Reading Which Glorifies God, part 2 Missionary Biography Suggestions

Reading Which Glorifies God part 2 – Missionary Biography Suggestions 

The missionary biographies below are among my favorites. I have a list of “Fifty Favorite” missionary biographies which I have read, learned from, and recommend to others.  Some overviews are posted in the Book Blurbs section of this blog with more coming in the future.  God has taught me a great deal through reading about struggles and victories these godly men and women experienced.  Many of these books are currently available in e-book format, some of them offered without charge.  I hope you will be able to find and read these books, or others like them, to the glory of God!

To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson

To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson chronicles the life of Adoniram Judson, one of the first missionaries to leave North American in obedience to God’s call.  He and his wife left New England in the early 1800’s with no promise of ever seeing home or family ever again.  Modes of communication were limited to letters or word of mouth; a letter could take up to a year to reach its intended recipient.  The Judsons ministered over six years to the Burmese people before one professed Christ.  All of the Judson’s children died due to illness or harsh living conditions, none of them surviving to school age.  Adoniram painstakingly learned the language, wrote it down, worked on a dictionary and laboriously translated the scriptures into the Burmese language so that these people could know the truth.  He was falsely imprisoned as a spy and tortured during a war in 1812.  Adoniram, starving, ill, and completely worn was released from prison just a few short weeks before his wife died.  After a period of great despair, new avenues of ministry were opened up to him and many confessed the Lord.

The life of Adoniram Judson reminds me of the following verses: Luke 14:26  If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he  cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:27 “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:33 “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

How I Know God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth

How I Know God Answers Prayer is a poignant, personal account of God’s direct dealing with the Goforth family during their years of missionary service in China.  Mrs. Goforth honestly lays out her own struggles with sinful attitudes that quenched or grieved the Holy Spirit and hindered prayer.  She reverently wonders at miraculous deliverance from the hands of murderous Chinese rebels (Boxers) bent on eliminating all foreigners.  God literally stayed the hands of these murderers on several occasions as the Goforths traveled by cart in their escape from the interior of China.   Weapons aimed directly at them glanced off, leaving little more than a scratch; when attacked by the rebels, Mr. Goforth was saved from a final death blow by a horse collapsing to the ground in front of him and separating him from his attackers. Strangers offered them protection knowing they would be killed instantly if caught aiding the “foreign devils.”  God did answer prayer and brought them safely through this ordeal.

On furlough in Canada, Rosalind recounts the many provisions of food, clothing, accommodation and unexpected gifts for herself, her husband and her six children.  At the turn of the century tinned foods and store bought clothes were expensive, so clothing was generally sewn at home and fruits and vegetables home canned.  Repeatedly God laid it on the hearts of various people to give clothes to, or offer to sew for, the Goforths as well as give them fresh and canned fruit and vegetables.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Goforth were engaged as speakers in various churches.  This schedule prevented Rosalind from sewing and canning as she needed so these provisions were a specific answer to prayer for her.

A particular time of testing came for Rosalind when her husband proposed moving their work further into the interior of China. Four of their children had already died and fearful for the lives of her remaining children in an unsanitary, disease-ridden area, Rosalind refused her consent.  Her husband admonished her and reminded her that the safest place for their children was in the will of God.  When she continued in her refusal, Jonathan warned her that he feared for the children. The next day a son became seriously ill, rallied, and then another child grew ill and died.

“In the moments that followed God revealed Himself to me in such love and majesty and glory that I gave myself up to him with unspeakable joy.  Then I knew that I had been making an awful mistake, and that I could indeed safely trust my children to him wherever he might lead.  One thing only seemed plain, that I must follow where God should lead.  I saw at last that God must come first.”

They began preparations for the move right away.   From that moment on her family suffered little sickness and the lives of their other children were spared.  We read in Matthew 6:33 “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”  Rosalind learned this lesson through these experiences.

