FamilyLife Today® Podcast

A Love Story Lars and Elisabeth Elliot G

with | June 26, 2007
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  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

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A Love Story Lars and Elisabeth Elliot G

June 26, 2007
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 Year later she became a widow again, when her husband, Addison Leach, died of cancer.  And then Elisabeth met another man, Lars Gren.

Elisabeth: Through a very remarkable series of circumstances I found myself with Ruth Graham one time, and described this man, and waited to see what she would say about the possibility of an old woman like me getting married at such an age after having two husbands, and she just said, "Elisabeth, it just wouldn't surprise me in the least if God would give you exactly that sort of a man."

Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey.  This week we are featuring some great love stories, some classic love stories.  We're going to hear this week from Rick Warren and his wife, Kay; from Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband, Ken.  And this first classic we're listening to this week is from Lars Gren and his wife, Elisabeth Elliot.  They have been married 30 years this year.

 But we have been listening to a delightful story this week, as Lars has shared about how he moved into the house where Elisabeth and Addison were living and helped take care of Elisabeth as Addison was dying and helped take care of the property.  In fact, there were two young men who moved in as tenants.  One was Lars Gren, and the other was Walt Shepherd and, as things turned out, Walt Shepherd married Elisabeth's daughter, Valerie, and Lars Gren ended up proposing to Elisabeth, and it was a somewhat awkward proposal as we've already heard this week on the broadcast.

Dennis: That's right, and what you're about to hear is Elisabeth Elliot recounting what she was thinking as Lars was really proposing to her.

Bob: Stood there with the ring, and he said, "I'd like you to be my wife."

Dennis: No, it was, "I'd like you to be a wife."

Bob: I can't remember half of the things he said because I was weeping …

Dennis: … laughing.  As I mentioned yesterday on the broadcast, our listeners are really being ushered into a time of phenomenal laughter.  In fact, after this session, you're going to be convinced that Bob Lepine and Lars Gren need to go on the road.

Bob: We've already got the tour planned.

Dennis: With their own comedy tour across the country.  This was actually in front of our team that speaks at FamilyLife Marriage Conferences all around the country – husbands and wives joining us for a four-day retreat once a year.  We really brought Lars Gren and Elisabeth in to minister to them.  We had no idea it would take the turn that it did with so much laughter, and you're going to hear it right from the start, as you hear Elisabeth recounting what she was thinking as Lars proposed to her.

Bob: Let's listen together – here is Elisabeth Elliot.

[from audiotape.]

Elisabeth: I was just going to tell some of the things that had happened in my mind months before you actually did that.

Bob: Yes, please do.

Lars: Yes, I'd like to know, too.


Elisabeth: No, as I said, my mind was absolutely closed to the possibility of a third marriage, and as much as I liked Lars, a delightful man and somebody who would get Lars would be a very fortunate person, but I was not at all in the market for anything like that.

 Until one day we were just standing in the living room, and he denies the possibility that he could have ever said this, but I know that it was ipsum verba – exactly what he said to me that day.

Lars: Can you translate that? 


Elisabeth: He said, "I would like to be the one building the fences around you, and I want to stand on all sides."

Dennis: Whoa.


Elisabeth: Now, that totally transformed my vision of who this man was.  It was obviously a moment of inspiration – God-given inspiration because he can't remember it, he doesn't believe it, I said, "Look, I couldn't have made it up?"

Bob: What was that again?  "I want to be the one" – that's smooth, man.

Elisabeth: Building a fence – anyway, the next thing, the next straw in the wind – I didn't say anything, but it was just as if I flip-flopped as far as my vision of this man because very shortly thereafter I was convicted by the fact that God was saying to me, "You have not asked me one thing about this.  You just made up your mind that you were going to stay single the rest of your life."

 Well, then I had to get down on my knees and repent and say, "Well, Lord, I want to do what you want me to do, and how could I possibly have failed to at least mention this in prayer?"

 I was constantly comparing Jim Elliot to Addison Leach.  Jim could do a lot of things Ad couldn't do, Ad could do things Jim couldn't do, Lars could do a lot of things that Ad and Jim couldn't do, and so I was making these odious comparisons, and I opened my Bible and, lo and behold, it was staring me in the face – "men have different gifts, but it is the same Lord who accomplishes his purposes through them all."

