Updated: Mar 21, 2020
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”-Jim Elliot
LIFE Magazine (January 30, 1956) – The cover reads, MISSIONARIES’ JUNGLE MARTYRDOM: DIARIES AND EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS. Inside, the lead story begins with a photo of five missionary wives, holding threes mall children, taken at the moment they learn that their husbands are not coming home, speared to death by the stone-age Auca Indians they were trying to reach for Christ.
The headline reads, ‘GO YE AND PREACH THE GOSPEL’ –FIVE DO AND DIE. The article brought worldwide publicity to the missionaries’ work. The next year, two of the widows, Elliot and Saint walked uninvited into the murderers’ village to live with the tribe that killed their husbands, eventually winning them to Christ.
Through Gates of Splendor is the 1957 bestselling book written by Elisabeth Elliot. The book tells the story of Operation Auca, an attempt by five American missionaries – Jim Elliot (the author's husband), Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian – to reach the Huaorani tribe of eastern Ecuador, and the women’s unimaginably brave persistence to forgive and then dwell in the village of their husband’s murderers. The book is Elliot's first book, and arguably her most well-known work. According to Amazon Books it is still #47 in Christian Missions & Missionary Work, #69 in Christianity(Books), and #105 in Evangelism. Thousands of people, to this day, are inspired to become missionaries because of this book.
Elizabeth Elliot eventually returned to the United States, authored more than 20 books, and hosted a daily radio show, Gateway to Joy, for nearly 13 years. The Elliot’s quotes, writings, and radio show are ubiquitous parts of our Christian legacy in the 20th and 21 st Centuries. Their cumulative work and memory are woven into our evangelical heritage.
The title of the book is derived from the fourth stanza of the hymn "We Rest on You";. This hymn was famously sung by the missionaries before the men left for Waodaoni territory in September 1955. The first verse was their marching hymn: their battle cry. Little did they know; the fourth verse would become their eulogy.
The first verse reads:
We rest on You, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Your strength, safe in Your keeping tender,
We rest on You, and in Your Name we go.
The fourth verse foretold their martyrdom:
We rest on You, our Shield and our Defender. Yours is the battle, Yours shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with You, through endless days.
The book has never been made into a feature film although numerous documentaries have been made about the incident and survivors of the five, including two films by Nate Saint’s son 3 . However, the creative rights to the book containing Elizabeth and Jim Elliot’s love story, tragedy, and triumph have remained hidden until now. We are so honored to be developing the book into a feature film.
The Cross and The Switchblade and Through Gates of Splendor stories took place at the same time. As Nicky Cruz knelt at the alter in NYC in1958, Elizabeth Elliot was walking into the cannibal’s village to bring Jesus to her husband’s murderers. These stories are the pillars of modern evangelism and their timeless truths will reach millions in this generation with even more impact than they did 50 years ago.
These powerful stories share a common theme—the real drama that is the heart of every story; it is God seeking the lost, and how He calls some people to the unreachable, to the untouchable, and to those in the deepest darkness, whether the concrete jungle or the Ecuadoran jungle…and in that darkness the light shines the brightest. These are the stories that empower and transform.
LIFE MAGAZINE ARTICLE JANUARY 30, 1956