Book Review: Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees

LoquatI saw Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees: The Adventures of an American Surgeon in Nepal by Thomas Hale mentioned at Lou Ann‘s, put it on my TBR list, and just finished it recently.

Thomas open his story with the realization of his need for Christ, even though he would have said he was a Christian before that. After truly believing on Jesus for salvation, he spent much time in the Bible as it opened up to him. He “asked God what He would have me do. I was disturbed by Jesus’ statement to His disciples: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ I didn’t seem to be able to tone down that passage. It meant to me that if I was going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, I had to go all the way, to hold nothing back, to give my entire life to God. That was a tall order, as I’ve found every day since.”

God eventually led him to prepare to go to Nepal as a surgeon, and along the way, led him to his wife, Cynthia, who was training to become a a medical missionary as a pediatrician.

Just two months before heading to Asia, their mission informed them that they were being sent not to the large hospital in Kathmandu that they had been expecting, but rather to a “small fifteen-bed hospital located out in the hills, a day’s journey from Kathmandu…still under construction…” without “even a road to it.” The change in situation would mean a completely different atmosphere: rather than a large, well-equipped hospital with culture and entertaining nearby, they’d be going to a “tiny, ill-equipped rural outpost” and a “crude, mud-walled house, where our neighbors would be illiterate and unkempt hill people.” “Cynthia made her biggest adjustment to life in Nepal right then and there.”

We might have been tempted to think how lucky Nepal was that we had come. After all, there couldn’t have been many fully trained surgeons and pediatricians in that little kingdom of twelve million people. That attitude, however, would have been the worst we could have harbored. Indeed, we had been warned of the harmfulness of such an attitude, warned that even a trace of superiority would create a barrier that would repel the friendliness and goodwill of any Nepali we met. At the same time we found that rooting out our deep and often hidden feelings of superiority–feelings of importance, of being advantaged on background and education, of having so much to offer–was no easy task.

One problem this entailed before they even left was the supply of surgical equipment that would normally be supplied by a hospital, but of course would be impossible for the small hospital they were going to. Hale details the miraculous way God provided for a multitude of equipment.

It’s fascinating reading of their trials in just getting to their hospital and home, landing on an “airstrip” that was not much more than a field, the difficulty of getting carriers for all of their things (including a piano, which the natives were not impressed by), accidentally killing a cow, which was considered the same as killing a man “and drew the same penalty–eighteen years in prison–if the crowd didn’t get you first,” adjusting to insects (“if you think you can kill ants faster than they can be hatched…don’t count on it”), learning to love the people, dealing with mistrust of the “foreign doctors” at first to eventually have the opposite problem of being overrun with people and needs. He shares many case studies and lively stories along the way. He shares, as well, many things he learned about himself and about living for God:

It took a mild-mannered and uncritical animal to make me see in myself those negative attributes that I had always attributed to other American surgeons. Facing two hundred angry men proved to be effective therapy for removing most traces of condescension with which I previously might have regarded them. It also improved my relations with missionary colleagues and with Nepali brothers and sisters in the church. I guess God had no gentler way of removing some of my imperfections; I only wish I could say, for His trouble, that He finished the job. But it was a start.

Much time and energy can be wasted on matters that are, at best, trivial.

The key to successful ministry will lie in their ability to assimilate that culture and to free themselves from the attitudes and prejudices of their own. They have been warned about the inevitable feeling of superiority, paternalism, disdain, impatience, and frustration that they are sure to experience and to which they previously may have considered themselves immune. Finally they have been told that the course of their entire missionary career will ultimately depend on one thing: their day-by-day, step-by-step walk with God.

Many times a worker arrives in a foreign land only to discover he doesn’t love the people quite as much as he thought. They are different; their ways are different. And the new missionary quickly learns that survival depends on his ability to adjust to the new people among whom he plans to live; he adjusts to them, not vice versa.

To give unwisely demeans and creates dependence; to give wisely takes time, which is scarce, and wisdom, which is scarcer.

When medicine is given free, patients often sell it instead of taking it themselves; they’d rather have the cash.

We find it comfortable to sit back, fold our arms, and mutter to one another, “All they have to do is repent.” But is that what Christ did when He rose from where He was and, with unfolded arms, came into the world to minister to us? Taking Christ’s example, we need to minister to the world in every way we can. Each Christian, before God, must find out where his or her duty lies.

Love is the one quality the world can discern that sets Christians apart and makes Christianity distinct from every other religion. If we fail to act on this truth, we will lose our right to be heard and will enter the post-Christian era for good.

