Philip James "Jim" Elliot (October 8, 1927 – January 8, 1956) was an American Protestant missionary who worked in eastern Ecuador. He was killed, along with four other missionaries, by Waodani Indians while trying to evangelize them.
Elliot was born in Portland, Oregon, the third of four children. His parents were devout Christians and taught their children about the Bible. Elliot became a Christian at the age of six.
Elliot attended Benson Polytechnic High School in Portland. Upon graduation in 1945, he entered Wheaton College, near Chicago, Illinois. Feeling the call of God to enter mission work to primitive tribes, he majored in Greek to assist in translating the Bible into a new language. It was also at Wheaton that Elliot met Elisabeth Howard, his future wife.
Jim graduated from Wheaton in 1949 and immediately began preparations for going to the mission field. At the time he believed very strongly in celibacy, and wanted to find another single man to go with him to Ecuador. He originally wanted to go with his college friend, Ed McCully, but when McCully married, Elliot went with Pete Fleming instead. (The McCullys would later move to Ecuador as well.)
Ministry in Ecuador
Elliot and Fleming arrived in Ecuador on February 21, 1952. They first lived in Quito, the capital city, where they completed their Spanish training. Then they moved into the jungles on the eastern side of the Andes Mountains. These lands make up the headwaters of the Amazon River. Here they used an abandoned Shell Oil Company base, Shandia, as their mission outpost, where they ministered to Quechua Indians.
Soon after his arrival in Ecuador, Elisabeth Howard arrived as well as a single missionary. After careful consideration, Elliot abandoned his previous convictions regarding celibacy. They were married on Jim's birthday in 1953, and after a brief honeymoon in Panama and Costa Rica, they returned to Shandia to work as a couple. Fleming was also married a short time later and relocated to another mission station.
In September 1955, missionary pilot Nate Saint first discovered the Waodani, a previously uncontacted tribe that lived deep in the jungle. They were known for their violence against both their own people, and foreigners who entered their land. (The Waodani were known at the time as "Aucas", a Quechua word meaning "naked ones" or "savages".) Saint made his discovery known to Elliot and Fleming, and an effort to reach them was materialized. These efforts became known as "Operation Auca".
Sain was able to land his small bush plane on a 650 foot sandbar along the Curaray River in Waodani territory. There, Elliot and the four other men set up a camp hoping to make peaceful contact with the natives. This occurred on January 6, when three Waodani emerged from the jungle.
Then two days later on January 8, the Waodani returned in greater numbers. The men were ambushed on the beach and all five were killed. Elliot's body was later recovered from the Curaray River with a chanta wood spear through his abdomen. He was buried nearby with three other of the missionaries.
The deaths of the five men invigorated the missionary effort in the United States. The story gained national media attention, being told in Life Magazine (in a 10 page photo essay) and in Reader's Digest to name a few. A year after the events, Elliot's widow, Elisabeth, told the story in Through Gates of Splendor, a book which went on to become a national best-seller. She later went on to considerable fame as an author.Elliot is also well known for leaving behind a journal which was later edited and published. In it he made a now-famous quote:
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
- Elliot, Elisabeth. Through Gates of Splendor. (1957)
- Elliot, Elisabeth. Shadow of the Almighty. (1958)
- Elliot, Jim. The Journals of Jim Elliot.