I want to take a moment and recommend something that will be a great blessing to any of you who take up my challenge. The challenge is to become a student of missions history for the feeding of your own soul and for your future fruitfulness in the Great Commission. Few things have enriched my life as much as studying our heritage in missions… learning about the greatness of our royal family tree, of brothers and sisters whose sacrifices for the advance of the gospel have brought great glory to God. Reading missionary histories and biographies has been like an extension of Hebrews 11, the great “Hall of Faith” in which the faith-filled exploits of Old Testament heroes are spread out like a “great cloud of witnesses” encouraging Christians to stand firm in their faith and courageously advance the Kingdom of Christ in this present age. Hebrews 11 covers only those Old Testament saints, but missions history extends the tributes and details of many more lives lived by faith to the glory of God.
The following are some of my favorite missionary histories and biographies:
To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson (1987, Judson Press). This is probably my all-time favorite missionary biography, and it has motivated me greatly in my personal interest in missions. The courage and suffering of Adoniram and Ann Judson in Burma moves us to tears and admiration at what they endured to bring the gospel to those unreached peoples. I especially noted Adoniram Judson’s perseverance through the deaths of multiple wives and the loss of his translation of the Bible into Burmese, and the long time it took for the first converts to Christ.
Hudson Taylor (2 volumes), by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor (1998, OMF Press). This is a longer and more detailed biography than the better known synopsis Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. Both are well worth reading, but I like the longer version for the more details and faith-filled stories. Hudson Taylor pioneered the “faith” missions approach, and the way he lived out his active dependence on God for all his needs is a powerful example to us all.
Missionary Patriarch: The True Story of John G. Paton (autobiography; published by Vision Forum). John Paton was a missionary to the New Hebrides islands in the South Pacific in the mid-nineteenth century. He tells his own story in this account of his heroic efforts to lead cannibals to Christ. His worldview is based on the sovereignty of God and the way he views every event and thinks it through is worth the price of the book and the time to read it. It is also a thrilling and courageous story as well. My family and I have worked through this whole book!
Bruchko (Bruce Olson, Strang Communications, 1989). This may be the most exciting missionary biography I have ever read. It is a highly unusual story about a teenager who feels called to reach a head-hunting tribe in the steaming Amazon jungle, who is rejected by other missionaries because he has had no formal training, who goes anyway totally alone, and who is attacked and left for dead by the very tribe he was trying to reach. He eventually has an incredible ministry among them. Enough said. have loaned this book to over twenty people over the years, and I have never had anyone return it to me without having read every page!
Through Gates of Splendor (Elizabeth Elliot; Tyndale House, 1986). Jim Elliot’s story is told in a powerful way by his surviving widow, as he and his courageous fellow missionaries lay down their lives to reach the Auca Indians of Ecuador. This is a missionary classic.
Peace Child (Don Richardson; Regal Books, 1984). Don Richardson and his wife tell the story of their efforts to use a “gospel analogy” to bring Christ to the war-like and treacherous Sawi people of Irian Jaya. They manage to bring triumph out of apparent defeat for the gospel when the Lord opens their eyes to a unique way of explaining the gospel to unreached peoples.
Ten Fingers for God: The Life and Work of Dr. Paul Brand (Dorothy Clarke Wilson). Dr. Brand was a missionary doctor to lepers in India. His life of selfless service in one of the most wretched and unappealing mission fields is convicting and inspirational. We tend to choose easy paths of service to Christ. Dr. Brand never did, and God blessed him richly as a result.
I would urge you to choose one of these and read through it!