Rosalind Goforth penned several other books which are well worth reading including among others:

1.  Goforth of China

2.  Climbing

3.  Miracle Lives of China

4.  Chinese Diamonds for the King of Kings

By Searching by Isobel Kuhn

By Searching opens to us the struggle of Canadian Isobel Miller as the world entices her from one direction and the Lord calls from another.  A bright intelligent girl, Isobel attempted to lead a worldly life and still have a Christian testimony. She learned through many hardships that God expects the believer to be holy and dedicated solely to Him without divided loyalties.  God brought a lovely older Christian lady into Isobel’s life.  This woman encouraged her in the things of the Lord, prayed constantly for her, gave her a godly example and kindly admonished her when necessary.  Isobel was able to attend a Bible college and had to trust the Lord to provide to pay her bills while there.  She felt this exercise in faith laid the groundwork for trusting the Lord while engaged in missionary service in China.  God called Isobel to China and later called her to marry fellow missionary candidate John Kuhn.  Isobel’s books are engaging compilations of her work among the Lisu tribe on the Chinese boarder.  Isobel learned as a young woman that “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Luke 16:13

Isobel’s other books include:

1.  Precious Things of the Lasting Hills

2.  Nests Above the Abyss

3.  Stones of Fire

4.  Ascent to the Tribes

5.  Green Leaf in Drought Time

6.  In the Arena

John Paton – an Autobiography

John Paton-An Autobiography is a two-volume read which allows us to look into the life of this Scottish missionary to the cannibals of the South Seas Islands.  Fervently believing God wanted him to give the gospel to those who had never heard, John Paton embarked on his missionary endeavors with great intensity.  His attempts to win the natives to the Lord were met with suspicion.  Repeatedly his life was threatened, his goods stolen, his health broken.  His first wife and son died from the tropical fevers so common in the area.  Various traders in their ships tried to stop Paton from evangelizing the islanders fearing it would affect their opportunities to trade on the islands. Yet John persevered and after a number of years many came to know the Lord.

Hudson Taylor by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor

Hudson Taylor by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor in its original form is a two-volume detailed account of the life of the founder of the China Inland Mission, James Hudson Taylor.  In a time when Europeans dressed and acted as Europeans wherever they lived in the world, Taylor’s decision to dress, eat and live as the Chinese was shocking.  Also shocking to some was his concept that God and God alone should be consulted for the means to live.  While still in medical school Hudson determined to live as ascetically as possible and to ask God only for things he needed.  He felt that he must learn to live by faith first in England or he would never be able to trust God in far-away China.  Taylor’s faith was stretched as he waited upon God to provide for him, and he found God faithful to meet every need.  From this early lesson grew the understanding that God could and would do amazing things for those who believe wholeheartedly in Him. Hudson Taylor reflected the truths found in Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Other good books by or about Hudson Taylor include:

1.  Hudson Taylor and Maria by J.C. Pollock

2.  A Retrospect by J. Hudson Taylor

3.  It Is Not Death to Die by Jim Cromarty

4.  Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by J. Hudson Taylor

It Is Not Death to Die: A New Biography of Hudson Taylor

Many biographies have been written about Hudson Taylor, including the excellent two-volume bio written by Taylor’s son and daughter-in-law and first published about 100 years ago.  Hudson’s great-nephew, A. J. Broomhall, later wrote a comprehensive 7 volume work on Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission. Others have written about Hudson Taylor and his first wife, Maria, about the CIM, and about the CIM martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion.  There have literally been thousands of pages written about the remarkable life and ministry of James Hudson Taylor.

It Is Not Death to Die:  A New Biography of Hudson Taylor by Jim Cromarty is a very good updated biography of Hudson Taylor, missionary to China from the mid 1800’s  to the early 1900’s, and founder of the China Inland Mission.  At 481 pages of text plus end notes, bibliography, and indices, the book is not a quick read.  Cromarty does do a very good job of synthesizing his research and information from previous published works into an easy to understand chronology of Taylor’s life.

As a young man Taylor studied to be a doctor in preparation for his ministry in China.  He lived an exceptionally frugal life to prepare himself for the privations he expected to face in China.  Taylor was convinced that he must learn to trust God while still in his homeland or he would struggle to trust the Lord once he got to China.  A man who walked with God, Hudson Taylor prayed about everything, and trusted that God would literally supply his daily needs.  He decided never to ask any man for financial support, but to cast himself solely upon God to meet all his needs. You will be blessed and amazed at God’s very specific provision for his servant when you read this book.

