I wrote a number of entries on this blog about Jim Elliot as I read through his biography. Having finished The Shadow of the Almighty I turned my attention to Through the Gates of Splendour, the story of Jim Elliot and the other missionaries with whom he shared the determination to bring God's truth to the Auca Indians. The book follows the story from Jim Elliot and Pete Fleming's departure for Ecuador. The following extract talks about their arrival at the mission station of Shandia.
In Shandia, Jim and Pete became full-fledged missionaries for the first time. They had come to reach the Quichuas with the Word of God, a task for which they were prepared but could accomplish only if the gained the Quichuas' confidence and love. So by living among them, sharing in their lives and thus laying the foundations of mutual trust they hoped to open the minds and hearts of the Indians to the Christian message.
When I think about writing the narrative of the gospel in my time, I think this idea of living among the people, gaining their trust and love, building foundations of mutual trust and respect is so foundational. Most of the time I've been around church evangelism has been a bold declaration of truth, and I'm not decrying that at all. The problem was always that we were dashing out into the world, doing a bit of outreach, and then rushing back to the safety of the church.
To live among the people is far more difficult. Perhaps the reason overseas missionaries appear to have more success stories to tell us than we have to tell them is because of this simple truth-they live among the people.
I like servant evangelism because it gives me the chance to live among the people. An opportunity to serve them, to share with them, to be an example of God's love and generosity to them in the hope that this will eventually open a way for them to discover the full extent of God's love for them.
Perhaps we write the story best when we live the story among the people Jesus misses most.