Top positive review
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on June 6, 2016
I received this recommendation from this list of top 10 missionary biographies which is worth checking out!
I'm not sure how many "biographical histories of Christian Missions" are out there but I'm pretty sure there aren't many as comprehensive as this one. The author works exhaustively through the centuries concluding with the well known names of Brother Andrew and Don Richardson. She highlights people and organisations of note describing a little of their early life, ministry; successes and failures and culminates with their various legacies.
The common trait of most of these missionaries was their dedication and single-mindedness to the cause that they had set about, whether that be direct evangelism or health-care and education (with a view to sharing the Gospel.) These pioneers often were seen as lone rangers or as having an "independent spirit" resulting in rejection by both their organisations and often their peers, but they had the strategic vision and determination to "get things done." Most of them paid little attention to what others said or thought about them and continued labouring faithfully in the work they believed they had been called to. Many died on the field. They were often not easy people to get along with (or work with) and were often stubborn and sometimes dictatorial. Many of them abandoned families and children when these became an obstacle to the work which they saw as the greater priority. It is easy to judge such people from a distance and to highlight flaws and inadequacies but maybe we should ask where we would be without the groundwork these missionaries have laid and without the wealth of mistakes (providing learning experiences that we can utilise.) The author rightly makes the obvious point that; missionaries are not saints, they have the same imperfections as the rest of us.
This book picks out those of particular interest to the author but I think she has done a good job at including a broad range of characters from a historical perspective. I would have liked to see a clearer distinction between Catholic and Evangelical missions/missionaries and the Gospel message being explained clearly in relation to this; that a person can only be saved through faith in Jesus and not by works. Although I realise it is difficult to do this in a historical account but I felt that there was an ecumenical feel about this book at times. I also sensed the author's leanings towards women's rights and equality in the church through her writing. This was a disappointing aspect for me as, regardless of my own views of male headship, I think that a biographical (and historical) account if it is to portray events in an accurate and unbiased manner shouldn't be used to promote something that isn't relevant to the topic. I see from further research that the author has recently gotten herself into hot water by publishing further books where she makes her views even more dominant.
Having said that it was an enjoyable and interesting read and probably a fairly unique book as it no doubt involved a large amount of research and study. I was sad to note that the author herself believed she was called into foreign mission at a young age but became distracted by life and never went to the field. She ends on this note, comparing herself to a female relative who obeyed and went. She seems to be saying through this final chapter that a person can make as much difference at home as they can by actually going to the field. I agree with this but believe it is more about where God calls an individual to serve and obedience is vital if one is called.
Recommended for all Christians and especially those interested in mission. I read it in a few sittings out of necessity as it is a library book in a foreign country i am visiting.... but I wouldn't recommend this as it can become overwhelming and a lot of the stories/factual information become irrelevant during a straight read-through. It is probably more useful as a text book/manual for research or to find recommendations of other biographies to read!