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Jane Eyre–a classic

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Brontë

with a Guide to Reading and Reflecting
by Karen Swallow Prior

Occasionally I will read a sentence plugging a newly released book that describes it as a “classic.” For me, a book has to not only be of high quality or a good example of a type of literature, but most importantly has to have stood the test of time to be considered a classic. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is one of these books. Karen Swallow Prior, a professor of English literature, is editing a series of classical books and has chosen Jane Eyre as one of her subjects. In her introduction, she discusses the author and provides background of the work and its publication. She also addresses the themes found in the book and how to read Jane Eyre through a current Christian perspective. Prior includes footnotes on archaic or unfamiliar terms and references to other works both secular and religious at the bottom of the pages where they occur. The novel is divided into three volumes; each is followed by insightful discussion questions. Also there are questions for reflection at the end which are appropriate for addressing overarching themes and issues.

Jane Eyre is a long and complex book; straight summarizing would not do it justice and would certainly contain spoilers. The volumes progress chronologically through Jane’s life, and she is the narrator. She includes the struggles she as endured that have formed her into an intellectual woman of strong moral character. She frequently quotes people as referring to her as “plain” in her physical attributes.

The novel includes social themes regarding the treatment of the poor and of women. Neither of these groups had great expectations of rising above their current status. At its heart, Jane Eyre is a romance, but it has aspects of mystery, adventure, and theology. Brontë’s treatment and development of the various characters are excellent, and there is liberal use of foreshadowing and symbolism. This is truly a classic that can be read for pure enjoyment or studied as a work of art.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Fiction, Christian, Classic, Romance

Notes: Manuscript used by editor was published in 1848

Publication: 2021—B & H Publishing

Memorable Lines:

I regained my couch, but never thought of sleep. Till morning dawned I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy. I thought sometimes I saw beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah; and now and then a freshening gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit triumphantly towards the bourne: but I could not reach it, even in fancy—a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove me back. Sense would resist delirium; judgment would warn passion. Too feverish to rest, I rose as soon as day dawned.

This was very pleasant; there is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.

Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?

Through Gates of Splendor–a call from God

Through Gates of Splendor

by Elizabeth Elliot

Five young men felt God’s call to share the good news of Jesus with an Ecuadoran Indian tribe that had never had positive encounters with outsiders. Their bad experiences date back to the ruthless rubber traders of the 1870’s—“civilized savages against unbaptized savages.” They had Stone Age technology, were feared by other Indians for their unprovoked ambushes, and had a language known only to themselves. The missionaries and their wives had a daunting task. They started by evangelizing more friendly local tribes and establishing bases, many refurbished from areas abandoned by Shell Oil Co. From these bases they did flyovers of the Auca land, first to find where in the jungle the Aucas were living and later to communicate with them by dropping gifts to demonstrate their friendly intentions.

When they felt the time was right, they finalized plans to land and meet with the Aucas in person. The book becomes very intense at that point. After an initial positive meeting, there is literally radio silence instead of the expected call back to the wives. A search and rescue team went in consisting of Ecuadorian military, volunteer missionaries and Indians, and U.S military. It was a dangerous mission.

Although the preparation and action are the basis of the story, the core of the book is faith in God. Elizabeth Elliot, the author of Through Gates of Splendor, was the wife of Jim Elliot, the first missionary of the group to respond to God’s call to contact this people group who had never heard of Him. Jim Elliot was willing to die if need be to share the good news of salvation to the Aucas. He said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” The story of the lives of these young men and their dedication to God is inspiring and many of their notes and thoughts are recorded in this book. In its pages you will see a vivd picture of what God’s call can look like as well as how these missionaries and their wives responded.

Rating: 5/5

Category: History, Christian, Memoir

Notes: The 40th anniversary edition which I read included:
1. Maps
2. Photographs, many taken at great peril by a Life magazine reporter who chose to stay with the search party when he could have returned to the base and safety.
3. Two Epilogues. One was written in 1958 explaining the immediate aftermath of the first contact and one written in 1996 relating the lives of the families as they evolved over the next 40 years.

Publication: Originally 1956
40th anniversary edition in 1996—Living Books (Tyndale)

Memorable Lines:

“If that old engine had quit up there, God alone could have saved me. I might just as well admit it frankly right here; I don’t like to fly over stuff like that and I have to have a pretty good reason to be over it without a good position-check and a good river to identify my position by. But these are people for whom Christ died, and you have to find them before you can take the Gospel to them, so I was happy to have stumbled on them.”

Pete Fleming was one of those who could not be content while the Aucas remained in darkness. In his diary he wrote: “It is a grave and solemn problem; an unreachable people who murder and kill with extreme hatred. It comes to me strongly that God is leading me to do something about it, and a strong idea and impression comes into my mind that I ought to devote the majority of my time to collecting linguistic data on the tribe and making some intensive air surveys to look for Auca houses….I know that this may be the most important decision of my life, but I have a quiet peace about it.

