Friday, June 25, 2010

And Another...

When I was about 12 or 13 my mom brought home a book by a woman named Elizabeth Elliot.  It was called Through the Gates of Splendor.  She had picked it up at Baker Book House, in the used and out of print section.  The story of five families willing to lose everything in this life so that the Auca (now called the Huaorani) people of Ecuador could hear the Truth about Jesus Christ captivated me.  I think I read it in a day.  If you don't know the story of Jim and Elizabeth Elliot and their fellow missionaries, run to the bookstore, or kindle store or wherever it is you get your books these day and READ IT!

My copy is from 1958 and has that smell that only old books can have.  It was a big part of how God directed my path towards Latin America.  A few years later, my mom brought home another book, The Savage My Kinsman.  This was the story of Elizabeth, with her 2 year old, going to spend  time with the people that had killed her husband.  That book shaped a lot of my thoughts on how a missionary should approach a people, about being a believer, a woman, a writer.  Again, run to your nearest book place, be it audio, real, electronic, whatever.  Read it!

Through high school and college I devoured anything by Elliot. Some are falling apart at the seams, many of my copies are from that same Baker used bookstore.  If you live in Grand Rapids, the Christian publishing headquarters of the world (not joking, Zondervan, Eerdmans, Baker, Kregel, all there) check it out.  Amazing treasures await you.

Are you starting to understand why my son's name is Elliot?  And can I tell you how excited both Noah and I were when we were able to listen to David Howard, the former president of LAM, former LAM missionary to Columbia, founder of Urbana ,who is also Elizabeth Elliot's brother and Jim Elliot's college roommate?  Yeah, when we discovered he was an LAMer, we realized we were at the heart of what is going on in Latin American missions.

It wasn't until I started to reread The Savage My Kinsman this weekend that I realized another area where I was shaped by these books. Cornell Capa was a photojournalist with Life magazine in the 50's.  He was sent to Ecuador right as the events in Through the Gates of Spender were happening, and he took some pretty compelling photos. 

He also taught Elizabeth how to use a camera and told her to photograph what was important to her, "her daughter, and her Indians," to use the camera as "an extension of her eyes".

When I read that again on Sunday, I stopped.  That's what I have been trying to do.  Take photos of things I care about, to show people where God has put us, what He is doing, and to convey a moment with the emotional impact of what is actually happening.  To show people for who they are, not just what they are doing.

Maybe in heaven I will get a chance to say, "thank you" to Jim and Elizabeth.  They were simply following what God was directing them to do, but it impacted not only the  Huaorani, but the life a girl in middle America.

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