Wheaton magazine

Volume 19 // Issue 1
Wheaton magazine // Winter 2016
Elisabeth Howard Elliot Leitch Gren '48 (at right) with her daughter, Valerie Elliot Shepard '76 (at left), among the Quichua in Ecuador in 1958. "Look Mama, it's a pilipinto [butterfly]!" photo courtesy of the Billy Graham Center Archives

In Memory: Elisabeth Howard Elliot Leitch Gren '48

Elisabeth '48 with her daughter, Valerie '76, in the 1970s
photo courtesy of the Billy Graham Center Archives

I was born among the Quichua people in Ecuador, where my mother, Elisabeth, and father, Philip James Elliot ’49, were sharing the gospel with unreached people. Less than a year later, my father was killed along with four other missionaries while attempting to make friendly contact with the Auca people in the Amazon. The last thing my father said to my mother was, “Teach the believers, darling, we’ve got to teach the believers.” So my mother continued with the work he had begun.

My mother was able to write over 30 books about obedience, trust, and suffering because of her experiences, and her speaking was a gift to the thousands of Christians who heard her over the years.

In her last ten years with dementia, she was peaceful, and I saw that serenity frequently when we sang hymns to her. When she and I would sing together before the dementia set in, she would point out special lines that she loved. She knew hundreds of hymns, and I’m so glad she sang them to me throughout my childhood, especially at night.

My mother taught me to pray to our Father, always starting her prayers with “Dear Father.” I learned trust and contentment at her side. God’s tender shepherding of us and learning that his will is the most important thing to pursue in life were mentioned almost daily. I learned to laugh and enjoyed many funny, fascinating, and fortifying stories.

Now my mother has gone on to see Jesus Christ face to face, her faith being made sight. The absolute principle she lived by was to give any suffering to him, and I’m so thankful for her example. 

Elisabeth Howard Elliot Leitch Gren '48 died June 15, 2015. Elisabeth served the Quichua and Auca people of Ecuador from 1952-63. When she returned to the United States, she authored more than 30 books and traveled widely for numerous speaking engagements on the topics of obedience, trust, and suffering. Preceded in death by her first husband, Philip James Elliot ’49, and her second husband, Addison H. Leitch, Elisabeth is survived by her third husband, Lars; a daughter, Valerie Shepard ’76; eight grandchildren including Elisabeth Shepard Martin ’03; four great-grandchildren; and siblings David Howard ’49, Philip Howard ’50, Virginia Howard Sohn ’55, Thomas Howard ’57, and James Howard ’62.