Reading other people’s mail is generally looked down upon and I do not usually encourage it. However, in Valerie Elliot Shepard’s “Devotedly” we are given the opportunity to read from the personal letter’s and journals of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. The two missionaries and well-known names of the Christian faith are more than just that to the author, they are her parents. Because of this, Shepard is uniquely equipped to not only to share these personal writings, but to comment on them, to give insight, and context.
The book follows the romance of Jim Elliot and Elisabeth Howard who would become Elisabeth Elliot. Each chapter is a year in their lives from 1948 to 1953. One thing I struggled with was the chapter sizes, I have issues focusing for long periods of time so when some of the chapters were around 50 pages each. Thankfully, each chapter is divided into seasons (Autumn, Spring, etc.) which makes for a good place to begin and end reading in a single sitting.
One cannot help but recognize the care that goes into letter writing. In today’s world we have texting, immediate access to whomever we wish to speak with. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but reading through these letters gives the readers a certain appreciation for their situation and being significant distances apart in a time when you couldn’t simply text someone whenever you felt like it. Something that has not changed is the way in which the written message is occasionally misunderstood by its recipient, though misunderstanding a letter could have taken weeks to correct. There were a few of these in the letters of Jim and Elisabeth which made for interesting reading. I enjoyed a portion in which Elisabeth had written commentary on the things Jim said in the margins of one of his letters.
Although they faced challenges of various kinds, from each other, themselves, family, and others, there is an unmistakable wholesomeness to their correspondence. The way they wrote letters with such care and affection, the way their entire relationship was Christ-centred is profound. One cannot look at how pure and admirable this relationship was and remain unmoved by their complete devotion to the Lord who brought them together.
Throughout the book are photographs and scanned letters that add something special to the book. Especially in the epilogue where we see the author herself as an infant in the arms of her parents. “Devotedly” is truly beautiful, the Elliots all so poetic with a deep love for God. Shepard most assuredly accomplishes her goal “If I could express my one hope for compiling this book, my prayer is that these entries of theirs would call us to search faithfully for God in His Word.”
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.