The only way we know to help our Nepali friends in a lasting way is to put them in touch with the God who is the source of love and who sent His son Jesus into the world to demonstrate it.

Those early disciples had only two fish and a few loaves, but they gave Him all they had. Is this not His word to us today—to give Him all our loaves and fishes, to give Him everything we have? Then, who can say what He would be able to accomplish in our time through us?

Some of the hardest parts to read are those where the hospital had to cut corners because of the overwhelming demand on their time and resources. I don’t know if I could have made some of the decisions they did, but then, I’ve never been in that situation. They did rescind some of them after a time.

Though I wouldn’t agree with just every little point in the book, overall I found it quite an interesting and eye-opening account and really enjoyed it.

(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

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It’s been a few weeks since I have had time to share, but here are some thought-provoking reads discovered recently:

How to Repent Without Really Repenting.

For the Woman Who Is Simply Weary of Serving.

10 Ways to Overcome Spiritual Weariness.

How to Move On When You’ve Been Betrayed.

Invent a Ministry. HT to Challies. Love this. One of my themes is that ministry isn’t always in an official church-sponsored activity. It’s being available for God to use you all throughout the day. Another is the “Someone should…” or “The church should…” mentality, forgetting we ARE the church. I’ve been thinking about a possible blog post along these lines.

Unavoidable Tantrums. Good thoughts here.

12 Things That Every First-Time Dad Should Know.

Have This Conversation Before You Send Your Baby Back to School. I wouldn’t say, “Don’t strive to do your best,” but otherwise very sound advice.

The Dramatic, Adrenaline Soaked Life of a Missionary, or, It’s Not Like You Read in All Those Classic Biographies, and That’s OK. From a missionary we know in real life.

What It’s Like When You Publish a Book. Interesting thoughts on the type of people God uses (clue: messed-up ones, because that’s the only type available).

Sticking With It, on reading long books with dull spots, either personally or to children. I don’t think the author is advocating for never putting a book aside, but I like the analogy that life is going to be that way sometimes.

25 Ways to Ask Your Kids ‘So How Was School Today?’ Without Asking Them ‘So How Was School Today?’ HT to The Story Warren. I had to learn this with one child who would always just answer, “Normal.” I don’t think I used any of these, but I did learn to ask specific questions.

Finally, this cute little boy, his reaction to hearing he is going to become a big brother, and his accent are all adorable:

And this was sweet: an orphaned kangaroo hugging a teddy bear:

Happy Saturday!

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Here are some thought-provoking reads from the past couple of weeks – maybe you’ll find one or two of interest:

My Father Killed My Mother. “How am I supposed to keep the command to honor my father when all I really know of him is that he hurts people to the point of shattering the very next command about murder?”

A Pastor’s Response to the Death of a Childhood Abuser.

What Missionaries Aren’t Telling You (And What They Need From You)

When Your Heart Isn’t In It. “Do you really think that avoiding worship will be the means by which your heart will changed, prepared to engage in worship?”

How Much of My Sinful Past Should I Share With My Children?

The Duggars and the Evil Outside, HT to my friend Ann. You may be getting tired of all the posts about their situation, and I have been mainly staying out of it since I don’t watch the show and only know what I’ve heard, but I thought this made an important point: We can try to shield children from all the evil “out there,” but we still have a sin nature in our own hearts that we have to learn how to deal with. Then just this morning I saw an article on an interview with Jill and Jessa Duggars that “The media coverage has been 1,000 times worse than the incident.

Korean Artist Beautifully Illustrates What Real Love Looks Like. These are sweet.

And, finally, I think I may have posted it before, but I saw it again recently and it still cracks me up:

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It has been almost a month since I’ve shared links that I have found interesting for one reason for another, so I hope you’ll forgive a longer list this time, and I hope you find something of interest among them:

Twenty-One Grains of Wheat. A must-read about the 21 people killed by ISIS.

An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians. Ways any of us can minister to others.

How to Make the Most of Your Bible Study.

Intimacy or Familiarity. Sometimes it is good to read large portions of the Bible to get the overall view, sometimes it is good to hone in on a smaller passage for a longer time. Love the truth that Bible study doesn’t have to be either/or, but that we need both.

23 Things That Love Is.

What My 9-Year-Old Taught Me About Being Willing to Follow God Into Uncomfortable Places.

How to Spot Mean Girls at Church, and How Not To Be One.

When To Overlook a Fault. This is something I’ve struggled with – when to confront and when to overlook.

When Pain Enters, HT to Lisa. Setting aside the Calvinist/non-Calvinist arguments over which so many disagree, there are some good thoughts from one in pain about how God uses it.

