Australian missionaries Jocelyn and Ken Elliott, both in their 80s, had been running a hospital for some four decades in the town of Djibo in the West African country of Birkina Faso when they were captured by an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group over a month ago and are believed to have been held in neighbouring Niger. A spokesman for that country’s President said Mrs Elliott ‘was freed following mediation led by the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, and presented to the press in Dosso.’ He added that efforts to release her husband, who worked as a surgeon, were being intensified.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Elliott says their work has been meeting a need physically, but their ultimate aim is to show the love of God.
The fate of Dr Elliott is not known at the time of writing (13 February) but many are praying for his soon release and ability to take up again the cause so dear to his heart.
Meanwhile Mrs Elliott has expressed her love for these poverty-stricken people and her desire to return to Djibo and restart the work as soon as possible. She joins a noble company of missionary wives determined to continue their husbands’ work. There was that other Elliot family, Jim and Elisabeth. Some 60 years ago Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully and Roger Youderian went out to reach the Huaorani tribe of eastern Ecuador. All five of the men were killed by the tribe and martyred. Elisabeth Elliot went back with Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel Saint. Elisabeth, with her daughter Valerie, stayed a short while but Rachel stayed all her life. In time they rejoiced to see the conversion of the very men who had killed Elisabeth’s husband and Rachel Saint’s brother. Their eyes had been opened.
Then there were Gladys Staines and her daughter Esther. Graham Staines, one of the Lord’s choice saints, and his little boys Philip and Timothy were martyred one night in India by an enraged Hindu mob who set fire to their vehicle as they slept in it while attending a Christian convention. Gladys and Esther went back to Mayurbhan, and for a number of years continued the work among lepers in which the family had been engaged.
Long ago, at the dawn of the Reformation, William Tyndale made a translation of the Bible into the English language of his day. For his pains Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned, tried for heresy and treason in an unfair trial, and convicted. Tyndale was then strangled and burnt at the stake in the prison yard, on 6 October 1536. His last words were, ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.’ This prayer was answered three years later, in the publication of King Henry VIII’s 1539 English Great Bible – and the rest, as they say, is history.
In today’s world, ‘the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 4.4). And therein lies the tragedy – that adherents of other religions, as well as adherents of none, are so blind to the goodness and love of God as seen in the labours of His faithful servants that they remain blind, ‘lost and dead in (their) trespasses and sins’, and will not see the boundless love of God in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our earnest and concerted prayers must be that the Lord will open the eyes of all who are blind in their minds ‘so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’. We must pray that they would turn from their wicked ways to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and receive the blessings of belief; not forgetting to pray that all who labour for Him will stand firm in their faith and ‘will not grow weary in well-doing, but know that in due time they will reap a reward.’
— Bob Thomas