Archive for November, 2013

Great Biographies – Learning History the Fun Way

Don’t have enough time to read a large volume? If you have enjoyed some of the recent stories on my blog about some courageous women and would like to read more, but are too busy to engage in a 300 to 400-page book, try some of the following books.

I read books that are written for middle school-aged or high school-aged girls often. I choose ones that are well written, historically accurate, and very interesting. The fact that I can read them in one or two sittings makes them all the more enjoyable.

The books that I am reviewing in this posting are suitable for your 9 and above girls and YOURSELF! They are from the “Trail Blazers” series, published in the U.K.

These books would be great to share with your daughters. Each one has an appendix called, “Thinking Further Topics” with questions and answers for each chapter. There is also a summary time line at the back of the book that includes worldwide events that were going on at the time. For example, the book on Gladys Aylward lists her birth, 1902 to her death, 1970. There are 31 chronologically ordered events throughout her life so that the reader can put Gladys’ life into context with history. (1914 – WWI, for example) This is one of my favorite parts of the books. You and your child will get a better feel for history. And I always tell my children and grandchildren, “The most fun way to learn history is to read good biographies!”

One of my granddaughters has some mild difficulty with reading and so these books are wonderful to share with her. She loves the attention when someone will read with her. You will be edified and encouraged by the stories of these brave women who sacrificed much to serve God and others.

—  Grant, Myrna, Gladys Aylward: No Mountain Too High, (Christian Focus Gladya Aylward with childPublications, Scotland, U.K., 2003).

In my “Movie Reviews” posting (September, 2010) I did a review of “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”. This movie tells the story of Gladys Aylward’s mission in China. Part of her story takes place when the Japanese invade China. Gladys must help the orphans in her charge get to a safe place. Both the book and the movie are exciting.
—  Howat, Irene, Isobel Kuhn: Lights in Lisuland, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K., 2001).

isobel kuhn.4For a bit more information, see my posting on November 19, 2013. Isobel also went to China to the Lisu people. She and her husband and the Lisu people were also affected by the Japanese invasion.

Isobel was not a likely missionary candidate as a child. She had many doubts about God. This story will encourage your heart as you read how God met her need and then Isobel gave her whole life back to God in gratitude for her salvation.
—  Howat, Irene, Helen Roseveare: On His Majesty’s Service, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K., 2007).

Helen Roseveare was a medical doctor from England. She went to be a missionaryhelen roseveare in the Belgian Congo (as it was called in the 1950’s). Here too war played a part in her service to the African people. The communists were taking over and in the 1960’s the country became independent and changed its name to Zaire. Today that country is called the Democratic Republic of Congo. Helen helped to set up hospitals and train nurses. She was captured by the wicked rebels in 1964 and beaten and tortured. She was eventually freed and sent home to recover. This courageous woman loved her African people so much that she returned to serve them again. Eventually she went back to Britain and spent many years traveling around the world and telling her story. As of this writing I believe that she is still living (she must be 88 if she is) and living in Ireland.
—  Howat, Irene, Patricia St. John: The Story Behind the Stories, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K., 2008).

patricia st. johnPatricia St. John is one of the world’s greatest storytellers for children. Perhaps you might have read, “The Tanglewoods’ Secret” or “Treasures of the Snow”. These are great stories. Patricia St. John’s own life is a great story. War enters her story like so many others. In this case, during WWII, when the bombs were falling in London, Patricia helped out as a nurse. She later helped her brother at his hospital in Morrocco. Patricia enjoyed life very much and was able to capture the excitement and put it into stories for children.

—  Mackenzie, Catherine, Joni Eareckson Tada” Swimming Against the Tide, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K., 2003).

Many people have probably heard about this amazing woman who was left Joniparalyzed from the shoulders down after a diving accident. This book tells the whole amazing story of Joni’s accident and her struggles with depression and learning to function with her disability. There are addresses for how to contact Joni and become involved in her programs in the back of the book. Joni also authored several books and you can find information on getting those in the book also. There is even a full-length feature film, “Joni”, in which she has told her life story. It has been translated into 15 languages around the world.

—  Watson, Jean, Corrie ten Boom: The Watchmaker’s Daughter, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K., 2003).

