A year ago today, I was in Peru.Lars and Elisabeth and I had traveled there to visit Bert and Colleen Elliot, living in Trujillo (near the western coast of Peru).
It was an incredible trip and by far, the highlight of it was getting to meet Bert Elliot. At first, I had been excited to meet him mostly because he was Jim Elliot's brother. Jim Elliot... the man who has had perhaps the greatest impact on my spiritual life of anyone else. To meet his brother was an honor and a blessing to me. Yet, there was an element of guilt in this for me. It felt a bit hollow merely to want to meet someone based on who they were related to. I grew curious about Bert himself. Who was he and what had he done with his life? In order to answer these probing questions I did what I always do when I have deep probing questions, the answers alluding me.
I Googled! "Bert Elliot, Peru."
What I learned was that Bert was not defined by who he was related to or what family he had come from. He was defined by his passion to glorify God and spread His Kingdom on earth. Soon, I couldn't wait to meet him because of who HE was, not because of who his brother was. (I wrote this post about Bert's life before I left for Peru...check it out if you have a moment!)
When I did meet he and his wife Colleen, I loved them immediately. Do you ever feel that way about someone? You just love them to death right away--want to throw your arms around them and hug them--even though on the outside you're being all formal and blasé , shaking hands, asking polite questions and all that? (If you think that's just strrrrange, maybe it's because I'm what they call a "Golden Retriever" personality type and you're what I call a "Cat". Heh!) I'm sure that, in spite of the kindness and hospitality I was shown when I was with them, I was just "another" of the countless visitors Bert and Colleen had received. For them there was probably nothing all that memorable about my visit, other than the fact that they repeatedly thanked me for my care of Elisabeth. But to me, it was incredible and I was in awe of these missionaries who had spent literally their entire married lives on the field serving Jesus. I soaked up their stories, perused old pictures, and enjoyed each conversation; each moment of my time with them.
Bert sat in his recliner for most of the time. Walking was slow and difficult. At times we wondered if his mind was tracking with the flow of conversation. Then, every once-on-a-while, his half-shut eyes would twinkle. His persistent grin would broaden. You knew he was tracking. :) I loved him for his sweet, gentle spirit. I loved him for the tears that gathered in his squinty eyes when we discussed Jim. I loved him for the affection and love with which he treated Colleen, his precious wife of 63 years. I loved him for his silent laugh and quick whit. Trapped in the old, worn out body of a man was the soul of a warrior for Christ.
On Friday, February 17th, 2012, Bert left earth and entered heaven. He saw the face of Jesus for the first time. He worshiped and adored the God he had served for some 70 years. He rejoiced with his loved ones gone before and marveled in wonder of no pain, no limitations, no old aching joints and protesting bones to hinder him from leaping and dancing and bowing before His Lord.
He left behind a strong-but-grieving wife. How do you go on and continue to live without the man whose partner and support you've been for 63 years? He left behind hundreds of believers in Peru who heard that Jesus loved them for the first time from his lips. He left no children, but many, many adopted children and grandchildren who called him "Abuelito." Pray for them.
At his funeral, these words--his legacy to those he loves--were read:
I, HERBERT IRONSIDE ELLIOT, realizing the uncertainty of this life, and with full confidence and trust in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in His death on the cross and shed blood as an atonement for my sins. And knowing that by faith in His sacrifice on the cross for me I have eternal life, leave to each of you my loved ones, my love for Jesus Christ and my trust in His amazing grace, wherein only can you also know the perfect assurance of the unspeakable joy, which now has become my inheritance. In giving this I retain it undiminished, and yet you each may have the whole. This joy, most precious in my life, I hope will be found to be your most precious legacy.