September, 1955, was the month in which Operation Auca really started, the month in which the Lord began to weave five separate threads into a single glowing fabric for His own Glory. Five men with widely differing personalities had come to Ecuador from the eastern United States, the West Coast, and the Midwestern States. Representing three different “faith-missions,” these men and their wives were one in their common belief in the Bible as the literal and supernatural and perfect word from God to man. Christ said “Go ye”; their answer was “Lord, send me.”

Ripple Effects–what you do affects others

Ripple Effects

by Pam Tebow

Ripple EffectsAuthor Pam Tebow is the mother of Tim Tebow, a football and baseball star. Tim uses his talents and fame as a platform to share God’s love and to make a difference in the lives of those who can’t help themselves through the many outreaches of the Tim Tebow foundation.

In Ripple Effects we learn how Tim Tebow and all of his brothers and sisters were affected by the Christian witness and guidance of their mom and dad. More importantly, Pam Tebow shares how what we do has ripple effects on those around us. When you take the time to help a neighbor or smile at a stranger, your actions can affect you, them, and the people they interact with.

Pam focuses on our relationship with Jesus, finding our purpose, mission and influence, reading the Bible, prayer, our mindset, and living with passion. She shows how all of these can and should be integrated into our lives. The book is full of anecdotes and examples demonstrating how she and her husband Bob learned to yield to God’s will as they followed His prompting to begin missions in the Philippines as well as speak and lead all over the world.

Pam is very practical, explaining the importance of memorizing Bible verses. She made up tunes to go with the Scriptures to help herself and her children remember them. One example of the ripple effect is that her grandchildren can now sing these same Scriptures as they have been  passed on to a new generation. Bob and Pam used teachable moments in their daily lives to share Biblical truths through life experiences. They taught humility and giving God the glory with consistency in their teaching and lives and by always drawing their children’s attention back to God, the source of their talents and gifts.

Although a lot of the book focuses on raising children from a pioneering homeschooling mother’s perspective, the lessons of ripple effects are for everyone. People are watching you; what will they take away about you and your God?

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Self-Help

Publication:   May 7, 2019—Tyndale House Publishers

Memorable Lines:

Put simply, faith is trusting God, even when we don’t have a clue how His plan will unfold.

The most effective way to influence people in our sphere to trust God is for them to watch us trust Him…Influence is not accidental; it results from making deliberate, determined, and repeated choices, beginning in the mind and then acted out day by day. Choices empowered by God and HIs Word.

Reading, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture has had an unmistakable impact on me, and it has served as one of my greatest opportunities to influence others—with ripple effects on my family, my friends, and the people I meet along the way.

Loving people is hard, but next to loving God, it should be our number one priority. You may have someone in your sphere who is not especially lovable…But when people are at their worst, they need love the most.

Woman of Courage–a glimpse of Quakers in 1837

Woman of Courage

by Wanda E. Brunstetter

woman of courageAuthor Wanda E. Brunstetter is best known for her fiction books about the Amish. In Woman of Courage, she departs from that focus to write a work of historical fiction whose main character is a Quaker. Amanda Pearson, rejected by her fiancé in New York in 1837, decides to move across the continent to join a missionary couple ministering to the Nez Percé Indians in the Oregon Territory. The first part of her journey is by steamboats and then wagon. At Fort Laramie, she and her father meet up with the guide who is hired to take them the rest of the way by horseback.

Amanda is unprepared for the adventures to come, but she proves to be resilient, courageous, and of strong faith. On her journey she faces the deaths of those she depends on, wild animals, rough mountain men, and Indians from several tribes. Will she make it all the way to Oregon Territory? Can she be dissuaded from her faith in God by the devastations in her life? Will she ever be able to love again?

Brunstetter has researched the time period. She doesn’t fall back on stereotypes for the Quakers, mountain men, or Indians, but portrays them as individuals. This is a Christian book, but it doesn’t play out as a tale where everything works out with magical perfection for the characters who are Christians. They experience internal turmoil and external dangers like nonbelievers, but they have a strong God to rely on during the good times and the bad.

Several times I found myself reading on past my intended stopping place—always a good sign for a book. There are a number of occurrences that I just didn’t predict which keep the book moving at a brisk pace. The characters are well developed and interesting. The various settings are described in detail, appropriate to the action in the book and with language that lets the reader visualize the grandeur of nature. A novel with a Christian theme, it contains history, romance, and action along with thought-provoking concerns about evangelizing other cultures.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Christian, Historical Fiction

Notes: There are discussion questions at the end of the book. My version also contained a novella, Woman of Hope, based on a characters from Woman of Courage. It is a quick, interesting bonus read, and as expected, because of the brevity of the work, does not hold much character development.

Publication:  December 1, 2018— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

Gray Eagle didn’t mind them teaching his people from the Bible, but it wasn’t right that they expected the Nez Percé to give up many of their customs in favor of the white man’s way of doing things.

She remembered her father saying once that it was important to forgive someone who had wronged you, but that forgiving didn’t mean you had to be in a relationship with them. Sometimes it was best to keep a safe distance from the person who had done you wrong.

“…God, who I believe is the same as the Great Spirit we have worshiped for so many years. I believe it was God who kept me alive when I was taken from my people. He got me through times when I didn’t think I would survive, and it was Him who brought me home again.”

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