Jim Elliot

by Avery Foley on September 12, 2017

Phillip James Elliot, or “Jim” as he was called, was born in 1927 in Portland, Oregon. He attended Wheaton College where he met Elisabeth Howard, the daughter of missionaries. Jim and Elisabeth both wanted to serve the Lord in missions, so Jim traveled to the South American country of Ecuador to start learning Spanish, and later, Elisabeth followed. They were married and had a baby girl, Valerie.

The Elliots, together with four other missionary couples, wanted to work among the Auca people. This remote tribe had never had any contact with civilization and had never heard the gospel. They were a dangerous people, known for killing anyone outside their group. Everyone was scared of them. But Jim and Elisabeth knew taking the gospel to the Aucas was worth the risk. How else would they hear about Jesus and his sacrifice for them?

The missionary team, made up of the five men, started reaching out to the Auca people by flying a plane over their village with a bucket attached to a rope dangling from the plane. In the bucket they put presents such as buttons, salt, ribbons, or cooking pots. They wanted the Aucas to know they were friendly. Soon the Aucas were accepting the gifts and even sending some back—including a live parrot! After three months, the five-man missionary team decided it was time to make contact.

They landed their airplane on a strip of sand by the river and built a small settlement. Small groups of Aucas came to visit, and one man even took a plane ride with them. But then one day a group of Aucas arrived carrying spears and killed all five missionaries.

Jim and his friends had guns and could have defended themselves, but they refused to kill the tribesmen to save their own lives. They knew that would ruin any chance of sharing the gospel with the tribe, and the missionaries knew that if they died they would be with Jesus.

Jim Elliot and his friends died as martyrs. They gave their lives because they believed that sharing the message of Jesus was the most important thing anyone could do. But what happened to the Aucas who killed Jim and his friends?

Elisabeth and Valerie, along with Rachel Saint, the sister of Nate Saint—one of the other men who was killed—went back to the Aucas so they could complete the mission of sharing Jesus with these lost people. And, because of the love that Elisabeth and Rachel showed, many of the Aucas believed in Jesus, including several of the people who had killed the missionaries. The Aucas have now sent missionaries to other villages, and some have even died as martyrs sharing the good news of Jesus with other tribes. The tribe is no longer known for being dangerous killers. The gospel completely changed them!

Fun Facts About Jim Elliot

  • Jim’s father was a pastor and his mother was a chiropractor.
  • The Aucas are known by two other names, the Waodani and the Huaroni people.
  • Jim Elliot’s most famous quote is “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Learn More


Captain Phoebus at English Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

This plaque honoring Jim Elliot and Ed McCully is displayed at Wheaton College, where both the men graduated. The plaque reads:

“Go ye and preach the gospel”
Dedicated to the glory of God and in loving memory of Edward McCully, President of the class of 1949, and James Elliot ’49, likewise an outstanding athlete and leader. Because of the Great Commission, Ed and Jim, together with Nathanael Saint ’49, Roger Youderian and Peter Fleming went to the mission field willing for “anything—anything regardless of cost.” They chose the jungles of Ecuador—inhabited by the Auca indians. For generations all strangers were killed by these savage indians. After many days of patient preparation and devout prayer, the missionaries made the first friendly contact known to history with the Aucas. On January 8, 1956, the five missionaries were brutally slain—martyrs for the love of God.
Erected by the class of 1949
January 8, 1957
“For the love of Christ constraineth us” II Cor 5:14