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From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions Hardcover – Special Edition, August 29, 2004
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'This book, now better than ever, has no competition. No one has ever so ably, efficiently, and delightfully linked together the key personalities that portray so dynamically the story of the expansion of our faith from a handful of people in Jerusalem to the very ends of the earth. It is a must-read for all serious believers.' -- Ralph D. Winter, President
From the Back Cover
This is history at its best. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya is readable, informative, gripping, and above all honest. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya helps readers understand the life and role of a missionary through real life examples of missionaries throughout history. We see these men and women as fallible and human in their failures as well as their successes. These great leaders of missions are presented as real people, and not super-saints. This second edition covers all 2,000 years of mission history with a special emphasis on the modern era, including chapters focused on the Muslim world, Third World missions, and a comparison of missions in Korea and Japan. It also contains both a general and an 'illustration' index where readers can easily locate particular missionaries, stories, or incidents. New design graphics, photographs, and maps help make this a compelling book. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya is as informative and intriguing as it is inspiring---an invaluable resource for missionaries, mission agencies, students, and all who are concerned about the spreading of the gospel throughout the world.
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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!
Single Women in Missions
Gender discrimination in the late 19th century was met with some missionary activism, notably by Lottie Moon. Although some missions groups created entire "female agencies" (p. 232), the Foreign Mission Board had to contend with an independent streak in Miss Moon that caused a significant amount of contention with supervisor T. P. Crawford. Outspoken on women's rights and equality, Miss Moon wrote forcibly in her letters about the needs for single women to be treated on the same level as ordained men.
Her plight raised the question as to the effectiveness of a single woman on the mission field. There are some advantages to being free from family responsibility. But loneliness and depression often overtake singles. We don't know whether Moon ordained men to be pastors, but she did start churches. This is not necessarily acceptable in all cultures, so the role of a single woman serving under authority raises the question as to just how much can be accomplished without the presence of a man. Regardless of her poor interpersonal relationships on the mission field and aversion to mission authority, Lottie Moon was successful later in her mobilizing more women to go to the mission field. Working out a theology of missions based on Scripture demands some restrictions to be placed upon certain activities of women in church planting still today.
Evangelism Replacement in Missions
The story of John Mott and his insistence on the primacy of evangelism in missions became a sore spot for the work of the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM). If missions' "aim should not be conversion" (p. 273), then social ministry, anthropology or ecumenism replaces the unique claims of the gospel and thereby invalidates missions. But this liberal element that affected SVM during the early 20th century bled over into the mission field, and many missions efforts began to be defined by their benevolent work or student activity rather than by souls saved or churches planted. Unfortunately, there are still elements of this displacement today as missionaries question the validity of missiometrical reports on annual salvations and baptisms. Tucker inadvertently raises the issue of what constitutes real mission work if there is no gospel shared.
Nationalization in Missions
Yet another missiological issue that Tucker raises is the growing trend of nationalization among those who are being saved. MacGavran and Winter were key players in the late 20th century in the indigeneity debate. America began to transition from a colonialistic model of missions to more contextualized and indigenous work. Although this has been a welcomed change, it raises crucial questions regarding what elements the indigenous cultures will now throw into their own theologizing and missions endeavors. More missionaries are now embarking from what was once considered mission fields themselves, and they will be taking with them their own culturally controversial ingredients.
A major contribution of this book to missiology is not just the historical mini-biographies but the lessons that each teaches for future work. Issues like women's rights and the minimalization of verbal evangelism blush at the mention of some more recent cultural controversies of the western church. As the sending of missionaries is shifting from the West to other cultures, these new senders should become aware of and learn from the mistakes of the American past century. Hopefully, some errors can be avoided in doing so.