Praying For Adult Children.

Spurgeon on Christians Who Rail Against the Times. HT to Challies. Of course we observe the times and interpret them in light of what the Bible has to say, but I do get frustrated with those Christians whose constant theme is harping about how bad the times are. Evidently there were those even in Spurgeon’s day. I love what he had to say: “What have you and I to do with the times, except to serve God in them?” “We must not be “Woe! Woe!” Christians. We must be “Grace! Grace!” Christians.”

Gentle Fiction: What It Is and Why I Write It. I had never heard the term “gentle fiction” before, but it perfectly describes the kinds of books I most like to read.

Forty Portraits in Forty Years, HT to Challies. One photographer took a photo of four sisters once a year over 40 years. Fascinating to see the progression.

Adding Beauty. Love this philosophy of decorating and making home “homey.”

Why Missionaries Hate Airports from my real-life friend and missionary, Lou Ann. I always love glimpses into aspects of missionary life that we might not have thought of or realized.

Dear Moms: It’s OK to Be Unremarkable. Nothing wrong with gleaning neat ideas from Pinterest, posting pictures on Facebook, or making 3-layer cakes, but the point is well-made that we don’t need to “compete” in all these areas.

Are You Too Sensitive?

Six Reasons Your Husband May Not Like Your Women’s Group.

Dear Mom…Worried About Your Daughter’s Reading Material?

Emotional Vertigo.

7 Principles of Sabbath Rest.

God Makes One Baby Boy “Different” To Save Hundreds of Others.

And in the “You think YOU’VE got snow” category, Kathie, one of my FFF friends in Prince Edward Isle, showed 16-foot snow banks in her area and shared this funny clip:

Too much snow for me!

Hope you have a great day!

 

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: The Last CIM Missionaries in Communist China

In 1950, Arthur and Wilda Mathews and their 13 month old baby, Lilah, traveled to Hwangyuan, China. China had fallen to Communism, and other missionaries were leaving, yet the Chinese church had invited them to come, with the approval of the Communist government. They felt this was a miraculously opened door God would have them go through. Yet, when they arrived, they could sense that all was not well. The Christians pastors who met them were strained, and they discerned that between the time of their invitation and arrival, the Chinese learned that association with the white people would be a liability under Communism, not a asset. The Mathews then thought perhaps, if they could not be a help to the church, they could endeavor to evangelize the unreached Mongols in the area and nearby. They had a few weeks in which to minister, but soon found that they were restricted in ways they could help. They endeavored to set up an inn with which to reach the Mongols, but Chinese troops took it over the day before it was to open. Arthur protested, but soon found it would have been wiser to have said nothing. In two days a policeman came to the mission compound to announce that no one there could do village work without permission, and the white people were forbidden everything: they could not have meetings outside the compound, they could not give out tracts or dispense medicine. They were restricted to the mission compound.

They finally decided that since they were more of a hindrance than a help, they would apply for exit visas. They thought, since the government did not want them, they would be allowed to leave quickly, and so gave away or sold dishes, curtains, etc., keeping just the bare minimum to function until they could leave. Arthur was summoned to the police station and asked to sign a statement that he was for world peace. He had heard of another missionary having to sign some document before leaving, so he signed without thinking much of it. The government official then asked what contribution Arthur was then willing to make toward world peace, outlining a plan in which Arthur would go to India and essentially be a Communist spy. Arthur realized that the Communist definition of world peace was a world dominated by communism, and of course could not consent.

A government official called Arthur in and promised his exit visas if he would do something for them, like write a report of five other missionaries. At first Arthur did write glowing reports of the missionaries in question, but someone told him he dare not turn that in: the Communists would change what he had written but keep his signature. So Arthur threw his report in the fire and told the official he could not be a Judas. The official then told him that he could have given him a pass, if he had cooperated, but now a charge had been laid against him which must be investigated, and “investigations take a long time.”

Thus began a two and a half year ordeal. Their provisions from their mission were frozen by the government, which made Arthur submit a report of what he would need, and then they doled out to him much less than what the report said he needed. Every victory they mentioned in a letter seemed to be immediately challenged by the enemy of their souls: once when they wrote what a blessing Lilah was, she then came down with scarlet fever, and they almost lost her. All of them had turns being ill. Eventually they were told that no one could speak to them, and they could only leave home to draw water from the creek and get food.

