Our Missionary Heritage
By Gilbert Gleason, Pastor of Grace Bible Fellowship
At Mission ConneXion Northwest 2006, the ministry of Bert and Colleen Elliot was highlighted in conjunction with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of the five missionaries in Ecuador which included Bert’s younger brother, Jim Elliot. Bert and Colleen both passed away in the winter of 2012 after serving as missionaries in northern Peru for 63 years, leaving a church planting movement that continues to thrive. Near the end of his life, Bert reflected, “If, as young people, we could have mapped out what we would have considered to be the ideal life, we could not have dreamed of a life that has been as fulfilling and filled with joy as what the Lord has given to us.” Their lives proved to be “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).
The story of the death of his brother Jim along with the other four men has motivated a generation of missionaries and Christian workers to dedicate themselves to serve the Lord no matter what the cost.
Bert and Jim, along with Bob and Jane, grew up in a home on the eastern slope of Mt. Tabor where a love for the Lord and the joy of serving Him were taught and modeled by their parents, Fred and Clara Elliot. Their daily reading of Scripture and prayer as a family, devoting themselves to the local church and having a ministry of hospitality together with preaching on the downtown streets of Portland and in the rescue mission impacted their lives. Many of the guests in their home were missionaries from around the world. The conversations were about the lost souls in foreign lands, the demands of missionary life and the need for dedicated workers. They also discovered that these people were just like them – ordinary people who were willing to give their lives to serve their Master. These missionaries were also used by the Lord to direct them to specific opportunities for ministry. It was during these discussions that they first heard of the many unreached people along the jungle rivers in Peru and the Auca in Ecuador. Their response was obedience.
Today, an impact of Mission ConneXion, the organization and the event, is that it has provided a focal point for these conversations to take place in the evangelical community here in the Northwest. This is a great venue for people to sit down face to face with those who serve on the frontline of the mission field. When our family attends the annual Mission ConneXion Northwest event in January, we don’t rave about the music or the internationally known speakers as remarkable as they may be. Instead we reflect on the conversations we had with missionaries in the hallway, around the tables or in the booths. We talk about the opportunities in the 10/40 window. The needs of the world become a reality! We are challenged as to what our response should be. Mission ConneXion is building a missionary heritage that we and our churches should embrace and encourage our people to be a part of, in an ever-increasing way.
For over thirty years, Gilbert Gleason has pastored Grace Bible Fellowship, the sending church for Bert, Colleen and Jim. He and Sue live in the Elliot home and have three grown children and two grandchildren. Sue is the daughter of Bob Elliot and the niece of Bert and Jim.