I am a history buff. Everything I think about or base an opinion on involves reflection of history. It helps me determine truth. Alone, my experience is shabby. But with the depth and width of history, my experience is fathomless. And there is an unlimited source to study! Especially when you read personal history…biographies.
When I was an young teenager, my sister sent me a group of Christian “Hero” biographies and promised me a trip to GlamorShots if I read them. Ugh. I did it. And her intent worked. I was moved and inspired by the lives of these men and women of faith. The troubles they endured, and perspective on the world they lived in, tempers my reactions to my life.
I grew up with a rich source of biographies. My mother had a library full. (I will never catch her numbers read!) Some are well-written: non-fiction novels, styled to hold and keep your attention. Some are dry and a discipline to read. Some read like they are written by a teenager, and are almost insulting in their simplicity! But the stories told are worth sticking with it.
I thought I’d list a few of the ones that have influenced my life the most.
A Chance to Die by Elizabeth Elliot
A Chance to Die is a vibrant portrayal of Amy Carmichael, an Irish missionary and writer who spent fifty-three years in south India without furlough. There she became known as “Amma,” or “mother,” as she founded the Dohnavur Fellowship, a refuge for underprivileged children. Amy’s life of obedience and courage stands as a model for all who claim the name of Christ. She was a woman with desires and dreams, faults and fears, who gave her life unconditionally to serve her Master. (Product Description from Amazon.com)
What I took away from this book was the degree to which the author herself, identified, yet disagreed with Amy. It is clear throughout the book that Miss Carmichael was a radical Christian with strong ideas (some of which had a cultural influence and some rooted in her understanding of Scripture). I learned that Christians can do things differently, yet still be faithful servants of Jesus. And we should rejoice in that, not disparage.
Shadow of the Almighty by Elizabeth Elliot
Made famous by Life magazine, this is the best-selling account of the martyrdom of Jim Elliot and four other missionaries at the hands of the Auca Indians in Ecuador. Elisabeth Elliot makes full use of Jim’s rich and revealing diaries to expose the roots of what makes a person at the threshold of life commit his very being to a God who he felt might call him to death at any time. Elisabeth Elliot gives us the vivid details of a life “hid with Christ in God” and creates a portrait of a figure that continues to inspire many. (Product Description from Amazon.com)
I challenge any Christian to read this book, and NOT be moved to serve the Lord wholeheartedly!
Peace Child by Don Richardson
Headhunting cannibals who used their victims’ skulls as pillows, the Sawi people of New Guinea seemed to still be living in the Stone Age. It was to these people that Don and Carol Richardson went in 1962, risking their lives to share the gospel and tell of the true Peace Child. (Product Description from Amazon.com)
What I learned from this book is the importance culture plays in a person’s understanding of the gospel story. It takes wisdom, patience and Spirit-inspiration to accurately tell the good news. What a fascinating look at an upside-down world!
Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand
“Tortured for Christ” – After years of imprisonment and solitary confinement, enduring inhumane torture, Richard Wurmbrand emerges with a powerful testimony of courageous faith. Even today, believers are suffering and dying for Christ, yet their faith will not falter under the most unthinkable persecutions. In this stirring account, Wurmbrand (founder of The Voice of the Martyrs) encourages us to remember those in chains and equips us to help our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. (Product Description from Amazon.com)
My life is a piece of cake. I think I suffer? I think America is rotten? Nah. Wurmbrand’s life is a true perspective-adjuster.
Up in the Air for Him by Ruth Scheltema
This is the story of Hank Scheltema and ABWE Air. For decades, missionary pilots have formed a vital link between missionaries in difficult-to-reach locations and the outside world. Many are asking, in a world growing rapidly smaller and more connected, will there still be a need for missionary aviation in the years ahead? This book talks of a post-9/11 world, where travel has become more precarious and unpredictable in the parts of the world where missionaries are seeking to reach people, making aviation ministry more crucial than ever! (Product Description from Amazon.com)
Of course this book must make this list, because I lived much of it! This book is written by my mother about my father’s life as a missionary pilot. I recommend it to pilots first, because it appeals to those who love aviation. But there is much missionary adventure included as well!