Undergraduate Research Scholar Studies Life of Missionary and Author Elisabeth Elliott

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Experience Helped Sarah L. Traylor ’18 Grow as Writer, Aspiring Historian and Christian

An image of Sarah Traylor reading a large Bible in GWU Dover Chapel.
Photo by Ethan Loveless

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Sarah Lauren Traylor, a biblical studies major at Gardner-Webb University, has admired the late Elisabeth Elliot and drawn inspiration from her books for several years. Last year while researching Elliot’s complementarian view of marriage, she was surprised that there was very little biographical information available on Elliott.

“She wonderfully exemplifies the motto of Gardner-Webb University, “Pro Deo et Humanitate” (For God and Humanity),” shared Traylor, a native of Staunton, Va. “Elisabeth Elliot was so wholeheartedly devoted to living by scripture alone, she held nothing back in devotion to her Lord and in sacrificial service for others. She not only spent years as a missionary to an unreached people group—continuing to live among them even after the murder of her husband—she dedicated her entire life to teaching both men and women how to live for God’s glory in many contexts.”

Traylor received a GWU Undergraduate Research Scholar grant to study and write about Elliot’s life. She was one of 13 students who participated in the program during the 2018 summer terms. Traylor plans to present her findings at GWU’s Life of the Scholar Multidisciplinary Conference in the spring and submit a scholarly essay to the Gardner-Webb Review and Alpha Chi’s journal Aletheia. Eventually, she would like to expand her research into a full-length published biography on Elliot.

After preliminary study of Elliot’s writings, personal journals, film clips and audio files of her speaking engagements, Traylor narrowed her topic to focus on Elliot’s views on Christian women in career. “Although I did not necessarily agree or disagree with her claims, I began to understand that there was so much to study even within this one area before I could draw any conclusions,” Traylor observed. “Although the results of my research were not as black and white as I had expected, facing that challenge helped me to grow immensely as a thinker, writer, aspiring historian, and as a Christian.”

Her mentor, Dr. Anna Sieges Beal, assistant professor of religious studies, helped her talk through ideas and challenged her to bring the information together in a thoughtful and meaningful way. “Her genuine interest and enthusiasm about my project helped me to stay excited and encouraged about the research from week to week,” Traylor affirmed. “Dr. Sieges Beal connected me with practical resources that were not only beneficial over the summer term, but will continue to be useful as I proceed in my research. Finally, she provided uniquely experiential insight as I focused on what it means to be a Christian woman.”

When she graduates in December, Traylor plans to teach at a classical school near her home in Virginia. In the future she hopes to attend graduate school. “Having had the opportunity to conduct an undergraduate research project will certainly be useful in the future,” she related. “However, regardless of future educational choices, having five weeks to dedicate to the study of one specific topic was amazing. Because of the intensity of the program, Summer Scholars taught me to be more diligent, disciplined, and driven in any pursuit of knowledge.”

Located in the North Carolina foothills, Gardner-Webb University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university that prepares students to become critical thinkers, effective leaders and compassionate servants in the global community. Emphasizing a strong student-centered experience and rigorous academics, Gardner-Webb is a place where Christian service meets inspired research. Ignite your future at Gardner-Webb.edu.