They wrestled with the “what-ifs” and the frustration of what they called “second causes,” finally coming to the conclusion that they had to trust that the Lord was in control and had them there for a reason, though it was hard to discern that reason when they were so restricted. Yet the Lord did use them even when they could not speak to the people. The few weeks they had had to minister before restrictions set in, people knew their hearts and saw their love. When the Mathews could no longer speak openly, the people saw them in tattered clothes, persecuted, attacked by illness without much medical aid, laughed at, jeered, humiliated, doing menial, degrading work just to survive, tantalized by the government offering release and then not giving it or doling out money that was theirs in the first place. They saw the Lord provide miraculously for them in many ways. Yet more than that, they saw them endure graciously and joyfully until, finally, the Mathews became the last CIM missionaries to leave China.

Green-Leaf-in-DroughtHow the Lord provided for them and ministered through them in unexpected ways are some of the most exciting parts of the book Isobel Kuhn wrote of their story titled Green Leaf in Drought. She says,

But most amazing of all was their spiritual vigour. Whence came it? Not from themselves: no human being could go through such sufferings and come out so sweet and cheerful. As I was in a small prayer meeting… one prayed thus: ‘O Lord, keep their leaf green in times of drought!’ I knew in a moment that this was the answer. Jeremiah 17:8: “He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” That was it! There was an unseen Source of secret nourishment, which the Communists could not find and from which they could not cut them off…That is needed by all of us. Your drought may not be caused by Communism, but the cause of the drying up of life’s joys is incidental. When they dry up — is there, can we find, a secret Source of nourishment that the deadly drought cannot reach?…Is it possible for a Christian to put forth green leaves when all he enjoys in this life is drying up around him?

The answer, by God’s grace, is yes!

(Reposted from the archives.)

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

31 Days of Inspirational Biographies: Rosalind Goforth Learns Submission

I mentioned in yesterday’s post a little book by missionary Rosalind Goforth called Climbing, one of my all-time favorites. She and her husband were missionaries to China from1888-1936. She had written his biography, and then by request wrote Climbing about missionary life and furlough from her perspective. I think one thing missionaries would want us to know is that they are not “super-Christians,” but rather people “of like passions” as we are, and this humorous incident in Rosalind’s life illustrates not only that but also the importance of being consistently in God’s Word so it can speak to you.

The following is the most notable incident connected with this habit of memorizing Scripture. I give it, for, judging by the effect it has had upon men and women to whom I have told this story, it touches a vital point in the relation of husband and wife. It certainly brought to my husband and myself a lesson never forgotten.

Our children were all away at school. We were together carrying on aggressive evangelism at a distant out-station. The room given to us was dark and damp, with the usual mud floor. The weather, had turned cold, and there was no place where one could get warm. I caught a cold. It was not a severe one, but enough to make me rather miserable. The third or fourth day, when the meetings were in full swing and my organ was taking an attracting part, I became possessed by a great longing to visit my dearly loved friend, Miss H., living at the Weihuifu Station, some hours run south on the railway. But when I told my husband what I had in mind, he strongly objected and urged against my going. I would not listen, even when he said my going would break up at least the women’s work. But I was determined to go and ordered the cart for the trip to the railway. As the cart started and I saw my husband’s sad, disappointed, white face, I would have stopped, but I wanted to show him I must have my way sometimes!

Oh, what a miserable time I had till my friend’s home in Weihuifu was reached! Miss H. gave one glance at my face and exclaimed: “Whatever is the matter, Mrs. Goforth! Are you ill?”

My only answer was to break down sobbing. Of course I could not tell her WHY. Miss H. insisted on putting me to bed, saying I was ill! She made me promise to remain there until after breakfast.

The following morning, while waiting for breakfast, I opened my Testament and started to memorize, as usual, my three verses. Now it happened I was at that time memorizing the Epistle to the Ephesians and had reached the fifth chapter down to the twenty-first verse. The twenty-second, the first of the three to be memorized that morning, read: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord.” I was, to say at the least, startled! Somehow I managed to get this bravely memorized. Then going on to the twenty-third verse, these words faced me: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.”

For a moment a feeling of resentment, even anger, arose. I could not treat this word as a woman once did, putting it aside with the remark: “That is where Paul and I differ.” I believed the Epistle to the Ephesians was inspired, if any portion of Scripture was. How could I dare cut out this one part to which I was unwilling to submit? How I managed to memorize that twenty-third verse I do not know, for all the while a desperate mental struggle was on. Then came the twenty-fourth verse: “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

I could not memorize further: my mind was too agitated. “It just comes to this,” I thought, “Am I willing, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, to submit my will (in all but matters of conscience) to my husband?” The struggle was short but intense. At last I cried, “For CHRIST’s sake, I yield!” Throwing a dressing gown about me, I ran to the top of the stairs and called to my friend, “When does the next train go?”

