The Savage My Kinsman


This is an bit from a book that I just finished reading called The Savage, My Kinsman by Elizabeth Elliot.  As a missionary I really related to her honest sense of uselessness as she spent a year living with Indians in the Amazon Basin.  How, as missionaries, do we make sense of this seeming spinning of our wheels?  How can this be called “Christian” work when we are just learning the language and learning how to live in this new place?  We speak like babies, we can’t even function in daily life without help and directions from others, we are an ill fit with this culture- how can we give these people what they do not even know they need which is New Life in Christ?  Elizabeth Elliot wrote words that comforted me because I understood where they were coming from:

God keep us from sitting in the seat of the scornful, concentrating solely on the mistakes, the paltriness of our efforts, the width of the gap between what we hoped for and what we got.  How shall we call this “Christian” work?  What are we to make of it?

We must not proceed from our own notions of God’s action (it will appear He has not acted) but must look clearly and unflinchingly at what happens and seek to understand it through the revelation of God in Christ.  His life on earth had a most inauspicious beginning.  There was the scandal of the virgin birth, the humiliation of the stable, the announcement not to village officials but to uncouth shepherds.  A baby was born- a Savior and King- but hundreds of babies were murdered because of Him.  His public ministry, surely no tour of triumph, no thundering success story, led not to stardom but to crucifixion.  Multitudes followed Him, but most of them wanted what they could get out of Him and in the end all His disciples fled.

Yet out of this seeming weakness and failure, out of His very humbling to death, what exaltation and what glory.  For the will of God is not a quantitative thing, static and measurable.  The Sovereign God moves in mysterious relation to the freedom of man’s will.  We can demand no instant reversals.  Things must be worked out according to a divine design and timetable.  Sometimes the light rises excruciatingly slowly.  The kingdom of God is like leaven and seed, things which work silently, secretly, slowly, but there is in them an incalculable transforming power.  Even in the plain soil, even in the dull dough, lies the possibility of transformation for, as the psalmist wrote, “All things serve Thee.”

The missionary, with all his sin and worldliness, stands nevertheless with Christ for the salvation of the world… The effort to do this must not be seen in “either/or” terms- either it is flawless, and therefore a success, or it is flawed, and therefore a miserable failure.

Every time my hopes are dashed and I am asked to exchange my small view of “good” (when things work my way) for God’s view of it, expressed in Romans 8 …{He cooperates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose…}  That, in the last analysis is for us the only good- that shaping, no matter what it takes.


From the book  The Savage, My Kinsman by Elizabeth Elliot where she talks about spending a year living with the Amazon tribe of Indians who speared to death her husband and 4 other missionary men.

Photo credit: <a href=””>@Doug88888</a&gt; / <a href=””></a&gt; / <a href=””>CC BY-NC-SA</a>

About amamiot

My family and I are missionaries in Costa Rica. Before that we lived in Mexico and before that we came from Minnesota. I am a teacher, an artist, a "journaler", a quilter, a cooker, a baker, a hostess, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I like reading and watching movies (ehem, and quoting movie lines). I would love to be in a Jane Austin movie but I don't know how to ballroom dance or play Whist.

3 responses »

  1. I’m so thankful for your honest questions in the middle of the kingdom serving that we are moving toward. Lifting you up and trusting with you that what is unseen is much greater and more beautiful than what our eyes perceive. Big hug.

  2. I am not a missionary but a Mom of three little boys. Recently my family went through a revelation of horrendous proportions that have left us quaking in our shoes. Now, I have found myself faced with the reality of loving someone who is now in jail and awaiting prison time for their actions. How do you love someone you despise but there still remains a seed of affection for them? Knowing that the bigger calling is What God can do and not what I can. This post was an encouragement and sparked and interest in this book. Thank you for this 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s