Last month, I had a conversation with Michael Kelley about his book, Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. Michael tells the story of Bert Elliot, brother to missionary Jim, as an example of what faithfulness over a lifetime looks like. For those of us who are not “meteors streaking across the sky,” it serves as a reminder of how we can be a steady light for the gospel no matter where God has placed us.
Have You Heard of Jim’s Brother, Bert?
Jim Elliot’s story is a familiar one, but have you heard of Bert? I had not. But by God’s grace, I have now, thanks to a message given by Randy Alcorn fifty years after the men died on the beach in Ecuador. Bert is Jim Elliot’s older brother. He’s the one who isn’t famous.
He was a student at Multnomah Bible College in 1949, and he and his young wife were invited by a missionary to come to Peru and join the work there. Other than an occasional furlough, there they have stayed. Now in their eighties, they are still there.
According to Alcorn, if you Google Bert, you find less than seventy entries. But over the years, Bert and Colleen have planted more than 170 churches. And when asked to reflect on his brother, Jim, Bert’s response is stirring: “My brother Jim and I took different paths. He was a great meteor, streaking through the sky.”
Bert was not. He did not go streaking through the sky. Nobody lined up with their telescopes to watch his life. Instead, as Alcorn puts it, he was the faint star in the distance that faithfully rises night after night, always there. Always faithful. Always doing the same, boring thing.
Streaking Meteors and Faithful Stars
In the kingdom of God, there is a great need for streaking meteors, but most of us won’t be that. We will instead be faint stars—husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. We will be accountants and teachers, business people, and students. We will go through life, day after day, doing very much the same thing tomorrow that we did today.
The important thing for us to remember is that we are needed. There is a great need for people willing to chase the little donkeys of life, not because it’s exciting but because they believe in the constant presence and purpose of God. There is a great need for people willing to stand in the midst of the boring, convinced that there is no such thing as ordinary when you follow an extraordinary God.
Rise and stand. Then tomorrow, do it again.