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Jim Elliot Biography

Jim Elliot Biography
Jim Elliot Photo

Jim Elliot in Ecuador

Early Life

Jim Elliot began his life in Portland, Oregon in the USA. His mother, Clara, was a chiropractor and his father, Fred, was a minister. They married and settled in Seattle, WA where they welcomed their first son, Robert in 1921.

Later they relocated the family to Portland where Herbert arrived in 1924, Jim in 1927, and Jane in 1932.

Jim knew Christ from an early age and was never afraid to speak about Him to his friends. At age six Jim told his mother, “Now, mama, the Lord Jesus can come whenever He wants. He could take our whole family because I’m saved now, and Jane is too young to know Him yet.”

The Years That Cemented His Desire To Serve The Lord In Missions

Jim entered Benson Polytechnic High School in 1941. He carried a small Bible with him and, an excellent speaker; he was often found speaking out for Christ. He and his friends were not afraid to step out and find adventure. One thing Jim didn’t have time for in those early years were girls. He was once quoted as telling a friend, “Domesticated males aren’t much use for adventure.”

In 1945 Jim traveled to Wheaton, IL to attend Wheaton College. His main goal while there was to devote himself to God. He recognized the importance of discipline in pursuing this goal. He would start each morning with prayer and Bible study. In his journal he wrote, “None of it gets to be ‘old stuff’ for it is Christ in print, the Living Word. We wouldn’t think of rising in the morning without a face-wash, but we often neglect the purgative cleansing of the Word of the Lord. It wakes us up to our responsibility.”



Jim’s desire to serve God by taking His gospel to unreached people of the world began to grow while at Wheaton. The summer of 1947 found him in Mexico and that time influenced his decision to minister in Central America after he finished college.

Jim met Elisabeth Howard during his third year at Wheaton. He did ask her for a date which she accepted and then later cancelled. They spent the next years as friends and after she finished at Wheaton they continued to correspond. As they came to know each other there was an attraction, but Jim felt he needed to unencumbered by worldly concerns in order to devote himself completely to God.



In addition to his hope to one day travel to a foreign country to share Christ with the unchurched of the world, he also felt the need to share with people in the United States. On Sundays while at Wheaton he would often ride the train into Chicago and talk to people in the train station about Christ. He often felt ineffective in his work as the times of knowingly leading people to Christ were few. He once wrote, “No fruit yet. Why is that I’m so unproductive? I cannot recall leading more than one or two into the kingdom. Surely this is not the manifestation of the power of the Resurrection. I feel as Rachel, ‘Give me children, or else I die.’”

After college with no clear answer as to working for the Lord in a foreign country, Jim returned home to Portland. He continued his disciplined Bible study as well as correspondence with Elisabeth Howard whom he called Betty.

They both felt a strong attraction to each other during this time, but also felt that the Lord may have been calling them to be unmarried as they served Him.

In June of 1950 he travelled to Oklahoma to attend the Summer Institute of Linguistics. There he learned how to study unwritten languages. He was able to work with a missionary to the Quichuas of the Ecuadorian jungle. Because of these lessons he began to pray for guidance about going to Ecuador and later felt compelled to answer the call there.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote in Shadow of the Almighty:

“The breadth of Jim’s vision is suggested in this entry from the journal:
August 9. “God just now gave me faith to ask for another young man to go, perhaps not this fall, but soon, to join the ranks in the lowlands of eastern Ecuador. There we must learn: 1) Spanish and Quichua, 2) each other, 3) the jungle and independence, and 4) God and God’s way of approach to the highland Quichua. From thence, by His great hand, we must move to the Ecuadorian highlands with several young Indians each, and begin work among the 800,000 highlanders. If God tarries, the natives must be taught to spread southward with the message of the reigning Christ, establishing New Testament groups as they go. Thence the Word must go south into Peru and Bolivia. The Quichuas must be reached for God! Enough for policy. Now for prayer and practice.” “



The Ecuador Years

In February 1952 Jim finally left America to travel to Ecuador with Pete Fleming. In May Elisabeth moved to Quito and though they didn’t feel the need to get engaged she and Jim did begin a courtship.

