Of late, I’ve wanted to read about inspiring heroes/heroines of the faith. Though Gates of Splendor recounts the story of five young missionaries who were killed while trying to establish communication with the Auca Indians of Ecuador. The story is written by Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of Jim Elliott, one of the young men who was killed. The Hiding Place is the autobiography of Corrie ten Boom who lived in the Netherlands during the Nazi invasion in World War II. She and her family were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camp for hiding Jews. One can only hope to show similar courage, if in the same situation.
Through Gates of Splendor has all the elements of an adventure story. The heroes are: Jim Elliott who felt the call to mission work while at Camp Wycliffe where he practiced the skills necessary for writing down a language for the first time and heard of the Auca; Pete Fleming who became friends with Jim during Christian conferences and mountain climbing expeditions and initially remained reluctant to join Jim due to concerns of his wife; Ed McCully who dropped out of law school to pursue ministry in the United States and to eventually study missionary medicine; Nate Saint who served as a commercial pilot for American Airlines but discovered a new purpose in serving God on the mission field after he almost died while mountain-climbing; and Roger Youderian who received the call to the mission field during college and met Nate while trying to build a relationship with the Jivarro tribe. The quest is Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the previously uncontacted Auca. The unusual location is Ecuador, a country on South America’s West Coast. The mission settlement which the five missionaries and their wives established took them through the Amazon rain forest and introduced them to meals of soup, plantain, manioc, and rice. Finally, there is no lack of adventure and danger. The Auca were known for their violence both against their own people and outsiders who entered their territory. Nevertheless, the missionaries flew overhead and dropped gifts as part of an attempt to make friendly contact.
The Hiding Place also has all the elements of an adventure story. The heroine is Corrie Ten Boom. As with most heroic protagonists, she had flaws. Corrie wasn’t the neatest person. At times, she colored the truth. Being a housekeeper wasn’t her gift. As with most heroic protagonists though, she had skills that could keep her out of danger. In the 1940’s, she and her family snuck ration cards to Jews and opened their home to refugees. The first half of The Hiding Place is about how the family managed to pull off this feat. Of course, even the best protagonists can’t forever keep themselves out of danger. The second half of The Hiding Place is about the family’s imprisonment in a concentration camp. While the story is told from Corrie’s viewpoint, we also get to know her sister better in this section. For example, while Corrie dreams of helping her fellow inmates after the war, her sister dreams of sharing the gospel with those who have imprisoned them. There are two unusual locations: Amsterdam itself during Nazi Germany occupation and the various concentration camps which Corrie is imprisoned. Finally, there is no lack of adventure and danger. As with Gates of Splendor, the faith of our heroes will be tested and not all our heroes will survive.
While both books fascinated me, I admit to being more drawn to the second. The heroes of Through Gates of Splendor remain larger than life to me. As with the apostle Paul, the five missionaries are sold out to God in a way that I cannot fathom. Elizabeth Elliott acknowledges in an epilogue that indecision and tensions existed, which injects some humanness to the story and makes me more eager to read the follow-up book. As for the heroine of The Hiding Place, Corrie often admits to doubts and fears, and so I feel more capable of aspiring to be like her. In addition, the descriptions of the small miracles that the two sisters encountered in the concentration camp makes me believe that God was there with them in the middle of all their horror. Books that encourage one in their faith are always high on my list of recommended reads.