Legacy: How a Marriage Can Last Forever
When I first moved to the United States nearly thirty years ago, I spoke with many people who didn’t know exactly where my home country of Ecuador was. A few asked, “Isn’t that the country where the five missionaries were killed by savage Indians?”
“Yes,” I replied. “It is.”
The story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot means a lot to me because it is personal. For me, it isn’t a story that happened to missionaries in a faraway country—it happened in my country, in a jungle in my homeland.
This week is the sixty-third anniversary of Jim’s death, and I would like to honor what God did in my country through the Operation Auca missionary team—specifically Jim Elliot and, in an incredible act of faith and bravery, his wife.
The Power of Marriage
Jim and Elisabeth met at Wheaton College in 1947 and became good friends. In her book Passion and Purity, Elisabeth writes about how she fell in love with Jim and he declared his love for her. They both prayed about their feelings, but Jim had a problem—he wanted to do God’s work in remote places and felt it was better for him to be single. So he told Elisabeth that even though she was the only woman he could marry, they couldn’t do it.
So Elisabeth had to give up this dream for a time. Years passed as she waited.
The unity in their love for one another as they pursued God’s calling astounds me. At Jim’s direction, Elisabeth learned Quichua, a language spoken by local indigenous tribes. She and Jim lived at different missionary stations until finally—six years after meeting each other—they were married in Quito, the city where I was born. They had a daughter a year and a half later.
After nearly three years of jungle ministry and hours of planning and praying, Jim and the rest of the Operation Auca missionary team set up camp near the Aucas’ territory to make direct contact with them. The Aucas were a dangerous tribe known to kill all outsiders. Jim had a gun with him, but even when they were brutally attacked, he didn’t use it. Each of the missionaries in their group had promised not to kill an Auca who didn’t know Jesus, even if it meant saving himself from death.
Jim and the rest of the team died on January 8, 1956.
If the story ended there, it would still be a remarkable history proclaiming the glory of God as seen in sacrifice.
But the story didn’t end there. A legacy waited.
What Elisabeth Did
In a decision that would be unimaginable to most people, Elisabeth and the other widows decided to continue the effort to reach the Auca people. And they were successful.
Less than two years later, Elisabeth, her young daughter, and the sister of one of the other murdered missionaries moved into the Auca village itself and began to care for them. They built a friendship that continues to transform lives. Many Aucas have come to know Jesus, and they are now considered a friendly tribe.
No one was able to reach this tribe in my country until these five men and their wives came along and willingly gave away their lives because of their great love for God and for a people who didn’t know Him.
Despite the deaths of five of God’s beloved children, despite all the grief, heartbreak, and tears—light still proved more powerful than darkness. God still did exactly what He wanted to do; death could not stop His hand.
That is the heart of God and the power of divine legacy.
God and Your Marriage
The incredible story of Jim and Elizabeth Elliot is important for every couple to understand because it clearly reveals what God can do in marriage. He joins two people together not just for companionship or family—but so they can leave a legacy on the earth. Not even death has the power to cancel a marriage’s legacy.
As a believer, you are called to bring the good news of Jesus and reveal His love to the people around you. Your marriage isn’t separate from this calling to spread the Gospel. In fact, it plays a key role.
Many couples forget there is a bigger calling than just staying together and trying to make it through life. Christ is in you—the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). As you stand in faith with your spouse, God will use your unity as a foundation on which He can build a beautiful legacy that has the power to change lives forever.
Legacy and Knowing God
If you want to leave a strong legacy that endures far beyond your marriage itself, one of the most important things you can do today, whether you are married or single, is set your heart on God. Make Him your focus.
What is He saying to you? What is He doing? Draw close to Him and find out what the beat of His heart sounds like. Keep track of these things; write them down so you have record of them.
Let your heavenly Father heal the places in your heart that are filled with fear and pain, and then watch how He uses you to change the world.
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