 And through a very remarkable series of circumstances I found myself with Ruth Graham one time, and I just thought, "Now, here is a person – she's a wise, wonderful, godly woman, and I can tell her a little bit about this person without naming him or anything – just to sort of run by what she might think."

 And I described this man, and waited to see what she would say about the possibility of an old woman like me getting married at such an age after having two husbands, and she just said, "Elisabeth, it just wouldn't surprise me in the least if God would give you exactly that sort of a man."

 And so it was through Scripture, it was through prayer, and it was through the wisdom of an older person, and I had several other older people, too, that said the same thing.

Dennis: And so as he gave you the ring, and said he'd like you to be his wife …

Lars: She didn't say yes.

Dennis: What did you do?  First of all, what were you thinking as he brought the ring out?

Elisabeth: Well, the ring – it was a wedding ring, it was not an engagement ring, and he brought out this little square box, and my heart just sank.  I thought, "Oh, my goodness, what man would ever give a ring until he's at least proposed?"  And he brought out this wedding ring and told me right up front, he said, "This is my Swedish grandmother's wedding ring." 

 Lars is from Norway – well, he's half Swedish and half Norwegian, but he grew up in Norway, and so he said, "I just want you to know I'm not playing games," and that was another very strong impetus for me to think of him and the possibility of getting married.  Anyway, when he proposed I just said, "Well, of course, I can't possibly give you an answer now, but I will think about it and pray about it," and he was shocked that I did give him an answer as soon as I did.  What was it – how many weeks?

Lars: Well, it was in June, and then I kind of thought it might be September – August or September, because I was painting your kitchen, and you sent a letter about two weeks later, didn't you?  I think about two weeks.

 And so I got it by mail.  I didn't get an answer in person, I got it by mail.

Bob: She sent a letter?

Lars: Yes.

Bob: And what did it say?

Elisabeth: Yes.

Lars: I don't remember, I think she said …

Bob: Yes?

Elisabeth: I was living in a little cottage on Cape Cod, and he was painting my kitchen back in Hamilton.

Lars: I wanted a job.  The reason it was a job, it was pine-paneled, and I decided to paint it, so I stripped the wood down and then painted it.

Woman: Are you still working around the house?

Lars: Don't ask.


Bob: So you got the letter, Lars.

Lars: Yes.

Bob: And?

Lars: Well, I was very happy about it.  We didn't announce it.  We just kept it – I think we waited until Thanksgiving.

Elisabeth: We didn't tell anybody but just a very few family members.  We got married in December.

Lars: We got married in December, so we got – told everybody at Thanksgiving and I think it was – I don't know if somebody may have heard of Roger Nichole, he's a professor at Gordon-Conwell, and it was his wife who, I think, said that when the news came out the seminary roof blew off.

Elisabeth: Because I'd been married to a professor at the seminary, and now I was marrying a student.

Lars: Well, what can you do?  But I also got a lot from Dr. Leach, Addison Leach, the second husband – I got his bathrobe …

Elisabeth: You still have it.  It's in your suitcase.


Lars: And I'm wearing his watch.


 You know, Elisabeth, having been a missionary, you learn how to cut corners, as a missionary, and make do and try to be a little bit on the frugal side.  So when we got married, and I got the wedding ring, it did look a little familiar, and it's a nice one.  You can't see it back there, but it's kind of square on top.  Well, it's got "ELG" in there, but it's kind of not-very-deep letters, and the reason it's not deep, she had to grind off about a [inaudible] …


 The initials before was "AHL," Addison Harley Leach, her second husband.  And I told her, I said, "I wish I'd known you were going to do that, because I would have left his initials on, and it would have been a great conversation piece.


 And she didn't have to cut it, either.  We were the same size, the same ring finger, yup.

Man: What year [inaudible].

Lars: What year?

Man: Yes.

Lars: You mean for him or for me?


Bob: They're trying to figure out your life expectancy.  How long have you been married?  How long have you go to go?

