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Elisabeth Elliot’s unique perspective, story told in new authorized biography

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – The view from the audience is not always accurate and certainly never complete. And the same can be said of viewing the life of Elisabeth Elliot.

In the second volume of Elliot’s authorized biography, Being Elisabeth Elliot, releasing Sept. 12, bestselling author Ellen Vaughn leads readers through “the middle section” of Elliot’s life, which Vaughn describes as the most interesting and least known part of her life.

Before her death, Elliot, who had gained notoriety as an author and speaker, asked a friend to steward her story and seek out someone to write her biography, Vaughn said. Later, Elliot’s friend and family authorized Vaughn to share Elliot’s story with unique access to Elisabeth’s private, unpublished journals, and candid interviews with family and friends.

“It was a treasure trove of all of these materials that were the clues to: Who was this woman? What were her inner thoughts?” Vaughn said.

With journal entries, private papers and private correspondence in hand, Vaughn stewarded unique cooperation with Elliot’s family as she tells Elliot’s story in “Being Elisabeth Elliot.”

“What I loved in these private writings is you can really see the private person,” Vaughn said. “Elisabeth didn’t reveal a whole lot of that in public. And I found that I liked that private person very much, and I found her relatable.”

While writing this second volume, Vaughn said she experienced uncanny parallels between Elliot’s story of struggle and suffering and her own.

“We, like Elisabeth Elliot in her story, don’t know what’s coming. But God’s grace is absolutely sufficient day by day by day,” Vaughn said. “And that was the faith that sustained Elisabeth through significant suffering.”

In the first volume, “Becoming Elisabeth Elliot,” Vaughn chronicled Elliot’s journey from childhood to the mission field and her eventual return to the States. As a young missionary in Ecuador when members of a violent Amazonian tribe savagely speared her husband Jim and his four colleagues, Elliot, along with her toddler daughter and fellow missionary Rachel Saint, returned to live in the jungle with the people who killed their loved ones. Compelled by their friendships and forgiveness, many in the tribe came to faith in Jesus. Describing disappointments, hard relationships, loss and impossible lessons about suffering while too young, Vaughn sought to show the real woman behind the famed widow in the first volume.

But Vaughn wonders if readers have heard what happened after.

In this latest volume, Vaughn continues to pull back the curtain, sharing the heart of the woman who was no longer willing to conform to common ideals in the church that did not have biblical backing. While the most unknown to her audience, Vaughn said these years of Elliot’s life brought with them her highest joys and her greatest loss.

“I was surprised by new twists and turns in Elisabeth’s continuing story,” Vaughn said. “I think readers who think they knew the older Elisabeth will be surprised as well.”

In “Being Elisabeth Elliot,” Vaughn seeks to bring readers into Elliot’s life of navigating the world and contemplating what she coined as the “impenetrable mystery” of the interplay between God’s will and human choices, inviting readers to uncover how that strange mystery shaped the rest of Elliot’s startling life story.

“In the reading of it, I hope God will meet you where you are and give you a fresh sense of His love, His presence and His grace for you at such a time as this,” said Vaughn.

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Marissa Postell Sullivan is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.