When I was in college, I heard an older woman speak about the impact that reading missionary biographies had on her life. Then the church that my husband and I joined after we were married (which, incidentally, this lady also belonged to) had a Ladies Missionary Prayer Group which included, in its monthly meeting, a “book report” of sorts about a classic missionary biography.
Next to the Bible and being under good preaching regularly, I believe that reading missionary biographies has had the greatest impact in my own Christian growth. I think most missionaries would not want to be put on a pedestal or thought of as some type of super-Christian. In fact, the ones I benefit from the most are the ones whose biographies reveal they are “of like passions as we are.” (I think some older biographies tended to venerate their subject so much that they seem almost sinless. It must be hard for a biographer to want to put their subject in the best light and to want to avoid sounded gossipy by including negative things. Yet sometimes a “warts and all” type of biography tends to go too far the other way. I’m sure it is hard to strike the right balance.) Yet I’ve learned much from the examples of those who have gone before, whose lives have been shining testimonies to God’s grace. I listed some of my favorites in a previous post.
We learn history for a number of reasons, among them: to better understand our current times, to appreciate our heritage, to avoid repeating mistakes. There are heroes in our national history who inspire us to a love of country and duty and courage. There are heroes of our spiritual heritage who inspire us in love and dedication to God and to greater faith in remembering that the God they served and loved and Who provided for and used them is the very same God we love and serve today and Who will provide for us and use us. Though times and culture change, human nature at its core doesn’t change much, and God never changes.
An idea came to mind a few days ago to share some of the things I’ve read about these “heroes of the faith” in hopes that they would in turn encourage you. I thought for the next week or so I would post a series about answers to prayer. As I’ve thought back through some of the other things I’ve learned and been blessed by through reading missionary biographies, I’ve come across other anecdotes I’d love to share; but I decided for now it would be best to stick with the original idea.
The following poem is recorded in the front of Rosalind Goforth’s, book, Climbing, and it illustrates my viewpoint in reading missionary biographies. The author is unknown.
If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back-
It will cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.
Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when forest’s roots were torn;
That when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill.
He bore you up and held where the very air was still.
O friend, call back, and tell me for I cannot see your face;
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.
But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky-
If you have gone a little way ahead, O friend, call back-
It will cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.