayuma had become a Christian, so she also was wanting her whole tribe to know.

There were forty people in the tribe—ten men, the rest women and children—because so many men had already been killed.

They built each of us a thatched-roof hut—no walls—so we lived in a thatched-roof hut with a bamboo bed for me and a hammock for my mother, and Rachel also had one—a hammock for herself.

And they started working, getting to know the language. And through Dayuma, again, having translation. Dayuma decided they would have Sunday morning services. So “church” (in quotation marks) was quite a challenge, because these people had never sat still and listened to someone talk. It was everybody talking at once usually.

Dayuma told Bible stories. Rachel and my mother slowly began to learn the language, began to work on writing it down—which there’s many languages that have never been written down. So that’s the work of translators, to get it written, and start working on translating Bible stories.

Nancy: Do you have any idea how many people there would have been at that time that spoke that language?

Valerie: I read recently there are about 700 Aucas in the Amazon jungle now—I believe that’s right. But at the time the Aucas knew of other groups of Aucas, but it was pretty small. It’s a small tribe.

Nancy: So this is a lot of hard work to have the possibility of reaching a small group of people—if it was going to happen at all—the Lord knew. You knew your mom for many years. You know a lot about your dad. If you could get in their heads, what was motivating them to be willing to make those kinds of sacrifices and to go to that extreme investment of time and effort in learning a language and of capturing a language? It’s hard, hard work over a long period of time. Nothing could be done quickly. It’s not like we’re just going to drop gospel tracts into these people’s lives. Why?

Valerie: Well, both my parents felt early on—my mother, probably at the age of thirteen, and my father sometime during his college years—felt that God was calling them to the mission field. And both of them thought that they would be celibate, but when they fell in love, that was a huge problem.

They read their Bibles, and they believed strongly that they were to be obedient to the call to bring the gospel to those who had never heard. So, Matthew 28, they were obeying.

My mother had a special aptitude for learning languages, so when they both majored in Greek, they were both thinking that they would translate the New Testament Greek into the language that they were going to learn. It had already been done in Spanish. And it had been done in small portions in Quichua. So they worked, first, with the Quichua Indians.

I think their deepest desire in their hearts was to bring glory to God through being obedient. They did not expect national fame or worldwide fame among missions. They simply went in obedience.

And I think they were both adventurers. They had that in their personality. They were both ready to do something very different, but they knew they would be kept safe in God’s hands. And “safety” can be put in quotation marks because when the five men were together at Christmas time, they sang a beautiful old hymn called, “We Rest on Thee, Our Shield and Our Defender.”

We go not forth alone against the foe.
Strong in Thy strength,
Safe in Thy keeping tender;
We rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go.

Nancy: And some might hear that and then see the outcome and think, Was God really their defender?

Valerie: They believed their souls were kept safe, and that’s why they said, “We’re ready to go. If we die; we die. But they need to hear the gospel.”

Nancy: Your dad actually had some kind of sense that he might not come out alive.

Valerie: Yes. He had said in his journal while he was in college, “Let my blood be spilt.” And he also said, “Light these idle sticks of my life (I never can remember the whole quote) that I may burn for Thee.”

He just felt that staying in America was a waste of how the Lord could use him because he had such a desire and love for these Aucas.

So from the first time he heard about them as a junior in college, he felt he was supposed to go. There was this drive to bring the gospel to unreached people but also a willingness to be killed in order for them to eventually know the gospel.

I think when Dayuma came into the tribe again and explained that the five men had only been there to tell them about God, it seemed as though the whole tribe had been prepared by God. And, of course, He does. He prepares our hearts to receive things. But they already believed in the Creator. They believed that they were created by a Creator and that all the birds and trees and animals were created by this Creator.

They didn’t know about the Son of God. So when they heard about Jesus and the stories of Jesus and about sin—they didn’t have a word for sin—but they said, “We did badly, badly.” They didn’t have a word for very badly. They just said, “We did badly, badly. But now we must walk His trail.”

So it seemed as though everybody accepted the truth pretty quickly and easily. They heard it from Dayuma. They eventually heard it from my mother and Rachel Saint in their language. And they said, “We’ll stop killing.”

Some of them even stopped whittling their spears, but then they realized they still needed their spears to kill animals because they could kill wild boar even tapirs with their spears. So they said, “We’ll keep making our spears, but we won’t kill people anymore.”

And it was an amazing acceptance—the whole tribe saying, “We were wrong. And we won’t kill anymore.”

So when my mother was sometimes asked, and probably Rachel was also, through letters, “How many souls have you saved?” 

They both were saying, “This is God’s work. We were sent here to bring the truth, but we can’t say, and tick them off, ‘These are the people we have saved.’ It’s God’s work that has saved these Indians.”

Nancy: They were just the messengers.

Valerie: Yes. They were the messengers, and the Aucas seemed to be prepared to receive this good message.

I remember my mother, through reading her journals, how she loved these Indians. From a long time before she had started praying for them. I really believe that when you pray for people that you may not like or you may be afraid of, the Lord gives you love for them. When you pray for people, you learn His love for them. So that’s what she had. There was a real excitement in her heart when she had the opportunity to go.