Corrie ten Boom.4Here is another biography of a great woman of courage. Again, war enters our story. During WWII in Holland, the Germans had made many rules against the rights of the Jews. Corrie and her family tried to help the Jews. For this they were arrested. Corrie and her sister spent time in the most horrible women’s concentration camp in Europe. Corrie’s faith in God helped her get through this terrible time. There is also a great movie that tells this story, “The Hiding Place”. I highly recommend it.

Ok, now. Don’t let lack of time be your excuse any more. Get some of these or other books in the “Trail Blazers” series and be edified and encouraged. There are many more books in this series, even for boys!!

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How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7).

Isobel_KuhnIsobel “Belle” Miller seemed an unlikely candidate for the mission field as a child. Born in 1901 in Toronto Canada she was a young woman during the Roaring Twenties. While attending the University of British Columbia she was a popular honor student. She was also receiving accolades as a talented drama and dance student.

She was born into a Christian family and lived in a comfortable home. Before God would get a hold of her heart she would become agnostic for a time. As is not unusual in public universities a professor had criticized Isobel’s belief in the Biblical creation account. He challenged the students to “think for themselves” and not believe something just because their parents said it to them.

Isobel thought about what the professor had said and decided he was right. She stopped going to church and reading her Bible. She began to do things that she normally would not have.

She met and fell in love with another student who eventually two-timed her. She was brokenhearted and became depressed for a while. She even thought of taking her own life by poisoning herself. Just as she was going to the bathroom to get the bottle of poison she heard her Dad moaning in his sleep. Though she did not believe in hell, she knew that her father would probably think she had gone there if she took her own life.

Though Isobel longed to die, she could not disappoint her father. Isobel went back to her room and prayed, “God, if there is a God, if you will prove to me that you exist, and if you will give me peace, I will give you my whole life. I’ll do anything you ask me to do, go where you send me, obey you all my days.” When Isobel fell asleep, feeling at peace for the first time in a long time, she wondered if God had answered her prayer and began to search for Him by reading the Gospels.

Isobel began to attend Bible conferences with her mother. One summer Mr. J. O. Fraser of the China Inland Mission was one of the speakers. He spoke about how God had led him to China to tell the people about Jesus, to help them to get free of the demons they worshipped, to teach them how to read and how to live more fruitful lives. Ref. Fraser appealed to his listeners to consider going to China.

Isobel’s heart was completely won over for the Lisu people. She began to prepare for the mission field by attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. It was here that she met her future husband, John Kuhn. They say that “opposites attract” and that was certainly true of Isobel and John. Isobel was very passionate and John was very cool, calm, and collected. What they shared was an intense desire to take the Gospel to China.

John went ahead to China in 1926. Isobel followed two years later and married John when she got to China. They settled in Chengchiang for the first two years of their marriage. All during their beginning years in China Isobel would long to see her dream fulfilled of going to the Lisu people. She would serve in other places in China for 6 years before finally arriving in Lisuland.

Belle had been used to a comfortable life and had quite an adjustment period not only as a newlywed but in getting used to the customs of China. The food, housing, and sleeping arrangements were all very different from America. One of the hardest things for her was in giving up her privacy.

From Chengchiang the Kuhn’s moved to Tali, Yunnan (1930- 1932), then to Yongping, Isobel Kuhn with LisuYunnan (1932- 1934) under the mentorship of J. O. Fraser. Rev. Finally in 1934, the Kuhns arrived in Lisuland.

During their service in China, Isobel and John had two children, Kathryn and Danny. Much of the time that they were in Lisuland, Kathryn was away at a mission boarding school. Isobel missed her and when the Communist rebels controlled the roads making travel dangerous the parents and their child were unable to see other.

The Lisu Christians were great evangelists. They spent so much time telling others about Christ that John and Isobel were concerned that they did not take time to learn more about the Bible. They were happy for the enthusiasm of the new converts, but they did not want them to be ignorant of the Scriptures.

So John and Isobel came up with a plan. They would hold Rainy Season Bible School. After all, during the rainy season life practically came to a standstill in Lisuland. Why not take this opportunity to train the Lisu Christians and then send them out to the surrounding villages? The Lisu were so missions minded that they even went to villages that they used to war against to share the Gospel.

