Dead in the shallow waters of a sandy river beach deep in the Amazon Jungle of Ecuador lay Elisabeth’s husband, Jim. Along with four other missionaries, they had approached the Auca Indians with hearts full of love to tell them about Jesus. Instead, their hearts were pierced by spears from the angry Aucans.
The Aucans were a remote and isolated people, and the missionaries’ previous brief encounters with the Aucans had appeared friendly. It would not be learned until later that the attack by the Aucans on the five missionaries was precipitated by a lie told by one of the Aucans to cover up his own indiscretion.
But on that day in 1956, the young wives with their little children waited anxiously around the radio at the communication station for contact from their husbands. None came. They huddled in prayer, weeping, fearing the worst but still believing God was in control.
They knew the dangers their husbands were facing as the Auca Indians had a fierce reputation as killers. The very act of continuing to trust in the LORD while waiting for news about their husbands showed the wives’ unwavering belief in the lines Jim Elliot had previously written in his jungle journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Somehow during this time, news had gotten out to the media in the United States, and folks all across the nation and the world were waiting to hear what happened to the missing missionaries. A pilot friend had gone searching for them and from the air spotted their small, bright yellow plane on the beach.
The Aucas scattered through the jungle as the assemblage of members of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship landed on the remote river beach accompanied by U. S. Military personnel and a photographer from LIFE magazine.
When the hacked up yellow plane was found along with the five dead missionaries, news of the massacre flashed around the world. In their jungle compound, the wives wept and grieved for their husbands and fathers of their children.
This was Elisabeth Elliot’s darkest hour.
On a day in 1992 I stood by my kitchen window listening to the radio sitting on the window sill. The fifteen-minute radio program, Gateway to Joy, by Elisabeth Elliot was about to start. I knew her amazing story chronicled in Through Gates of Splendor, and how soon after the killings, Elisabeth and another missionary widow bravely returned to the jungle and lived among the same Auca Indians who had killed their husbands.
Through these young, brave widows, the love of Jesus came to the Aucans and transformed them from a tribe of hate and murder to a tribe of love and peace! So much forgiveness had invaded the tribe that years later the grandson of the martyred pilot Nate Saint would call the man that killed his grandfather “Grandpa.” And grandson and adopted grandpa loved each other dearly! It was all an amazing story of sacrifice and miracles.
But at that moment, I could hardly hear what was being said on the radio as I was dealing with my own darkest hour. After seven years, my environmental consulting company was falling victim to the recession of the early 90s; however, God was using the recession and business failure to call me back from my focus on making money to my focus on Him!
My clients included a well-known international research firm, several Fortune 500 companies, and state, and local governments. But I was small potatoes in their books, and as the recession set in, instead of paying me in 30 days like usual, they started paying 60 days out, or 90 days, or not at all! This forced our family to live on credit cards till my customers paid so I could pay the card. However, this all quickly snowballed, and soon I was in over my head in debt.
As I stood looking out the kitchen window with the radio quietly squawking in the background on the ledge, I thought about the recent visit from the sheriff serving me papers and that the loss of our house to the bank was imminent. The house my wife and I had built in a good school district in a nice neighbourhood at the end of a road in a cul-de-sac so our four young children could play safely outside . . . would soon be gone.
Two credit card companies were suing me and setting up court dates. A well- known law firm in our area was forcing me into bankruptcy—something I never ever wanted to do! Our church started giving us food, which was very humbling to receive, but much appreciated. I never dreamed my life could ever end up in such a mess!
This was MY darkest hour.
In my heart I prayed, “Father, in the name of Jesus, help me! Thank you for using this mess to get my attention back on you, but right now I am lost, confused, and surrounded by deep despair, I’m trusting you to rescue me, but at this moment, I don’t even know what to do.”
Suddenly I heard a voice piercing my dismal gloom, and it felt like someone was speaking directly to me from the radio . . . and Elisabeth was! “When things are so dark and confusing, and you don’t know what to do, then you just—Do the next thing!”
It was an instant answer to prayer!! God had spoken to me through Elisabeth and her dark-hour experience! So….I thought to myself, OK, the dishes need to be done, so I washed the dishes. The next thing to do was to mow the grass, so I fired up the mower and mowed the grass!
Doing the next thing became a mantra for my wife and me for the next two years as we passed through this dark hour. Often during that time my heart would pray, “Thank you, Father, for speaking through Elisabeth Elliot!” Then, I’d go do the next thing!
Today, twenty-three years later, my wife and I are serving the Lord in Southeast Asia. All four children are serving Him in other parts of the world. The Lord completely restored the years the locusts had eaten.
Perhaps you’re reading this, and it’s YOUR darkest hour . . .
We encourage you to trust God in prayer and follow Elisabeth Elliot’s advice that when things become so dark and confusing, and you don’t know what to do–
Then just . . .
“Do the next thing.”
“You are loved with an everlasting love.
And underneath are the everlasting arms.” –Elisabeth Elliot
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“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” –Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
Elisabeth Elliot: Through Gates of Splendor
“The true story of five young missionaries who were savagely killed while trying to establish communication with the Auca Indians of Ecuador. The story is told through the eyes of Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the young men who was killed.” To see the book, follow this link: Link to Gates of Splendor Book
“Gateway to Joy”—Previous Broadcasts Provided by the Bible Broadcasting Network Link to Past Broadcasts by Elisabeth Elliot
Copyright (c) by William D. (Nick) Nichols