In August Jim left Elisabeth in Quito and travelled with Pete to Shell Mera. At the Mission Aviation Fellowship headquarters in Shell Mera, Jim and Pete learned more about the Acua Indians, a people group that was largely unreached and very savage.

Leaving Shell Mera, Pete and Jim moved on to Shandia where Jim was captivated by the Quichua. He felt very strongly that this was exactly where God intended for him to work to spread the Gospel.

While Jim was in Shandia, Elisabeth was working to learn more about the Colorado Indians near Santa Domingo. In January of 1953 he went to Quito and she met him there and they were finally engaged. They married in October of that year and their only child Valerie was born in 1955.

They settled in Shandia and continued their work with the Quichua Indians. It was Jim’s desire to be able to reach the Waodoni tribe that lived deep in the jungles and had little contact with the outside world. A Waodoni woman who had left the tribe was taken in by the missionaries and helped them to learn the language.

Jim, along with Pete, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and their pilot Nate Saint began to search by plane in hopes of finding a way to contact the Waodoni. The found a sandbar in the middle of the Curaray River that worked as a landing strip for the plane and it was there that they first made contact with the Waodoni. They were elated to be able to finally be able to attempt to share the love of Christ with this people group.

After their first meeting, one of the tribe, a man they called George lied to the tribe about the men’s intentions. This lie led the Waodoni warriors to plan an attack for when the missionaries returned. The men did return on January 8, 1956 and were surprised by ten members of the tribe who massacred the missionaries.

Jim’s short life that was filled with the desire to share God’s love can be summed up by a quote that is attributed to him. “He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

About The Author

Tmara D Fickas

Tamara is a freelance writer living the dream in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Her desire is to glorify God through the words that He has given her. You can find her at www.rockymountainwriter.com

37 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thank you for writing this tamara,it helped letgo of my selfsustained life and live for Christ im blessed by your writing

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    amen love this book

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    The inspiring words of this man have carried me through many hard times, just to remember that God is everything and He will always be there and I will NEVER lose His precious love. Thank God for His faithful servants!

    Reply
  4. Avatar

    Moves me every time.

    Reply
  5. Avatar

    Thank you, Tamara. I arrived in 1961 to Ecuador as a medical missionary: I knew the five widows of the men who were killed. I followed Betty Elliot’s career for many years, and she and and Jim’s lives were a tremendous factor in my life.

    Reply
  6. Avatar

    am doing my presentation on jim elliot. i like the way he lived his life.

    Reply
  7. Avatar

    Hі, I read your new stuff regᥙlarly. Your writing style іs awesome,
    keep it up!

    Reply
  8. Avatar

    I will be using the story of Jim Elliot in my sermon this coming Sunday. My text is from 2 Peter 3:10-18 with the focus on verse 11. “….what manner of person ought we to be….” Thank you for your words on the Elliot family.

    Reply
  9. Avatar

    I am doing my history fair project on Jim Elliot. He is so inspirational and I am inspired to share his story. Maybe, it can touch other people’s lives. You are a great writer. The information was useful.

    Reply
  10. Avatar

    After I read this piece of writing, I thought it was a heart-touching biography of Jim’s life. I hope he stays safe in God’s hands.

    Reply
  11. Avatar

    jim lived a life that depicted the desire of God for mankind not to be lost.

    Reply
  12. Avatar

    From these folks God placed in my heart a strong desire for missions. This was fulfilled in 1994 when I made my first trip to Cambodia. God has allowed me to go to several other mission fields, for which I’m very great full. I’m not worthy of this work but, So very thankful.

    Reply
  13. Avatar

    very gud& inspirational biography of jim

    Reply
  14. Avatar

    I thank God for your life and inspiration word to the people. May God continue to bless you in Jesus name amen.

    Reply
  15. Avatar

    nice

    Reply
  16. Avatar

    I read Jim Elliot’s story as a teenager. It made such a deep impact in my life. Today at 39, as I prepare my sermon for my church, I plan to preach on the plan of God for our lives. I intend to use Jim’s story. But as I searched the Internet for reading the story again, I turned emotional thinking about how this story has guided my choices and decisions during my teenage and adult life. Many times then I had prayed for God’s will for my life and desired to do it. Apart from His grace, it was Jim Elliot’s story that made me do that. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to God for that book on Jim Elliot. Thanks to the writer of this article too.