God blessed their efforts and sixteen years after the Kuhns began working with the Lisu, 3,400 of the 18,000 Lisu were Christians and seven other tribes had been evangelized by Lisu missionaries. Today, there are over 200,000 Lisu Christians.

These were exciting times for missionaries in China, but then in the late 1940’s the communists began to take over the country. The Kuhns were spared any trouble until 1950 when the rebels conquered Lisuland. John and Isobel were forced to flee, Isobel leaving immediately and John following a year later.

Isobel’s heart was aching to be with the Lisu people. Many of them fled to Thailand. Now Belle had to make a decision about whether to retire or to serve her beloved Lisu in Thailand. She turned to God, “Lord, I’m tired! I’m 50. In the past 20 years I’ve seen wars, I’ve been separate for months and even years from my husband and children, I’ve been sick to the point of death. Going to Thailand would mean learning a new language and a new place and a new culture. I want to sit in a rocking chair on a porch somewhere and rest!”

But Isobel had promised God she would give Him her whole life many years ago when He met her in her darkest hour. She would not give up now. And anyway it would give her a chance to be with her beloved Lisu. She would work among them until she developed cancer and died in 1957.

Truly Isobel was one who looked to the love of her Savior Jesus Christ whose love constrained her to live no more for herself but to live for Him who died for her.

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“To be a living sacrifice will involve all my time. God wants me to live every minute for Him in accordance with His will and purpose, sixty minutes of every hour, twenty-four hours of every day, being available to Him. No time can be considered as my own, or as “off-duty” or “free.” I cannot barter with God about how much time I can give to serve Him. Whatever I am doing, be it a routine salaried job, or housework at home, be it holiday time and free, or after-work Christian youth activities, all should be undertaken for Him, to reveal His indwelling presence to those around me. The example of my life must be as telling as my preaching if He is to be honored.”  Helen Roseveare

Helen Roseveare (1925 – ) knew from early childhood that she wanted to be a missionary. helen-roseveareShe made the decision at a Sunday School class on her eighth birthday. Her teacher had put together a project for the students involving pictures of Indian children. As Helen looked at the pictures and learned that most children in India had never heard about God she felt sorry for them. Helen could not imagine what it would be like not to know God.

Helen went to a prestigious church-run boarding school at age 12. When Helen was 18 years old, she attended Cambridge to study medicine and become a doctor. It was here that Her determination to become a medical missionary was cemented.

Helen felt lonely when she first arrived at Cambridge, but her life was changed when she met a fellow student named Dorothy. Coming into her room one day Helen saw a note tucked into her mirror. “If you don’t know anyone, and have nowhere to go after supper, come and have coffee in my room, no. 12, at 8 pm. Dorothy.”

And so Helen began to go to prayer meetings with Dorothy that were being led by the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union. She began to pray and study the Bible daily with the other Christian women. Though Helen was very zealous in her attendance, she began to feel that she was missing something that the other girls had.

Helen attended a retreat and she realized how superficial her religious life was. She opened her heart to God and experienced His forgiveness. She felt the fullness of God’s love toward her. On her last night at the retreat Helen gave her testimony. She received a Bible from the Bible teacher, Dr. Graham Scroggie, who had inscribed in it a verse that for Helen would literally become true in her life.

“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (Philippians 3:10).

Helen spent six and a half years getting her medical degree. Then she spent six months in missionary training and six months in Belgium studying French and tropical medicine. She was going to a place in Eastern Africa that was known as Congo in that time. In 1953, Helen sailed for the Congo with the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade whose motto was, “If Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.” Little could Helen know that she would be called on to make a horrendous sacrifice for Christ.

Helen was the only doctor for two and a half million people. Her initial hospital was made of mud and thatch. Helen learned to make bricks and build walls. She would not ask others to do something that she would not do herself. She learned the Swahili language to enable her to accomplish more.

Helen worked very hard. In a letter to a friend she described a typical day, “My day begins at 5.10 am, as I’ve to be at the Bible school for morning prayers by 6.30 am. After that there’s breakfast and family prayers, and by then it’s 9 am and time to open the dispensary. That sounds very grand but it’s actually just a bare room with a cement floor and a tin roof. The shelves are just boards balanced on tea chests. … Patients arrive in their dozens, and they have such a variety of problems.  … I don’t have a helper yet, but I hope to have one soon.”

