Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy


Several months ago a friend asked if I could write about good missionary biographies, especially ones that are appropriate for young readers without resorting to silliness. (YMAM has enjoyed success with their wonderful Christian Heroes Then and Now series, so they came out with a junior version with the stories written in rhyme. It just doesn't work.)

Wandering around our bookshelves for a while, I pulled out biographies that we've particularly enjoyed. I've also included a couple that I'm only familiar with. It's a fairly eclectic bunch of books, and I've tried to arrange them from those for younger to older readers.

Fanny Crosby: Queen of Gospel Songs (Rebecca Davis)
Ages 7-9. This short (107 pages) book will appeal to new readers, but the story is one that all of us will find compelling. Fanny Crosby endured numerous hardships including blindness caused by poor medical care when she was an infant. But she never let her troubles get her down for long nor grow into bitterness. Fanny developed a talent for writing poetry which she used to write hymns such as "Blessed Assurance," "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior," and "To God Be the Glory." (This book leaves out the troubling fact that Fanny and her late-in-life husband lived apart for many years after the death of their only child.)






Missionary Stories With the Millers  (Mildred Martin)

Part of the Miller family devotional series, this book contains short vignettes of missionaries. Though the Millers are fictional, the missionary stories are based on real accounts. Our family enjoyed all the Miller stories (Storytime with the Millers, Wisdom and the Millers, etc.) when our children were young. Written from a conservative Mennonite perspective.









With Daring Faith (Rebecca Davis)
Ages 12+ (Younger for RA)

Another book by Rebecca Davis, whom I had the pleasure of briefly knowing years ago when she lived in Indiana, With Daring Faith is the biography of Amy Carmichael.







It's a Jungle Out There (Book 1 of the Rani Adventure Series) – Ron Snell

Life is a Jungle (Book 2)

Jungle Calls (Book 3)

Rather than straight-up missionary stories, these three books are written from the perspective of an MK (missionary kid.) Ron Snell grew up with the Machiguenga Indians in the Amazon jungle of Peru. His growing years included episodes rafting on the flooded Urubamba River, swimming with piranhas, and introducing blow darts (and Amazonian snakes) to Moody Bible College. In the third book Ron ends up at IU - yes - Indiana University, which is in our backyard. We found his story of flooding a particular meadow on campus so he could go canoeing hard to believe, but we were able to verify the story with an elderly relative who spent his life caring for the physical plant on campus.  Humor abounds in these books, but serious matters appear as well. After reading these books you'll have a better picture of some of the issues of "Third Culture Kids" as they are usually called these days. Some of our family's favorites!




Christian Heroes: Then and Now Series (Ages 10+)

I've mentioned this series several times before, but I have to once again. I really like the bios written by Janet and Geoff Benge. This past year we read ones about C. S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie ten Boom and Jacob DeShazer, and we have many more on our biography shelves. These are lively retellings of missionaries and other significant Christians. Some of the content in these is not suited for younger children, and I think the 10 year old rating is probably accurate.





John Newton: The Angry Sailor (Kay Marshall Strom)

Very readable short biography of John Newton, slave trader turned pastor and hymn writer. It deals with deep topics such as slavery, drinking, swearing, etc. in a manner appropriate for children. Read this and be amazed at God's work in this once very rough young man who later composed Amazing Grace. Works well as a read aloud.







And since this is a potpourri of titles, I'm going to throw in three more - one that looks terrific, one I've only read a bit of (but would love to read the whole thing) and one that I'm not fond of. 

First - the good 

Christian Biographies for Young Readers by Simonetta Carr  

For years I've looked longingly at Simonetta Carr's gorgeously illustrated biographies. Her subjects include Lady Jane Grey, Augustine, John Calvin, Anselm, and John Knox. If my children were younger, I would be grabbing these. Note to self: These would make lovely gifts for the grands!

  News flash: A Jonathan Edwards title is scheduled for publication this October!






Warriors of Ethiopia and Messengers of Ethiopia- Dick McLellan  ($20 each; $12 goes to support Ethiopian evangelists)

These two books come highly recommended by two families who have adopted from Ethiopia.

In these two books Mr. McLellan, an Australian missionary for 23 years in the Omo River region, purposed “not to tell missionary stories, but to record the stories of the men and women of Ethiopia who took the story of Jesus into the dark places of Ethiopia.”

From the few chapters I was able to read when one of the books was accidentally left at my house, these are amazing stories of the faith of Ethiopian believers. They will challenge you to believe, pray, and live by faith. They would work well as read-alouds for children over a wide range of ages.




And, not to end this post on a downer or anything, but here's a title from a series we haven't cared much for. I find negative reviews just as helpful as glowing ones (more so, often), so here goes.

Heroes of the Faith : Augustine (thumbs down)

I was so looking forward to reading this with my youngest sons, but what a disappointment it proved! One of the things that bothered us was the amount of (invented) conversation the author creates to move the story forward. Though much of Augustine's thought life is known from his Confessions, creating all this dialogue seemed over-the-top. We gave up about 2/3 of the way through. We own a couple of others in this series, and I don't remember being all that impressed with them either.
2 Responses
  1. Lydia Says:

    Thank you Anne! The Ethiopia books look especially interesting.


  2. Rebecca Says:

    Hi Anne~ I was looking for a way to privately message you, but couldn't find it. I'd like to correspond. Please find me at rebecca@hiddenheroesmissionarystories.com. Thanks so much!