    Reply
  17. Avatar

    I had been listening to Joy Gardner sing Joy Comes in the Morning – a most uplifting hymn. I had found this within the Gaither performances on YouTube. A bit of search on Internet and I found that the first line of the second verse is the quote of Jim Elliot. To me a very profound and comforting line. Further searching brought me to Tamara’s article. I simply write these words to thank you Tamara, for this insight to the life of this devout man. I will track down any other writings on Jim and again Tamara, I thank you and may the Lord Jesus Christ bless you and keep you. Jim

    Reply
  18. Avatar

    I learned about Jim at my Bible Study class at the Salvation Army. After reading his story here, I was deeply moved. May God bless Jim and his family and all the Christian missionaries who proudly live and die for the Glory of God.

    Reply
  19. Avatar

    Thank you so very much for this article. Jim Elliot’s life has been a tremendous influence and blessing to myself and my husband, We had the blessing of meeting Elizabeth and Valerie Elliot at Zion bible Bible Institute in Rhode Island many years ago with our pastor and his wife. Jim Elliot’s life has influenced millions of people who are now saints for the Lord. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose’ Jim Elliot has been on my refrigerator now for years to keep my heart and all who read it on the Lord and His will in our lives. My husband is now with the Lord and with Jim and Nate and all the saints who have gone before him.May God bless you as you serve Him.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Do you know what Denomination they were? just curious..was told Plymouth Brethren or Baptist..

      Reply
  20. Avatar

    Great writing on Jiand his sacrificialand curageus work.So simple yet very rich in content.God bless you Tamara.
    Pastor Raja, India

    Reply
  21. Avatar

    What a testomony. The living Christ belong to us in all His attributes and powers. We are members of His body. His flesh and His life. Glory to God!!

    Reply
  22. Avatar

    motivational and couraging me when i read this article

    Reply
  23. Avatar

    Excellent article.may lord bless his family.Thanx for sharing this.This sinned world needs many more evangilists lyk him.may god bless u 2 aunt Tamara..

    Reply
  24. Avatar

    This is GREAT thanks for posting this.

    Reply
  25. Avatar

    I can only hope and pray that I become if only 1/2 as disciplined with my Bible study, and as selfless as Mr. Elliot and his wife, as well as all of those who have given their all for Christ.
    I am truly deeply moved by their stories. We have an awesome God who gives to those who are obedient and willing to glorify His magnificent Name.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      amen! praise our good LORD!

      Reply
  26. Avatar

    Truly thrilling story

    Reply
  27. Avatar

    Great article. Thank you for sharing more about this anointed family

    Reply
  28. Avatar

    Thanks for sharing…I have learn something after reading this..which is to be discipline in our devotion..to know God’s will..we must always seek wisdom from His true living words “the BIBLE” and of course, praying and have a faithful to follow His guidance..Thanks again, I feel so blessed again

    Reply
  29. Avatar

    Jim’s life is a life lived for and to the glory of God, and has great eternal value and significance. He now has many more spiritual children than he could ever have imagine. He was a man of passion and purity, who laid down his life for the Kingdom of God.
    May God bless his family and cause their work to increase and abound.

    Reply
  30. Avatar

    I cannot thank God enough for people who are obedient enough to preach the word of God and better still for the ease with which technology has made it possible for more to be reached. Thanks to all who are making these sites and the word accessible. Blessings

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Praise the Lord
      I am a servant of God (Pastor) I have need your support for Jesus ministry among the poor people in village area so I have need your support in Jesus name Amen

      Reply
  31. Avatar

    Good summary. The Elliot family were all God honoring. I was privileged to live with the Elliots when I was a small boy.
    Blessings to You and my God use this post of yours for His glory.
    ~ BloggerBob

    Reply
    • Avatar

      can you tell me what denomination Jim Elliot was ?…I have been told/Plymouth Brethren/Baptist and many more…but am curious to know the fact.

      Reply
      • Avatar

        Hello DebMar,
        I would say the denomination Jim Elliot was, was Christian, a true follower of Christ as were the first apostles and disciples. Led by the Holy Spirit and supported by God. No better way!!

        Reply
    • Avatar

      amen nice comment

      Reply

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