In 1952, Elisabeth Elliot set out to be a missionary in the jungles of Ecuador. She was young and determined, but often overwhelmed. She thought she was prepared for difficulty, but soon realized it is impossible to completely prepare for the hardships one would encounter living in primitive conditions on the edge of the jungle. She was also exchanging letters with a missionary named Jim Elliot who was working in another part of the country. She felt a deepening romantic attachment to him, and she wondered what God had in store for her in that regard.
It was a “one step forward, two steps back” process. She would start to make some headway with an individual, then a hardship would occur that seemed to undo everything she had done. She began to wonder why God was allowing these things to happen. Didn’t he want the gospel to spread? She had sacrificed everything to come to South America, couldn’t God help her out a little sometimes?
The theme of These Strange Ashes is learning to trust God when nothing seems to make sense. Many of the trials that occurred still don’t have any explanation. But her faith grew and she learned that the important thing was to persevere and trust.
This book is somewhat similar to her novel, No Graven Image. But though it’s obvious that her first year in the jungle was the inspiration for that novel, the stories aren’t the same.
I enjoyed this book. Nothing ended tied up in a neat bow, but life is rarely like that. It was a good reminder that our job is to trust, even when things don’t make sense.