“In about half an hour,” she replied, “but you couldn’t catch it and have your breakfast.”

“Never mind; I’m going to get that train!”

My friend insisted on accompanying me to the station; we ate as we almost ran. With what joy I at last found myself traveling northward!

On reaching my destination, imagine my surprise to find my husband, with a happy twinkle in his eye, standing on the platform!

“Why, Jonathan,” I cried, “how did you know I was coming?”

His reply was simply a happy, “Oh, I knew you would come.”

Later I told my husband frankly all I had passed through. What was the result? From that time, he gave me my way as never before, for does not verse 25 of the chapter quoted go on to say: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” A new realization of the need of yieldedness came to us both, which brought blessed results in our home life.

I don’t think she is saying at the end that her little adventure “paid off,” but rather that God used the incident and their conversation together to open both their eyes to each other’s needs.

Though I am sure it wasn’t funny at the time, I always find this story humorous and I am glad she “told on” herself in her book. But beyond the incident itself, it shows how the Lord can guide and correct us when we are regularly in His Word.

(You can find this book on sale at Amazon and various places, but the text is also online here.)

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: Young Mother Trying to Find Time For Bible Reading

The following is another excerpt from Climbing by Rosalind Goforth, which I have mentioned the last couple of days and  many times before. This book shares a very human view of a woman after God’s own heart who also was “of like passions” as we are.

A devoted Christian missionary, Mrs. S, was holding a series of special meetings for our Christian women at Changte. On one occasion, this dear woman, who had no children, told me that I could never have the peace and joy I longed for unless I rose early and spent from one to two hours with the Lord in prayer and Bible study.

I longed intensely for God’s best — for all He could give me, not only to help me live the true Christian life but also for peace and rest of soul. So I determined to do what Mrs. S. had advised.

The following morning, about half-past five o’clock, I slipped as noiselessly as possible out of bed. (My husband had already gone to his study.) I had taken only a step or two when first one and then another little head bobbed up; then came calls of, “Mother is it time to get up?”

“Hush, hush, no, no,” I whispered as I went back, but too late; the baby had wakened! So, of course, the morning circus began an hour too soon.

But I did not give up easily. Morning after morning I tried rising early for the morning watch, but always with the same result. So I went back to the old way of just praying quietly — too often just sleeping! Oh, how I envied my husband, who could have an hour or more of uninterrupted Bible study while I could not. This led me to form the habit of memorizing Scripture, which became an untold blessing to me. I took advantage of odd opportunities on cart, train, or when dressing, always to have a Bible or Testament at hand so that in the early mornings I could recall precious promises and passages of Scripture.

In another place she writes of finding at the last minute that the woman who was supposed to speak at a certain function couldn’t, and she was asked to. She nursed the baby with one arm while looking through her Bible and jotting notes as she could with the other. When Jonathan came through and saw her, he wondered how she could possible get ready for a meeting under such conditions in so short a time. She replied that if she’d had hours to work on it, she would have taken it, but she trusted God would give her just what she needed in the time available.

A few pages later she writes that sometimes she got out a concordance and her Bible to study out something which she needed help on at the time. She ended up with forty outlines resulting from her studies which the Lord used first in her own life, and then in talks to other ladies.

I expanded on this theme of trying to have devotions with young children in the house in an earlier post titled Encouragement For Mothers of Young Children. I went through quite a spiritual slump at one point due to a lack of spending time with God, and He showed me some ways to do so at that super-busy time of having little ones that wasn’t my usual routine, wasn’t even a setting where I would normally “get anything” from his Word, but He enabled me in those times. I hope perhaps it will be an encouragement to some of you in that stage of life – or any stage.

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: Ann Judson, Brave and Faithful

Every missionary has to have dedication and has to be willing to make sacrifices, even in our day. But the amount of dedication and sacrifice and willingness to step into the unknown displayed by Adoniram and his wife and the small group who stepped out with them just amazes me. His wife, Ann Hassletine (also called Nancy) is one of the bravest women I have ever read of, going into the great unknown as she did and facing all that she did in later years. The letter Adoniram wrote to ask her father for her hand in marriage in July of 1810 is an atypical proposal, but frank:

I have not to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next Spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls, for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God?

He was not being melodramatic: he was being realistic. It says a lot about Nancy that she accepted such a proposal, especially as it was written only a month after they had met. It took her two months to respond.

Adoniram and Ann were among the first missionaries that we know of that America sent out. I wrote about Adoniram’s biography, To the Golden Shore, last year, but this time I want to focus on Ann.

