Monday, April 8, 2019

Book Review - Devotedly, The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot


Their paths to God’s purpose led them together.

Many know the heroic story of Jim Elliot’s violent death in 1956, killed along with four other missionaries by a primitive Ecuadorian tribe they were seeking to reach. Many also know the prolific legacy of Elisabeth Elliot, whose inspiring influence on generations of believers through print, broadcast, and personal testimony continues to resonate, even after her own death in 2015.

What many don’t know is the remarkable story of how these two stalwart personalities—single-mindedly devoted to pursuing God’s will for their young lives, certain their future callings would require them to sacrifice forever the blessings of marriage—found their hearts intertwined. Their paths to God’s purpose led them together.

Now, for the first time, their only child—daughter Valerie Elliot Shepard—unseals never-before-published letters and private journals that capture in first-person intimacy the attraction, struggle, drama, and devotion that became a most unlikely love story.

Riveting for old and young alike, this moving account of their personal lives shines as a gold mine of lived-out truth, hard-fought purity, and an insider’s view on two beloved Christian figures.


Born February 27th, 1955 in Shell Mera, Ecuador, Valerie was the only daughter of missionary parents, Elisabeth and Jim Elliot. They were missionaries to the Quichua Indians of the Amazon jungle. In January 1956, while attempting to reach the Waodani Indians (a primitive and savage stone-age tribe) with 4 other missionaries, Jim was speared to death. Elisabeth and Valerie continued to live with the Quichuas until miraculously they were invited to live with the Waodani tribe that had killed Jim. They lived with these Indians for 2 years in safety and contentment, as Elisabeth and another missionary, Rachel Saint, learned to speak the language and translated the story of Jesus to them. Most of them accepted the truth and said they would not kill anymore, and have not since that time.

Elisabeth decided in 1963 to move to the States in order for Valerie to receive an American education, and they lived in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In 1968, Elisabeth married Addison Leitch, a professor of theology and Presbyterian minister. Valerie attended and graduated from Wheaton College in 1976 with a BA in English Literature. She married Walter Shepard shortly after that and moved to live with him in Louisiana.

Valerie has spent 36 years being a pastor’s wife, raising 8 children, homeschooling, and teaching Bible studies.

Valerie and Walter’s ministry has been one of hospitality, leading prayer meetings, and learning to live in God’s grace with joy. She has spoken at many retreats for women and has shared some of the radio ministry, called “Gateway to Joy,” with her mother, on Back to the Bible Broadcasting Network. Valerie loves to teach, and was part of the team with her husband in Kinshasa. Walter and Valerie’s desire, ever since they were first married, was to go to the mission field, and Africa was always part of that dream. God opened the door for them to move to Kinshasa, DRC, in August, 2005, and they stayed until June 2008. Because of health reasons, they decided not to go back, but God moved them into a different American mission field- planting a church!


I really didn't know a lot about the relationship between Elizabeth Elliot and Jim Elliot. I was intrigued by this book and that it would go into their courtship and marriage. It's always so revealing when we read the letters of others.

They wrote eloquently of their love of God and of each other. They were torn between staying single and of their growing love for one another. There was a lot of back and forth for them as they knew they wanted to be missionaries and share the Gospel with others. They struggled with this dilemma for quite a while.

There are wonderful photos throughout the book and I really enjoyed that. It's so nice to see the people that you are reading about, their family, and friends. There is poetry that they wrote and since they used the pro-nouns thee, thy, and thou, it took me a bit to really get an understanding of these writings, but as I kept reading, it became easier. They were totally worth the effort as so much of their writings, even as young people, focused on their adoration and love for God.

These letters show real people struggling with real-life situations and emotions. As time has gone on, there has been the tendency to put these people up on a pedestal but that is not really fair. They faced the same issues and struggles that many of us do.

I really enjoyed this book. I felt like I came away understanding why they chose the life they did and how much they truly loved each other and God. It was a lovely book and I highly recommend it.

*This book was provided to me by B&H/LifeWay. I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this book.

Blessings - Julie

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