A British citizen, Taylor grew up in a time when British ways were held dear, even when her citizens lived abroad.  British subjects worldwide dressed, ate, and conducted themselves as much as possible as if they were still in the homeland. After arriving in China, Hudson Taylor quickly saw that the gospel of Christ would not easily move forward since the Chinese feared and avoided foreigners due to their strange appearance and conduct.  He made the controversial decision to live and dress just like the people he was ministering to.  Initially he was mocked, shunned and ridiculed for this choice – not by the Chinese, but by his own countrymen.  Almost immediately after he started dressing and quietly living like the Chinese people he found greater acceptance and increased freedom to preach the gospel.

There are several things I like about this book.  First, Cromarty quotes extensively from the original writings of Hudson Taylor, his family members, and those associated with the China Inland Mission.  To read in his own words the joys, struggles, and challenges of daily living in an unfamiliar culture helps the reader feel a sympathetic connection with this humble missionary.

Second, I like biographies that portray the whole person, weaknesses as well as strengths.  Though written from a sympathetic viewpoint, the book still shows us the frustrations, disappointments, character flaws, and troubles that were part of Hudson Taylor’s life.  Bottom line:  He was an imperfect man who loved God wholeheartedly and whom God chose to use.  This gives every one of us hope!

Third, I like the way Cromarty arranged the chapters so that the reader better understands how intricately the CIM and Hudson Taylor were woven together.  Taylor understood the necessity of face to face encouragement of missionaries on the field and frequently spent his own time, resources, and energy traveling to help, encourage, and mediate for CIM missionaries. He also traveled extensively around the world to represent the mission and ask people to pray for more missionaries for China.  In a sense Hudson Taylor was the CIM (or at least the face of it!) and the CIM was Hudson Taylor.

Fourth, I appreciated the child-like dependence on God that Hudson Taylor displayed. The CIM was a faith mission and Hudson Taylor never once asked for donations or took up an offering at a public gathering.  He asked God directly to provide and trusted that God Himself would move individuals and groups to supply the needs of the missionaries.  Hudson Taylor drew deeply from a close fellowship with the Lord.  By the end of his life Taylor had read through his Bible over 40 times.  He was always quick to pray about matters that concerned him and was equally as quick to offer praise for answers to prayer.

Finally, I was deeply moved by the sacrifices and challenges the missionaries and Chinese believers faced in order to preach the gospel to China’s millions.  Loneliness, deprivations, illness, persecution, abuses, lack of privacy, unsanitary conditions, interpersonal struggles, death, and even martyrdom faced many.  Yet they set aside personal comforts and preferences for the cause of Christ.  Hudson Taylor’s burning desire, and the desire of those who volunteered for missionary service in China, was to reach every inland province and every Chinese person with the good news that Christ died and rose again to save us from our sins.  For some that meant death, but these devoted missionaries believed as Henri Cesar Malan’s poem states, “It is not death to die.” (See hymn text at the end of this blog.)

James Hudson Taylor lived in close communion with the Lord he loved and served faithfully for over 40 years.  Most of his adult life was spent establishing, working in, and overseeing the China Inland Mission.  Reading this book will inspire and challenge believers in their walk with God.

Cromarty, Jim.  It Is Not Death to Die:  A New Biography of Hudson Taylor. Fearn, UK:  Christian Focus Publications, 2008.

It Is Not Death to Die
by H. A. Cesar Malan, 1787-1864
translated by George W. Bethune, 1805-1862

It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.

It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed by tears
And wake in glorious repose
To spend eternal years.

It is not death to bear
The wrench that sets us free
From dungeon chain, to breathe the air
Of boundless liberty.

It is not death to fling
Aside this sinful dust
And rise, on strong, exulting wing,
To live among the just.

Jesus, Thou Prince of Life,
Thy chosen cannot die;
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife
To reign with Thee on high.