Ann had come to saving faith in Christ as a teenager, and since that time had developed a strong sense of reverence and dedication to God and a desire to be useful in His service. She would not have taken such an offer as Adoniram’s lightly. She consented and married him more than a year later.

Theirs is one of the most fascinating and, in many ways, heartbreaking stories in Christendom. They sailed for India with a few others. They left as Congregationalists, but during their months at sea their study of baptism in Scripture led them to become Baptists. This step of what they felt was obedience was also a step of faith, as it meant they would no longer be supported by the Congregationalists. Whatever your feelings about modes of baptism and denominations, it says a lot about their character that they would follow through with what they believed to be right as a matter of conscience even though it would cost them in many ways.

Through a variety of circumstances too long to tell here, they ended up in Burma (now known as Myanmar) rather than India. During they voyage Ann had delivered a baby which died and was buried at sea. They labored for six years without a convert and worked on translating the Bible into the native language. Within a year after that first convert, they had baptized 18 Christians. Ann opened a school for women and children. Another son was born and died.

Adoniram was imprisoned for a year and a half due to circumstances too long and detailed to go into here, but involved the Burmese misunderstanding of Adoniram’s banking situation, and they thought they money he was receiving for support from the British, with whom they were at war, meant he was a spy. Ann faithfully visited, bribed the guard so she could see Adoniram, brought him food and encouragement, smuggled his Bible translation work to him a hard pillow, repeatedly appealed for his release, and did what she could to relieve the suffering of the other prisoners as well. When Adoniram and other prisoners were forced to walk barefoot 8 miles to another prison, Ann took her baby daughter and followed. She wrote to her brother around this time, “But the consolation of religion, in these trying circumstances, were neither ‘ few nor small!’ It taught me to look beyond this world, to that rest, . . . where Jesus reigns and oppression never enters.” She fell severely ill with smallpox and spotted fever, and Adoniram was able to nurse her back to health when he got out, though she remained weak. Some time later she contracted another fever she could not fight off. She died at the age of 36, and her baby daughter died soon after.

She had wanted to be  “useful,” and God certainly did use her throughout her life and since. After her death God worked through a book she had written about the early mission work in Burma to inspire interest in missions. He works through her biographies today to encourage us to a closer walk with God and closer dedication to Him. To the Golden Shore naturally has much about her as well as Adoniram, and My Heart In His Hands: Ann Judson of Burma by Sharon James tells Ann’s life story primarily through her journals and letters. Unfortunately it is not in print, but used copies can be found for just a few dollars (somebody needs to work on getting some of these books on Kindle!) Some years ago I read The Three Mrs. Judsons by Cecil Hartley, but I don’t remember much about it. It is available online here. In looking for that one I came across Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons by Arabella Stuart that is free for the Kindle: I haven’t read it but just ordered it. It is also available online here.

The title from Sharon’s book comes from a journal entry of Ann’s after she accepted Mr. Judson’s proposal:

If nothing in providence appears to prevent, I must spend my days in a heathen land. I am a creature of God, and he has an undoubted right to do with me, as seems good in his sight… He has my heart in his hands, and when I am called to face danger, to pass through scenes of terror and distress, he can inspire me with fortitude, and enable me to trust in him. Jesus is faithful; his promises are precious. Were it not for these considerations, I should sink down with despair…But whether I send my days in India or America, I desire to spend them in the service of God, and be prepared to spend an eternity in his presence. O Jesus, make me to live to thee, and I desire no more.

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

 

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: Margaret Paton, Missionary to Cannibals in the South Sea Islands

Margaret PatonI wrote last year about John Paton, a missionary to the New Hebrides in the 1800s and a great man of God, who is the source of one of my all time favorite missionary quotes. Before he went to the field, some regarded him as foolish for going to minister where there were cannibals. To one man’s warning about his potential fate, he replied, “Mr. Dixon, you are advanced in years and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms. I confess to you that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether my body is eaten by cannibals or by worms.”

Some time ago I happened upon a book titled Margaret Paton: Letters From the South Seas, which, as its name implies, is a collection of letters that John Paton’s wife sent out over the years. The letters were written primarily to family back home, though there are a few to other individuals. They are quite long, but that is because they did not have the opportunity to send and receive mail very often. Since they were written to family, they contain more personal glimpses and anecdotes than a prayer letter to supporters would, and Margaret (or Maggie, as she signs herself) often had an amusing way of telling them. But there were also times of tragedy and perplexity that they experienced, and Maggie’s letters convey the situations and the wrestlings of heart they had in trying to discern the Lord’s will and His grace through every trial.
Rather than trying to summarize the whole book, I just want to give you a few excerpts here and there.

