Billy Graham Center

Winning Entry in the Billy Graham Center Archives Essay Contest

The following essay, by Eden Tallon of Springfield, Illinois, age 12, won the 1995-96 BGC Archives essay contest:


Almost every day at 2:15 p.m., we turn on the radio at our house; and I hear a lady with a unique voice who speaks with wisdom. Sometimes her words are "too big", and I feel like pulling out a dictionary. One day, I started thinking: "Who is that woman I hear every day on the radio?" I decided to find out!

Elisabeth Howard was born in Brussels, Belgium, December 21, 1926. Philip and Katherine Howard, her missionary parents, were members of the Belgian Gospel Mission. Elisabeth was one of their six children (Guide to Collection 278, 2).

When Elisabeth was five months old, her father received a call to leave Belgium to go back to the United States to be associate editor of a family newspaper, The Sunday School Times--about the only nondenominational Christian magazine in the country. Philip Howard decided to accept the call, and he moved his family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Gren, 2).

Elisabeth was raised in a very disciplined household. Her parents loved her greatly and followed God's Word which says that a parent who loves his child disciplines him. The Howard family had devotions each morning after breakfast. They sang hymns, and Father read from the Bible. After the reading, the family knelt and prayed together. Even on Christmas. morning, the family would not open presents before the family prayers (Gren, 4).

Her parents expected prompt obedience. Delayed was treated as disobedience. Mother kept a little switch over the lintel of a door in every room. When she raised her eyes to the top of the door, it was usually enough to get the children into action (Gren, 5).

Since Elisabeth's father was an editor, he was determined that his family would speak proper English. Whenever a child had a question about the meaning or pronunciation of a word, he would hand the child a dictionary and make the whole family learn the word (Gren, 8).

The Howard family, which attended the Reformed Episcopal Church (Gren, 10), had the privilege of meeting dozens of missionaries from at least forty-two countries. Betty Stam was the most impressive to Elisabeth--from her she learned what discipleship meant. Betty and John Stam were beheaded by Chinese communists in 1934. When Elisabeth was twelve she came across Betty's prayer of consecration. She copied it into her Bible and made it a prayer of her life (Gren, 6).

One other woman was a powerful influence on Elisabeth's life--Amy Carmichael, missionary to India. Elisabeth read Miss Carmichael's writings when she was fourteen; and later in her life, Elisabeth wrote Amy Carmichael's biography (Gren, 7).

Elisabeth probably received the Lord as her Savior when she was 4 or 5 years old; and later in her youth, she said that she was generally bored to death in church. When the children got home from Sunday School they would complain about how they didn't get anything out of the lesson. Her parents would always respond, "You mustn't criticize them. They're good, faithful souls." (Gren, ll).

Elisabeth attended Wheaton College where her father was a trustee, and she got free tuition (Gren, ll). She chose classical Greek as her major because of her desire to work on the mission field in the study of languages and Bible translation (Gren, 11). While at Wheaton, Elisabeth was the editorial writer of The Wheaton Record, the student paper (Guide to Collection 278, 2).

At Wheaton, Elisabeth had three social dates (Gren, 13). The first date was with Jim Elliot. They went to Moody Church and heard one of the daughters of C. T. Studd speak about her father's death in a hut in Africa (Gren, 8).

After college, Elisabeth and Jim Elliot left independently for Ecuador as mission workers. Jim was assigned to the Quichua Indians and Elisabeth began working with the Colorado Indians. When a flood destroyed the place where Jim lived, Elisabeth and he decided to marry on October 8,1953. In 1955, their daughter Valerie was born (Guide to Collection 278, 2).

In that same year, a group of five missionary men, including Jim Elliot, made plans for contacting the savage Auca Indians of Ecuador. Everything appeared to be going well with this mission; but on January 8,1956, the five missionaries were brutally murdered by the Aucas (Guide to Collection 278, 3). When the wives heard of their husbands' deaths, they sang the hymn that their husbands had sung before going into the Auca territory:

We rest on Thee, our Shield and Defender
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise
When passing through the pearly gates of splendor
Victors, we rest with Thee through endless days
( ... Go Ye and Preach the Gospel."', 11)

After Jim's death, Elisabeth and Valerie remained in Ecuador to continue working with the Quichua Indians. During the next two years, additional contacts were made with the Aucas; and in 1959, Elisabeth and Valerie moved in with the family that had killed the men. The killers said that they thought the missionaries were going to eat them (Guide to Collection 278, 3).

Elisabeth and Valerie returned to the United States in 1963. Here Elisabeth married Addison Leitch who died in 1973 (Guide to Collection 278, 3). In 1974, she was appointed Adjunct Professor at Gordon-Conwell and stayed there until 1976. Elisabeth returned to the Seminary in 1979 (Guide to Collection 278, 3). In 1981, she was designated as Writer-In-Residence at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts (Guide to Collection 278, 3).

On December 21, 1977, Elisabeth married Lars Gren; and they now live in Massachusetts (Elisabeth Elliot, 1). Elisabeth has retained the name Elisabeth Elliot for all of her written works because she is best known by it (Gren, 2).

Today, Elisabeth is especially well-known for her books: Through Gates of Splendor Shadow of the Almighty, The Journals of Jim Elliot, The Savage, My Kinsman, Who Shall Ascend, Mark of a Man, and Passion and Purity. She is also an internationally known speaker (Elliot, 4) and has a 15-minute daily radio program called "Gateway to Joy" that invites women to consider their roles and responsibilities in light of Biblical principles (Gateway to Joy with Elisabeth Elliot, 5).

I listen to Elisabeth Elliot almost every day on the radio. She is teaching me things about God's Word that will make me a wise Christian woman and mother when I grow up. Through her radio program she is still evangelizing our entire country, telling about the good news of Jesus Christ.

[Note: Bibliography included with the essay but omitted by the Archives staff for this posting to the home page]

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Last Revised: 6/10/96
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Wheaton College 2005