Lars: Oh, no, I went by.  I'm two and a half times past eight years.

Bob: Whoa.

Dennis: They've been married 21 years.

Lars: Twenty-one years.


 It's gone by fast, too.

Dennis: I've been in a lot of interviews …


 … but if you would just sit with me for a few moments and think about how would you like to turn the corner from this conversation to some theologically penetrating questions?  I'm not sure that we need to, personally.

 We have something that – another little personal touch at this point that we would like to add.  You know, Elisabeth, there are a lot of people who probably wonder what's it like to be your daughter, and we've heard a little bit about what it's like to court you and be a good friend and, finally, a soulmate and a husband.  But we decided we would place a phone call to your daughter, Valerie, and ask her what it was like to be Elisabeth Elliot's daughter.

Bob: As you look back, growing up as Elisabeth Elliot's daughter, more pluses than minuses?

Valerie: Oh, definitely.

Bob: Like what do you think – when you think about it, what has been the most influential part of your mom's life on you?

Valerie: She spoke the truth to me always, always spoke the truth, and that was wonderful.  So I could count on her word, I was confident that she was telling me the truth, and if she had to punish me or if she had to tell me that something good was going to happen, I could count on it happening.  So she didn't ever make empty threats or empty promises.

Bob: Was she strict?

Valerie: She was just strict enough that – I never thought of her as too strict.

Bob: You didn't?

Valerie: No.

Bob: When you were a teenager, you didn't think, "I want it a different way.  I wish I had a different mom?"

Valerie: Not at all.  No.  The only little thing I remember us having a slight disagreement about was the length of my skirts, and this is 1971 and '72.

Bob: And what did you think was appropriate?

Valerie: Unfortunately, I wanted a little shorter skirt than she thought was appropriate.

Bob: Now, how old were you at the time?

Valerie: This was when I was about 16 and 17.

Bob: And a little shorter, like, above the knee?

Valerie: I'm not going to be too specific.

Bob: And where did you guys come to a meeting of the minds on this?  I mean, where did the skirts end up?

Valerie: Well, she probably allowed me to wear almost the style, maybe not quite as short as some girls wore, but I would say I’m doing it a little differently with my girls.

Bob: Do I have this right – your husband – you met him because he was living with your mother?

Valerie: Well, he was a boarder.  He was a seminary student, and my mother's husband had just died, and I had gone off to college, so my mother decided she needed someone else living in the house, and Walt Shepherd was the young man who moved in.  So she got to know him before I got to know him, and she was quite impressed with him, and so I got to know him when I got home, and I was impressed with him, too.

Bob: Had she been impressed with the other boys who had shown attention?

Valerie: No.  You mean, the ones who had shown me attention?

Bob: Yes.

Valerie: No.

Bob: Had you been impressed with any of those young men?

Valerie: There wasn't a serious enough relationship with any one of them that I was quite upset.  I wanted her approval, and I was thankful that when I got to know Walt, she was completely for him and gave us her blessing.  Really, I had very happy teen years.

Bob: When you think of the legacy that she has left to you, what's at the center of that?

Valerie: Besides speaking the truth to me, she always gave me the confidence and the encouragement that I was loved, and she always gave me the confidence that my father had lived solely for God's glory.  So I was always assured and comforted that someday I would meet my father in heaven.  And I think the greatest legacy was simply – well, there are so many things that are involved in it, but her love and her absolute clear teaching of the truth to me.

Bob: Well, we're going to get to spend some time with her here in just a few minutes, and you've got a chance to address her in front of the group.  Is there anything you'd want to say to them?

Valerie: Well, my mother is a wonderful mother, and I would say a perfect mother.  She has been a great influence on my life, and I am so thankful for her.  She's been such a blessing to me, and she still is a blessing to me.  Every time that I talk to her, every time that I write to her or hear from her, she wants to encourage me, and she wants to give me hope in the Lord, she always points me to the Lord, and I'm glad that you all get to hear her, and I am, again, just so thankful that the Lord has given me such a gift in a mother.

Bob: Valerie, thanks for taking a few minutes to be with us.

Valerie: You're welcome.

