Friday, July 8, 2011

Lilias Trotter

Lilias Trotter was born in London in 1853, seventh child of a businessman.  She was tall and slender with large brown eyes, an active and orderly mind, and "a quality of selflessness which gave her a peculiar charm."  When she was twenty-three she met John Ruskin in Venice, who recognized her gift for painting and offered to give her lessons.  "She seemed to learn everything the instant she was shown it, "he wrote," and ever so much more than she was taught."  But her heart was elsewhere.  She had put herself, her gifts, her life at God's disposal, so it was a great disappointment to Ruskin and a surprise to others when she decided to give herself to missionary work.  She was criticized and even ostracized, but her enthusiasm was fed, not quenched, by scorn.

For some reason, North Africa awakened strange vibrations in her soul.  She heard what she believed was God's specific call, and in 1888 landed in Algiers, where she spent the rest of her life.  She was the founder of the Algiers Mission Band which later merged with the North Africa Mission.  She died in 1928.

She found in the plant life of the deserts the fundamental principle of existence-- that death is the gateway to life-- exhibited in a thousand ways, and painted them with her brush and watercolors.  Who is to say she was a fool for turning her back on home, the possibilities of marriage and perhaps an artists career (these, after all, were certainly God's good gifts)?  The last of her water colors in Parables of the Cross is that of the wood sorrel, springing from an apparently useless little pile of twigs and dead leaves.   She writes, "God may use ... the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessings of souls unknown to us:  as these twigs and leaves of bygone years whose individuality is forgotten, pass on vitality still to the newborn wood sorrel.  God only knows the endless possibilities that lie folded in each one of us!

A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot

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