Carrie’s Reading to Know Book Club has been featuring classics this year, trading off between adult and children’s classics. Carrie asked several blog friends to choose a book for each month. I was honored to be asked, but had a hard time deciding on which of multitudes of favorite books to choose. Finally I decided I wanted to include a missionary classic, which is one of my favorite genres, and Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot seemed recent enough and its story well-known enough that I felt it would be accessible to anyone who wanted to read it.
Through Gates of Splendor was, I believe, the first missionary book I ever read, sparking a lifetime of exploring other missionary books and Elisabeth Elliot’s writing. I’ve read it multiple times since. I listed it among the 98 Books That Have Enriched My Life and Books to Read Before You Die. It’s the story of how five men and their families came to minister together together among Indians in Ecuador, how they became interested in what was then known as the Auca tribe, fierce warriors who killed any outsiders (as well as their own tribesmen), how they determined to try to reach them, how they went about it, how they were killed, and how a wife of one man and sister of another were eventually given the opportunity to live with this tribe.
It’s not just fascinating for the sake of the story: it’s fascinating to read how each of these very different men and their wives came to know the Lord and then felt called to their particular field. These men didn’t know, when they went to the mission field, that they would be martyrs, though once they began to consider reaching the Aucas, they knew it was a possibility. But they each gave their lives to God to use in any way that He saw fit, and their faith and walk with Him is inspiring.
Some like to watch the films of books along with or after reading, so you might be interested to know there is a DVD called Through Gates of Splendor here (it seems to be also on YouTube here), narrated by Elisabeth Elliot, using footage that she, Nate Saint, and Life Magazine had taken. Also several years ago the film “End of the Spear” (linked to my thoughts) came out. The book is much deeper and fuller, and some have various problems with the film, as I discussed, but it’s okay if you want to see a general visualization. I would highly recommend Beyond the Gates of Splendor: it is a documentary made fifty years after the events of the book. Here is an excerpt:
At the wrap-up post at the end, I’ll have some other resources for those who might want to read more about those involved in this story which has been used by the Lord in remarkable ways.
If you’d like to join in the Carrie’s Book Club to read it, just leave a note at her place saying so, and at the end of the month she’ll have a post where all those who read it can post comments or links to their own blog post about it. That’s one of the most fun parts of this book club: discussing the book we’re reading with others.