If you have been a consistent reader lately of my Jym Shorts, you know that I have been reading some missions biographies again, and you know that they are some of my favorite reading. I think I am a better Christian for having read many missions biographies. I know that may sound presumptuous. I am not saying I am the “best” Christian, but I do believe I am a “better” Christian, in that I have been challenged in many ways to seek the Lord more intensely as a result of reading about these men and women and the work they have accomplished. This week I will end my long emphasis in this area by relating to you some of the best missions biographies available, in no particular order:
*Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor: This biography shares the life and ministry of Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to China with both his first and second wives (his first wife died in China) in the middle to late 19th century. Taylor was one of the first missionaries to take the gospel into inland China. This was a life-changing read for me.
*To the Golden Shore by Cortney Anderson: Anderson shares the life and ministry of Adoniram Judson and his family to Burma in the early 19th century. Judson served in Burma for almost 40 years.
*Missionary Patriarch – The True Story of John G. Paton by James Paton: John Paton was simply amazing and as genuine a Christ-follower as you will ever read about. From his childhood to his over 40 years of laboring with cannibals in the New Hebrides islands of the South Pacific, his story and his mission will grip you.
*A Chance to Die by Elizabeth Elliot: Elliot, an amazing missionary in her own right, tells the story of Amy Carmichael, missionary to India and the hero of thousands of children whom she saved from the child temple prostitution of 19th - early 20th century Hinduism. Carmichael established the Dohnavur Fellowship, which to this day supports approximately 500 people with 16 nurseries and a hospital.
*The Shadow of the Almighty and Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot: Elliot tells the story of her husband, missionary Jim Elliot, in this first book through his personal journals, and then their story together in the second book of their mission to Ecuador in the 1950’s, which led to her husband’s death (along with four other missionaries) at the hands of the Auca Indians. Elizabeth subsequently returned to the tribal region and led her husband’s murderers to faith in Christ.
*Livingstone by Tim Jeal: Jeal weaves together a fascinating biography of David Livingstone, missionary and explorer into the heart of Africa in the early 19th century. Livingstone is a British hero, first for his passion for missions, and now for his exploration heroics. Livingstone was the first European man to gaze upon Victoria Falls and created roads into Africa that enabled future missionaries to penetrate into the interior of the “Dark Continent.”
*The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards: Edwards, arguably the greatest theologian in American history, tells the story of David Brainerd (through his journals), who took the gospel to Native Americans along the eastern seaboard and into what is now Delaware in the early 18th century. Brainerd died young, aged 29, from consumption, but not before he had shared the gospel with many hundreds of Native Americans who would never have had the chance to hear it had he not given up all to serve them.
*William Carey: Obliged to Go by Janet & Geoff Benge: William Carey, “the father of modern missions,” served in India and Bengal for over 40 years in the late 18th to early 19th centuries. He was not only a missionary, but a Bible translator, social reformer, and an astute observer and writer as an anthropologist.
All of these men and women had feet of clay. None were perfect. Nevertheless, reading their stories has been both an encouragement and a tremendous challenge to me. This is only a partial list of many, many good missions biographies out there. These just happen to be my favorites. I encourage you to take the time to read good Christian biography. To me, almost any biography is a good one, but Christian biographies teach me more about my faith, and the faith, than anything out there short of the Bible – which, incidentally, is filled with many mini-biographies. There is nothing like knowing the stories of real men and women who have lived out their faith in Christ, and persevered. Happy reading!
Grace and peace,