Maggie was John’s second wife: his first wife and son had died of malaria on the island of Tanna. When Maggie first came to the island with John, he pointed out “that Sacred Spot [the grave of his wife and child], so indelibly photographed on his memory. Oh, how I longed to spend a quiet hour by the grave of her whose footsteps I feel so unfit to follow, and who met her trials so unshrinkingly and alone — alone, so far as regards female companionship and sympathy!”

They were going to another island to labor and dropping off fellow missionaries at their respective islands on the way. On one island, “Great crowds of people came to look at us, as I believe we are the first white women who eve landed on Fotuna. The ladies were, in consequence, very curious to have us examined properly; and they went about it in a business-like way, as I can testify from the pokes and thumps received. They always felt themselves at the same time, to see how far we were alike. Poor things, they had yet to learn that we were sisters, resting under the same penalty and equally in need of and entitled to the same Saviour.” Then she mentioned having to “escape” when “their examinations” became “rather too minute.”

One thing that some missionaries struggle with, especially in primitive areas, is whether their living arrangements should be just like the natives or closer to what they are used to. There is no one right answer: it depends on the place, the people, health issues, and the leading of the Lord in each circumstance. The Paton’s home would have been nothing really like European homes, but Maggie writes, “I am trying my best to make it the prettiest and most inviting home I know — as refined, as civilized, and as nearly what we have been accustomed to, as our limited resources will permit. We must not let ourselves ‘down’ because we are among Savages, but try rather to lift them up to our Christian level in all things. One’s home has so much influence on one’s work, and on life and character; and it is due to our two wee boys to make it a bright one…it is no part of my creed to believe that…everything pleasant in sinful.” She then writes that, before she left for the field, one lady told her, “that missionaries’ wives were expected to live and dress in the most primitive way, and to set an example of great gravity and solemnity, else they would get to be talked about.” After wrestling with the “old Adam” in her, Maggie “controlled myself to retort, that in my Bible there was no separate code of rules for missionaries’ wives, any more than for other Christian gentlewomen.” She then wonders “that any one can be blind to the fact that our kind Creator has given us such wealth of beauty in Nature.” He could have made everything just useful, yet He chose to scatter beauty and charm throughout creation. This could probably be a separate post, but it all comes back to balance: I’ve read other stories of missionaries trying to find the right balance. I’m thinking of Isobel Kuhn in particular, who had some nice things from her wedding in her new home in a primitive area of China only to have them ruined by such practices the people then had of blowing their nose in their hands and then wiping them on the (new!) furniture, or letting babies use the bathroom on the beloved rug. She had to learn that though it isn’t wrong to “nest” or have nice things, it’s wrong to let them have priority over people’s souls or the work they were called to. I don’t think Maggie went too far the other way, but I’m just offering the other side of the balance for perspective.

In struggling to learn the language, she writes, “How the Apostles must have appreciated the gift of tongues on the Day of Pentecost! I wonder if it was accorded to their wives as well!” She writes how “provoking” it s to think you’ve mastered enough to converse a little, only to see them “looking at each other wonderingly.” “I got Mr. Paton’s help in any great difficulty — though he did not at all times enjoy the interruption, especially if the point in question turned out to be only about a needle and a thread, while he had been called away” from his work.

To some children who had given toward the Dayspring, the mission ship that transported people and supplies to the islands, she wrote, ”Now, if I tell you how really grateful all the missionaries are to the children who give their money so willingly to keep the Dayspring in nice order, and how the little vessel actually helps to keep the missionaries alive, as well as those so dear to them, by bringing them food and medicine and all they require, I am sure you will not grudge having denied yourselves many little gratifications to help in so important a work.”

There is a section I wish I had space to include answering some who criticize a missionary having a family. “The life of the Christian home is the best treatise on Christianity — a daily object lesson, which all can…’read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.’” She also has a good section answering the comments some make that “ seem to grudge a man of burning enthusiasm and magnetic eloquence going to the foreign field, as if it were so much power and genius being wasted.” She argues convincingly for sending our best to the field.

I’ll forewarn you that there is a bit of perspective that’s not what we would think of as politically correct by today’s standards but I think is probably common for the times.

All of this comes just from the first third of the book! There’s so much more I wish I could include. I hope I’ve inspired you to read it for yourself.

