Some of the best mentors in my life have been missionaries who I have never met… missionary biographies that have gripped my heart; that have inspired me to let go of my more petty ways…that have made me realize that I really do have the best job in the world.
I’m teaching a class tomorrow at Fuller on one of my very favorite missionary mentors, Irene Webster-Smith. Last week, when I was teaching about the life of Henrietta Mears, several members of the class asked me for a list of some of my favorite missionary biographies, so this is what I have prepared to give them tomorrow. I’d love to hear your favorites, and keep adding to this list!
1. Sensei – the Life of Irene Webster Smith Irene was an evangelist with strong pioneering skills; worked within mission agency but found creative ways to pursue her vision without usurping mission leadership authority
2. In the Arena – the life of Isobel Kuhn The best overall missionary biography I know that deals with the real life issues of a missionary adjusting to challenges of overseas life; continually reminds us that we are in God’s arena for the world to watch and know who God is.
3. By Searching: how God led Isobel Kuhn into missions Great for missionaries struggling with obstacles to raise support, change the hearts of their family members. Extraordinary faith and extraordinary reminder of God’s ability to come through in unique ways.
4. Mountain Rain – the story of F.O. Frazer This biography will bring you back on your knees with a desire to pray more and take faith more seriously.
5. Created for Commitment – the story of A. Wetherell Johnson, founder of BSF Originally a missionary in China, Johnson is a great study for those with strong word gifts; and those whose intended course is changed midway. God has continued to use her Bible skills to make Word-centered leaders.
6. Amy Carmichael – any biography about her life; particularly Elizabeth Eliot’s A Chance to Die; Frank Houghton Amy Carmichael of Donovour In my 20’s I read every book and devotional by and about Amy that I could find. She continues to remind me that suffering is always part of the course; and that we can never love too much. Her life and writings have been a major influence on many modern missionaries. (And she spent her first year in Japan!)
7. Elizabeth Eliot’s autobiographies; story of Jim Eliot Shadow of the Almighty; Through Gates of Splendor One of the best-known missionary voices in the past thirty years, Eliot has seen her share of suffering, and yet her works call our own lives to holier living. Her two biographies about her first husband’s life and then the consequent ministries will remind us that we are still surrounded by missionary saints.
8. Corrie Ten Boom: Tramp for the Lord; This is the story of what happens after Corrie’s internment in a concentration camp…when she becomes a global itinerant missionary. This book inspires me to faith like none others.
9. Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees by Thomas Hale I have just recently read this, but it is filled with wonderful tales of a missionary doctor and his family ministering in Burma. It is real; it raises real issues for missionaries; it reminds us of the place for humor in the challenges of missionary life.
10. Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret; Hudson Taylor’s Growth of a Soul This was my mom’s favorite book; it draws the reader into greater surrender as modeled by this missionary great.
11. David Brainerd missionary to American Indians – heart for evangelism and amazing conviction
12. Gladys Aylward The Small Woman missionary in China; Hollywood movie Inn of the Sixth Happiness made about her life
13. Eric Liddell several biographies are around of the Olympic champion runner who went on to be a missionary in China with unwavering faith). Shantung Compound by Longdon Gilkeyis a story by an expat taken into captivity by the Japanese in China during WWII that is a fascinating reflection the nature of human beings- missionaries and others- who had to survive in challenging circumstances. The only person in the book who exemplifies Christ-like living is Eric Liddell (although his name is different in the book, it is clear who the author is talking about
14. Borden of Yale, the life of William Borden A wealthy young man who fought against the pulls of the world to serve God whole-heartedly, continuing to influence his academic colleagues. His young death inspires us to make each day count.
15. Dream Big- The Henrietta Meares Story Henrietta had amazing influence over many of the Christian greats of the past few decades – Billy Graham, Bill Bright, etc. She lived life with zeal; modeled the importance of Word-centered teaching; and is a great model and teacher for anyone working with youth today.
13. Goforth of China A missionary biography about a couple’s struggles and triumphs in China that could make a great adventure movie or a poignant love story.
14. Peace Child by Don Richardson A great classic missionary tale that reminds us that even in the most savage, remote locations the truths of the Bible surround us.
15. Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger An absolutely amazing but true story of a young 20-year old who leaves everything to go behind the walled city of Hong Kong to prove that the love of Jesus really is stronger than any sin or bondage. You will be amazed by her stories. I went to Hong Kong and tried to hear her speak because I was so inspired by this.
16. In the Presence of Mine Enemies by Gracia Burnham The most modern account I know of missionaries who were taken hostage in the Philippians, and struggle to find God in the midst of their daily challenges.
On my List to Read this Summer:
Evidence Not Seen – Darlene Rose
To the Golden Shore – Judson
Climbing by Rosalind Goforth