Title of article
High School:
Bold Missionary: Jim Elliot
Based on Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
Book cover

lisabeth Elliot, missionary and author of Through the Gates of Splendor (1957; reprinted, Tyndale Momentum, 1981) uses personal letters, journals, and photographs to document a poignant account of the five courageous men, one being her beloved, Jim Elliot. Jim graduated from Wheaton College, majoring in Greek, and felt led to communicate and work with the Auca tribe in a remote jungle of Ecuador. The mission was considered extremely dangerous, as the tribe was known for its violence and mistrust of outsiders. No one prior to Jim considered trying to communicate with the Aucas, let alone bring the gospel and the love of Christ to their tribe. For this endeavor, he gathered four men, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian. Knowing the tribe’s reputation and that their work may bring them face to face with sacrificing their lives for the potential salvation of some, the men were not deterred. Ultimately, their work did indeed lead to their deaths. Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint, Nate’s sister, continued the work of the men killed on January 8, 1956. In the 1996 twenty-fifth anniversary edition, Elisabeth Elliot updated the prologue.

Define boisterous, fauna, fervently, haggard, incongruous, perilous, redundant, reminiscent, scuttle, sober, subside, and ubiquitous.

While reading Through the Gates of Splendor, list ten characteristics of the tribe as gleaned from the text. Record the page number for each characteristic. Once the list is compiled, read over the characteristics to determine what drew the men to this tribe and how those traits might prove to be the greatest challenges to the missionaries.

Landscape with a lake
Through the Gates of Splendor has impacted readers for over seventy years. While reading through the account of these courageous, bold men, discuss the following questions:

  • Why did the men embark on this mission?
  • What gave Jim, Pete, Nate, Ed, and Roger the fervor for what they wanted to do?
  • What was your reaction to the actions and sacrifice of these five men?
  • How did this story impact your personal life?
  • Why was Elisabeth Elliot compelled to continue the work her husband began?
Jim Elliot is quoted, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Reflect on the quote, and write a three-paragraph essay explaining what Jim meant by his words. Cite any references, whether from the Through the Gates of Splendor or another source, to support or explain the meaning of Jim’s words. Include a Works Cited page and in-text citations in MLA format.

A character sketch is a written description or analysis of an individual with particular attention and thought given to the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual traits of a person. The sketch should be written so that a reader would have a strong, well-formed knowledge and understanding of the person and why he or she would act or react in specific scenarios. Write a character sketch of Jim Elliot (or one of the other missionaries of interest). To write the sketch, ask important questions, the answers of which are provided by reading and analyzing the text, Through the Gates of Splendor.

  • What are the physical characteristics of the gentleman?
  • What are the personality traits of the missionary?
  • Were there specific events in the book that shaped the character of this individual?
  • What types of feelings did the man display, and why? What situations, or interactions with or actions of other characters, triggered these feelings?
Through the Gates of Splendor has impacted readers for over seventy years.”
Interview a missionary. Find out where the individual serves or served, how he or she began missionary work, what types of things he or she hopes or hoped to accomplish through the work, what challenges could have been or were faced while serving, and what he or she would tell someone interested in missionary work.
Additional Reading:
Reading other sources about the same event or story offers different perspectives. Should your high schooler be curious about the five missionaries or learning more about their activity with the Auca/Waorani tribe from other perspectives, consider one or more of the following resources.

Elisabeth Elliot penned Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (1958; reprinted, HarperCollins, 2009) as well as compiled The Journals of Jim Elliot (Revell, 2002).

Elisabeth Elliot also documented her work with the Aucas after Jim’s death in The Savage My Kinsman (1981; reprinted, Vine Books, 1996).

Russel Hitt tells the story of Nate Saint in his book entitled Jungle Pilot (1959; reprinted, Our Daily Bread Publishing, 2016).

Steve Saint, Nate Saint’s son, tells his father’s story in End of the Spear (2005; reprinted, Tyndale Momentum, 2007), which was also made into a movie.

If you have middle school learners interested in learning more about Jim Elliot or his ministry, consider reading Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose by Janet and Geoff Benge (YWAM Publishing,1999).

Through the Gates of Splendor came full circle after many years when tribal members understood God’s love for them through the ultimate sacrifice of his son Jesus on the cross. Salvation had come to the tribe.

Regarding credit, parents may consider using the reading and analysis of Through the Gates of Splendor as part of a theology, world religion, or contemporary literature course.

You’ll find several activity sheets to help you implement the ideas from our Great Books articles in our brand new Summer 2021 Activity Guide!