Listening In preview – Ellen Vaughan


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next, a preview of Listening In. This week, host Warren Smith talks to New York Times bestselling author Ellen Vaughn. Her latest project is a biography of missionary Elizabeth Elliot. Her husband, along with four other missionaries, were killed in 1956 by members of the Auca tribe in Ecuador. The media attention catapulted her to international prominence.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: For her biography, Ellen Vaughn had unparalleled access to Elizabeth Elliot’s journals and personal letters. Through this very private lens, Vaughn captures a very different side of one of the 20th century’s most well-loved evangelical authors.

ELLEN VAUGHN: But I think what I loved and what I related to was her journey from being a very dutiful, know all the right answers in your head, raised in the Christian home, knows all five verses of every hymn, every scripture verse, who also being very intellectual in her faith. That person who maybe had been living a bit in legalism, and then in Ecuador, all kinds of stuff breaks loose.

And it’s not just Jim Elliot’s violent death, it was other deaths that happened to Elizabeth Elliot in the jungle–that are mostly revealed again, in these journals. And the sense of “wait, God is not the picture I had in my head. He is far more mysterious.” This life is not just a matter of, “Oh, well, God did this. So A and B, and C and D could happen…” and it’s all tidy and we see the glorious triumphal ending for the kingdom.

She really bucked against that tide, that spinning of the story, that sadly, can be in human nature, and certainly was expressed a lot in in sort of the triumphal missionary stories of the 20th century. So what I loved–what surprised me–was her humanness. Her foibles, her weaknesses, and at the same time her, her liberating discovery of who God really is, apart from just the images.

BASHAM: That’s Ellen Vaughn talking to Warren Smith. To hear their complete conversation, look for Listening In tomorrow wherever you get your podcasts.


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