So we walked for three days to get into the little village. My mother never complained or acted as if there was anything hard. I never saw my mother thinking, Oh, this is a hard job. She just did what was in front of her to do.

And one of her messages over the years was, “Do the next thing.” So if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing, there’s usually something that’s necessary right away that needs to be done. And she followed that principal the rest of her life: “Do the next thing.”

Nancy: And also, it was a message of, “Do the thing God wants you to do.”

Valerie: What God has put right in front of you.

Nancy: Full surrender. Faith. Obedience. Trust and obey.

Valerie: Right.

Nancy: You’d think she might have written that song! She didn’t, but that was such a theme of her life.

Valerie: Right—trust and obey.

Nancy: We can think about people like Elisabeth Elliot, Jim Elliot. They’re iconic. They’re heroic. They didn’t set out to be known or famous, to write books or do radio broadcasts. They just set out to be faithful. They loved Christ. They loved the gospel. And they did what God put in front of them to do in small and obscure and unseen places—and sometimes dangerous and hard.

But there was a faithfulness that I think speaks to our lives. It does. Whatever our calling—single, married, children, no children, in the marketplace, in the community, in the going to hard places . . . Maybe the hard place for you is in your home with your three preschoolers. 

To have this will that was inclined or bent toward, “Yes, Lord. Whatever You have for me.” This uncomplaining . . .

And I think the problem is, if we put those people in a category and say, “Well, they were just unusually godly people or unusually consecrated people” . . . The message to me of lives like your parents’ over the years has been, “Why can’t I be that person wherever God’s put me?”

Valerie: Yes. I want to give a special mention to honor the other men because Roger Youderian was among a very dangerous tribe also. He was, fortunately, not hurt by them, but he went to a very difficult tribe who were not at all ready to hear the gospel.

And Nate Saint and Pete Fleming and Ed McCully all were with people. Nate, of course, his main job was to fly the plane. But everyone worked with people that might be quite resistant, but they were willing to go because they believed God, through His Word, had called them to go.

Nancy: They and their wives.

Valerie: And their wives. Their wives had to be committed with them, of course.

It’s so often my parents are the ones who are spoken of most, but each one of those men was very faithful to God’s Word, to be obedient and being willing to go. Jesus said, “Lay down your life. If you lay down your life, you will have your life saved.” And that’s why my father’s quote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Nancy: Just say that again because I want it to sink in.

Valerie: It’s a paraphrase of what Jesus said. “If you lay down your life, you will save it.” And my father said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Another thing my father said in his journals that’s not quoted as often: “I have covenanted with the Father that He would either glorify Himself to the utmost in me or slay me.”

I believe God did both, but I believe all five men were as committed as my mother and father were to being obedient to taking the gospel to others. And I believe every Christian is to be obedient in that.

I’m afraid my father was quite disgusted and adamant with people in America at their, maybe, laziness or their apathy about their faith. He felt that everybody should be running full tilt to do God’s will and to bring the truth of Jesus Christ to other people. He said, “Most Americans don’t need a call to the mission field, they need a kick in the seat of their pants.” A lot of his journals speak of his, basically, I don’t know if the word is disgust, but just an impatience with Americans who are too comfortable.

So even on your radio show, Nancy, you’re challenging women to take God at His Word, to trust Him and to obey. Sometimes that takes us into hard places, but He’s with us. He said we would have trouble, but He would be with us.

Nancy: Yes.

Valerie: I think that’s the one thing that has given me so much joy in raising a family of eight children and being with my husband as a pastor’s wife: He’s with us. That’s absolute truth. That’s what kept me going many, many days when there were church situations that were hard: He was with us.

Nancy: Children situations.

Valerie: Yes. He wasn’t leaving us alone. That’s why my mother and father went with such joy and eagerness to those Indians. “We’re going because God has called us, and He will stay with us. He’s not leaving us, dropping us in the jungle and then leaving.” He was very much with them.

And, of course, they were reading His Word daily. They were praying daily. That’s something I want to challenge women: Make that time a priority, to read the Bible. Even if it’s a short amount of Scripture you read, meditate on it. What does it mean? What is God saying to you with it?

Nancy: God’s call for your life may be just right where you are, but serving Him with joy, with obedience, taking God seriously, taking Him at His Word, and stepping into the opportunities He gives you today and in this season of your life to glorify Christ.

You can read a lot more about the heart of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Val’s parents, in a number of books—many of them by Elisabeth Elliot—that we’ll reference at ReviveOurHearts.com. (We’ll give you links to those.) But this week we want to make you aware of one that may be new to you. It’s called Devotedly: The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. It’s been compiled and edited and arranged by their daughter Val, Val Shepard that we’re talking to today.

And when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts this week, we want to send you a copy of this beautiful, thought-provoking book as our way of saying, “thank you” for your investment in this ministry.

Dannah: And to do that, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Nancy: We haven’t quite got to the love letters yet in our conversation, and we’ll do that when we come back on Revive Our Hearts. Be sure to join us the next time as we continue this conversation with Val Elliot Shepard.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth challenges you to glorify God to the utmost. This program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.