It’s been almost ten years since beloved missionary, author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot passed away, and her spiritual legacy certainly lives on. For the first time, an exhibit showcasing her life and ministry is on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. It includes never before seen artifacts, photos and journals from her time as a missionary in the Ecuadorian rainforest.
CBN News recently toured the exhibit and learned the heart behind sharing this missionary’s remarkable story with visitors who come through the Museum of the Bible.
“My prayer is that they really look at Elisabeth as a woman, an ordinary woman that God had an extraordinary mission for,” Kathy Reeg, president of the Elisabeth Elliot Foundation, told CBN News.
The world first learned of Elisabeth in 1956 when her first husband, Jim Elliot, and four other missionaries were killed in the Ecuadorian rainforest, speared to death by Woudani natives – the very group God called them to reach.
Two years later, Elisabeth boldly returned to the Woudani tribe with her three-year-old daughter, Valerie, to finish the work God had led her husband to begin.
Reeg and the Elisabeth Elliot Foundation played a key role in creating the exhibit at the Museum of the Bible, and she shared with CBN News what she hopes visitors take away from the exhibit.
“I don’t want them to idolize her in any way – she would never want that. But she would want to lead them to the Lord, lead them to Scripture, lead them to what is true and how to live a life that is sold out to Jesus,” Reeg explained.
Elisabeth, little Valerie, and another missionary named Rachel Saint lived among the Woudani tribe for two years. Their decision to obey God in forgiving the Woudani and share the love of Jesus Christ with them caused a change throughout the tribe. One by one, members of the tribe came to know Christ and abandoned their violent roots to follow God’s truth.
The exhibit at the Museum of the Bible features never before seen artifacts from Jim and Elisabeth’s time in Ecuador, including their passports, their guestbook, and even Woudani spears similar to the ones that took the life of Jim Elliot and the other missionaries.
Also on display – the Woudani New Testament completed in 1992, made possible by Elisabeth’s work advocating for their education and creation of a writing system.
“I’m not following a woman, I’m following Jesus, but she was an example of a Godly woman that I think that we can emulate in that way,” said Reeg. “But she was just a normal person just like me, so what’s to say that if God can use Elisabeth He can use any of us.”
The Elliot exhibit comes amidst growing interest in her life as an influential writer and speaker. This summer, Crossway published a new Elliot biography and B&H Publishing will release part two of a separate biography this fall.
Reeg prays the museum exhibit will inspire both old and new generations of believers.
“It’s a prayer, not a dream come true, it’s a prayer – but it’s an impression that God put on my heart and it’s like this is the fruition of that. And to see it you just, you really feel the presence of the Lord here,” said Reeg.
Family members of the missionaries like Jim Elliot’s nephew Jim Hawthorne have also visited the exhibit. “It was a simple exhibit with profound messaging,” described Hawthorne.
While Hawthorne was born after his uncle passed away, he grew up hearing about his life and sacrifice, and he ended up marrying Elisabeth Elliot’s niece. While many artifacts weren’t new to Hawthorne, he became emotional describing to CBN News the impact of seeing them all in one place.
Jeffrey Kloha from the Museum of the Bible tells CBN News showcasing Elisabeth Elliot in their temporary personal stories exhibit was an obvious choice.
SEE the Museum of the Bible’s Exhibit: Through Gates of Splendor – The Elisabeth Elliot Story
“It’s just an amazing story of forgiveness and redemption and love, how could you not be inspired by that?” Kloha asked.
“There’s actually poison darts – we actually had to have them tested to make sure there’s not poison on them,” explained Kloha. “We don’t want anybody to get hurt, you know, in the making of the exhibit – that kind of thing. So you know it’s really cool that we’re able to show these off here for the first time in this beautiful museum and tell this amazing story here.”
The Elisabeth Elliot exhibit will be on display at the Museum of the Bible through January 2024 followed by a personal stories exhibit on the life and ministry of Billy Graham.