There is something really special about a well-written missionary biography. The story, amazing. The struggles, breathtaking. The triumph of the Lord, it just makes you want to lift your hands and shout, "Glory!"
Here are a couple of missionaries that I have recently read about that were very encouraging.*
I read one about a Japanese pastor who lived during WWII. During that time he was called up to be an interpreter in a POW camp since he spoke English. While there, he witnessed horrible brutalities against the POWs and decided that, while he was Japanese and was rooting for his country to win the war, he could not participate in the beatings or cruelty. Instead, he would do whatever he could to help those in need (like smuggle in medicines), pray with the prisoners, and be a gentle face in the crowd of anger and hate. By doing this he lived out his faith and loved his neighbor as himself.
I really appreciated this man's testimony because it spoke of his fear. Sometimes he even felt paralyzed by it, but he doggedly continued. He knew what he was doing was right and believed that God would protect him. At the end of the war, his wife and daughter were both killed in the bombing of Hiroshima. There was no trace of his home, or them, to be found.
His was a great example of laying your life down for God, and, regardless of what He asks, or allows to happen to you, choosing to say, "You are still good and I will follow you."
Another missionary I read about fought back against the sex trade in Chinatown during the turn of the century. She, as a single woman, would get up at any time day or night and go on a rescue. She stood unwaveringly and fought back against those who would seek to recapture the women. She lived through the San Francisco earthquake, and when she and the ladies had to quickly evacuate, she realized later that they had neglected to bring the papers showing that the woman were free. So, she went back. Back into danger, fire and looting. Back into an unsafe building. Because she believed that freedom was more important.
These are just two of the thousands and thousands of people who have laid their lives down for the gospel. People who experience suffering and despair, but instead of crumpling, find themselves pulling on their Everlasting Lord and standing strong. I find it amazing and heartening.
I read this quote from another collection of stories about missionaries and it really jumped out at me:
Ministry life is often fraught with disappointment. God sometimes allows what seem to be horrendously unfair, sinful, or terrifying circumstances — even major breakdowns in relationships with fellow believers (see Paul and Barnabas in the book of Acts) — in order to move his people into places they would never have considered going before. He has to make the current situation completely untenable, almost physically break Christians out of their comfort zones, before they will leave what is known for the unknown, their dreams for his.
Over the years, and through the biographies I've read I've often questioned how God could let his people struggle like that. Why not pave their lives in gold and have them preach it? But, reading that, and knowing how much my own life has changed with my struggles, I see just a bit why God allows these things to happen.
This is supposed to be an encouraging post, so I'll end with this: through all our valleys and dark places we wander, God is with us. He might be pointing us in a new, difficult, undreamt of place, but he is guiding and leading us. May it be, that while we might not have biographies written about us, if we did, they would bring encouragement and peace to all who read.
*The above biographies will not show up in future Sonlight programs as our review team didn't feel they were up to the Sonlight standard for various reasons. But the stories of these missionaries (and many others!) are definitely worth telling. If you are looking for excellent biographies about missionaries, I encourage you to check out Core F for a great selection of books about remarkable people walking before the Lord. I loved going through that year and the most memorable part were the missionary biographies.