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: Mimosa

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Sometimes people who work in children’s ministries can get discouraged due to the seeming lack of fruit or the fact that they have some children just a few times and then never see them again. Mimosa by Amy Carmichael tells the story of a little girl who was marvelously changed by just a short encounter with the gospel.

When Amy Carmichael was a missionary in India she learned that some little girls were sold to the temples for immoral purposes. Whenever she could, she tried to rescue these girls, to talk their parents into letting them stay with her instead. One such little girl was named Star. She had been with Amy for a while when her father came, bringing her sister, Mimosa, with him, to try to take Star back. He met and talked with Amy and Mr. Walker, the director, and at one point even stretched out his arm to take Star — yet he felt he could not move, that some strange power was preventing him.

Mimosa saw this. Some of the workers had a short time to talk with her, not even time enough to present the gospel completely. Mimosa asked her father to let her stay: he would not hear of it.

Those who had met with Mimosa longed for her: she seemed intelligent and interested. They lamented that they had not had time to tell her more. “How could she possibly remember what we had told her? It was impossible to expect her to remember……Impossible? Is there such a word where the things of the Lord are concerned?”

Something of what she heard about a God who loved her stayed with her. She knew instinctively she could no longer rub the ashes of her family’s god on her forehead, as was their custom. The women in the house thought her naughty or “bewitched” and beat her with a stick. She was bewildered, but she knew God loved her, in spite of all she could not understand of her circumstances.

After she was married at age seventeen, she found she had been deceived by her husband’s family: He was “landless [and] neck-deep in debt.” It was no shame to be in debt: in that culture: “”If you have no debt, does it not follow that no one trusts you enough to lend you anything, and from that is it not obvious that you are a person of small consequence?” But Mimosa’s character could not endure it, though she had never been taught against it. She encouraged him to sell the land in her name, the only piece of land he had that he had given as a dowry, to pay off the debt, and then suggested they would work. He was amazed at such a thing, but agreed. His unscrupulous elder brother suggested they start a salt market and that Mimosa sell her jewels to get them set up: he would take care of it. He instead somehow misused the money. She gave some money to her mother to keep for her, but then her mother would not give it to her when she asked for it: her mother was angry with her over the loss of the jewels that had been passed to her. “Let thy God help thee!” she told her daughter.

Mimosa went out to pray: “O God, my husband has deceived me, his brother has deceived me, even my mother has deceived me, but You will not deceive me…Yes, they have all deceived me, but I am not offended with you. Whatever You do is good. What should I do without you? You are the Giver of health and strength and will to work. Are not these things better than riches or people’s help?….I am an emptiness for You to fill.”

Thus her life went. She was a derision because she would not worship the false gods or engage in idolatrous practices. She worked hard because her husband would not. There were times when she was weak and could not work that God worked in unusual ways to provide for her. She had three sons; then a snake bite left her husband blind and crazy. In a couple of instances she received a bit more information about the God she loved, and she clung to it and to Him.

Meanwhile, Star was concerned for her sister. She felt led to write to her and prayed someone would read the letter to Mimosa. A cousin did read it to her, as often as Mimosa asked him, but neither of them thought to write back to Star, so she and the ladies of Dohnavur were left to wonder and pray.

A mysterious illness which took the life of one of her sons caused the neighbors to torment her further with their words. They felt it was all her fault since she would do nothing to appease the gods. Mimosa replied, “ My child God gave; my child has God taken. It is well.” Though weak, ill, grieving, and alone, she still told God, “I am not offended with you.”

The years followed in much the same way. She had two more sons. The oldest one was taken by the father (who had regained something of his right mind) to another town to work but, to Mimosa’s grief, required him to rub the god’s ashes on his forehead.

She began to long that her children should have “what she had never had, the chance to learn fully of the true and living and holy God and themselves choose His worship.” It would take too much space here to tell how God wondrously worked out the all the details to go to Dohnavur, even, miraculously, her husband’s approval. Her sister, Star, was strongly burdened to pray for Mimosa and discovered later that was just the time when all of this was coming to pass. Twenty-two years after she first visited Dohnavur, she returned. It can only be imagined what she felt as she soaked up Christian fellowship, learned to read, studied the Bible, was baptized. After a time she went back to her husband, determined to win him. He was in a less tolerant caste, yet amazingly he did not put her away. Her life was not easy. “But then, she has not asked for ease; she has asked for the shield of patience that she may overcome.”

“Is not the courage of the love of God amazing?” Amy Carmichael wrote. “Could human love have asked it of a soul? Fortitude based on knowledge so slender; deathless, dauntless faith — who could have dared to ask it but the Lord God Himself? And what could have held her but Love Omnipotent?”

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.