Len and Elsie Gill served in Bolivia for forty seven years among the Arona and Chimane tribes, witnessing and teaching, visiting seventeen to twenty one villages at least once a year instructing tribal peoples in God’s word They worked with the Chimane team in teaching courses three times a year at the Horeb center. The young students were taught Bible and educational skills such as math, science, health, etc. Both were born in 1937 in Montana and grew up there on farms around the Billings area.
Len was raised in a Christian home and trusted Christ at age three. However, it was not until about age fifteen, after hearing a NTM member speak at his church, that he came to understand the need to tell others about Christ. Elsie was from an unchurched home, although she was influenced by a godly grandmother. She went forward at a revival when younger; but because she did not feel any different, she did not take it seriously. It was not until an encounter on a street corner when she was sixteen that she came to accept Christ as Savior. She was stopped at a crosswalk watching the construction of a building when a postman came alongside and commented on how amazingly God created skills for men to use to build structures like the one they were observing. He then explained the Gospel to her, and responding to a deep longing in her heart, she accepted the Lord right there. He did not leave it there; he asked for her address. She gave it and a couple of days later he left a message at her house that should she want to attend church and Sunday school he would arrange a ride for her. She called him and he followed through. It turned out this church was where she met Len, and where they were introduced to NTM.
Their outreach involvement came through their Sunday school teacher who took them out door-to-door and witnessing on street corners. Elsie also taught Sunday school and was involved with child evangelism.
Before they married, Len and Elsie had decided separately to serve the Lord in missions. Through NTM speakers and presentations, plus Len’s brother Wayne who was already involved in the work, God led them to apply to NTM.
Len was committed to ministering to tribal peoples, but Elsie had yet to decide. While viewing pictures of missionary women protecting their heads with dish pans as they boated through dense overhanging tree branches filled with wasp nests to reach tribal peoples with the Gospel, did she commit, saying, “If God can give them the grace to go to this kind of effort to reach the unsaved, He will give it to me also.”
Challenges on the field abound, including being separated for six weeks right after Elsie had given birth. Len moved into the camp to build their house. The tribal people were friendly, but frightened of the missionaries. When the family was reunited, tribal men surrounded their camp with evil intent and they were very afraid. Len directed Elsie to head into the house and put herself and the children to bed. God in His mercy reminded her “the angel of the Lord encamps around them who fear him.” She fell asleep soundly in God’s peace.
There were difficult travel situations where God’s hand of protection was quite evident; and when He blessed them with innovative solutions to repair necessary equipment for themselves and helping natives by repairing their radios, etc, allowing them safe passage to villages where they were able to preach God’s word and teach basic educational skills. As a result, today there are churches among those villages as well as their own Christian radio station broadcasting in the major languages spoken in that large area of Bolivia.
They entered the field with the support of the church they had attended for so long. When that congregation dissolved, God provided another which has remained faithful.
Would they do it all again? “Yes!”