Bob: Appreciate it.

Valerie: Bye-bye, God bless.

[end audiotape.]

Bob: Well, we've been listening to Lars Gren and Elisabeth Elliot talking about their courtship, their romance, their engagement, their marriage, and it was great to hear Elisabeth's daughter, Valerie Shepherd, as she came on to honor her mom, Dennis.

Dennis: You know, it was so tender and sweet just hearing the praise of her mother and the impact she had had on her life as woman growing up, and now that she's a mom in the process of raising her family, and, Bob, it's just a great reminder for all of us, even in the midst of the battles we have with our children over the length of skirts and the movies they go to or don't go to, or how soon we let them date or drive or what their curfews are, that if we really hang in there and love them and raise them to know Jesus Christ, to experience Him and know the Scripture, that comes through loud and clear to our children.

 It's kind of alike a man mentioned to me here in the last couple of days.  He was speaking of a battle he was having with his 17-year-old.  He said, you know, one of us had to be the adult.  And I think we just need to be reminded, and Elisabeth Elliot and Lars have reminded us here again that God wants to use parents to raise children, and in the process He calls children to honor them and to obey them, and ultimately that honor does come back.

Bob: One of the tools you and Barbara have used in raising your children is Elisabeth's book, "Passion and Purity," and the follow-up book, "Quest for Love."  These books offer biblical guidelines for what relationships between two singles ought to look like as they move closer and closer to one another in pursuit of marriage.

Dennis: I would encourage any young person 14 years and older to pick up "Passion and Purity" to read it and, as far as that goes, single adults would certainly benefit from that book, too.

 But the other book, "Quest for Love," I believe is targeted primarily to older teens, college students, and single adults today, just to give them – Bob, a wholesome picture of what a godly dating relationship ought to look like.  I think many times singles today are losing heart and losing hope, and they're caving into the culture because they don't think anybody has ever withstood the pressure.

 And this book contains story after story of how singles have fought the culture and won.

Bob: Yes, it also includes some sobering stories of singles who caved into the culture and wound up experiencing some of the devastating, heartbreaking consequences. 

 We have copies of both books, "Passion and Purity," and "Quest for Love," in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if you are single or if you're the parent of a college student or a young single, these are great books to pass along.

 You can go to our website at  You'll see a red button that says "Go" right in the middle of the screen, and if you click on that button, it will take you to an area of the website where you can get more information about these resources, you can order them online, if you'd like. 

 Again, the website is, click that red "Go" button in the middle of the screen, and if you're interested in getting both of these books, we can send along at no additional cost the CD audio of what you've heard this week on our program – our conversation with Lars and Elisabeth Gren.

 If it's easier for you to call to request resources, call 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll make arrangements to have the resources you need sent out to you.

 There's one additional resource I want to mention, Dennis.  It's a book that you wrote earlier this year that a number of our listeners have already gotten a copy of, and some have started passing along to others.  It's the book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," and it's designed to help a dad know how you can be involved in protecting your daughter's purity as you raise her by engaging the young men who will come and express their interest in her.

 This is a very easy-to-read guidebook that coaches a dad on how to engage those young men in a candid, forthright, appropriate conversation before they start spending time together as a young man and a young woman.

 Now, we'd like to make this book available as a thank you gift this month when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  We depend on those donations from folks just like you who are able to donate from time to time.  That's what keeps this ministry on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country and, again, when you help with a donation this month of any amount, we'll be happy to send you as a thank you gift this book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date."

 You can donate online at, and if you do that, there's a keycode box you'll see there.  You type the word "date" into that keycode box, and we'll know to send you a copy of Dennis's book, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and, again, request a copy of Dennis's book, and we're happy to send it to you.

 Let me say thanks for your partnership with us financially.  We appreciate your support of this ministry, and we always appreciate hearing from you.

 Well, tomorrow we have another love story for you.  This is one that almost didn't happen.  Rick and Kay Warren are going to join us and tell us about a very short courtship and a very rocky first few years of marriage.  And some of you have heard Rick Warren say, "Mastercard saved my marriage."  We'll hear what he meant by that on tomorrow's program.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 


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