A few years later a 14-acre plot of land had been converted into a 100-bed hospital and maternity complex. Now tens of thousands of patients could be treated. A medical school had also been started and Helen was very busy teaching the nursing students. The Africans would have their own trained medical personnel to help with the tremendous work.

In the early 1960’s the Congo underwent a revolution. The former colony received its independence and renamed itself Zaire. The transition was a very hard time. Many missionaries went home rather than face the danger from roving bands of rebels. News of murders in other villages was occurring daily.

Helen decided to stay. This meant that she now was only one of two doctors in a very large area. Her African friends were very grateful to her but she was taking a grave risk.

From time to time she would recall the night many years ago that Dr. Scroggie gave her the words of wisdom which were now carrying her through this dangerous time, “Knowing Jesus is just the beginning, and there’s a long journey ahead. My prayer for you is that you will go on through the years to know his power. And it is perhaps in God’s plan for you to suffer for your Saviour as he suffered for you.”

Helen did suffer for her Savior. On the night of October 29, 1964, rebel soldiers took her away and abused her horribly. She was humiliated and suffered fierce physical pain. She later testified, “They were brutal and drunken. They cursed and swore, they struck and kicked, they used the butt-end of rifles and rubber truncheons. We were roughly taken, thrown in prisons, humiliated, threatened.” Helen felt that God had failed her. Why didn’t He step in earlier? Why did things have to go so far? She began to be tempted to doubt God’s existence.

Even as Helen was questioning God, she remembered when she gave her life to Christ. God reminded her, “You asked Me, when you were first converted, for the privilege of being a missionary. This is it. Don’t you want it? These are not your sufferings. They’re Mine. All I ask of you is the loan of your body.”

Helen Ros.:freeFinally after five long months of cruel treatment Helen and the others were released. She went back to Britain to recuperate. On this furlough Helen testified all over the United Kingdom about the sufficiency of God. She felt privileged to be an ambassador of Christ, a missionary, and one who identified with His sufferings.

No one would have blamed Helen if she decided not to go back to Congo (Zaire). But she wanted to return and finish the work she had started. The African people still desperately needed doctors.  And so Helen returned in March 1966.

Besides work at the hospital and the nursing school, Helen helped to establish 48 rural health clinics in the vicinity. Patients were hearing the Gospel from Helen and the missionary chaplains.

Eventually Helen became exhausted form overwork and not enough rest. She returned to Britain in 1973. She began speaking at conferences all around the world.

In 1989 Helen returned to visit her people in Africa. A film was made about her life of mama-lukaservice at this time. It is called, Mama Luka Comes Home. “Luka” was the name given to Helen by the Congolese because it is the feminine form of Luke, the gospel writer who was a physician.

Helen has also written – Give Me This Mountain (1966), He gave us a Valley (1977) and Digging Ditches (2005) besides numerous articles. She has been a speaker at Urbana at least three times.

As of this writing I believe that she is still living in Northern Ireland.
“It would seem that God had merely asked me to give Him my mind, my training, the ability that He has given me; to serve Him unquestioningly; and to leave with Him the consequences…. How wonderful God is, and how foolish we are to argue with Him and not to trust Him wholly in every situation as we seek to serve Him!”

From, Living Sacrifice: Willing to Be Whittled as an Arrow, Helen Roseveare

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“It is impossible for me to describe the ecstasy that filled my soul. Better felt than can be expressed, are the raptures of a pardoned sinner. I believe the angelic host participated in my joys at that season, for they saw a prodigal return, and Jesus spoke of their gladness at such a sight. Oh! how charming was the name of Jesus to my ear, my eye, my heart.”          Harriet Livermore

Unlike many of the nineteenth century female evangelists and preachers that we readHarriet_Livermore about who were born into poverty or even slavery (Jarena Lee for example), Harriet Livermore was born into wealth and status. For seven generations her family had garnered an impressive political and military heritage. Harriet’s father was a U.S. District Attorney appointed by George Washington, a justice on the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and a member of the U.S. Congress for three terms.

Harriet’s mother died when she was only five years old and so she attended boarding schools until she was in her teen years. During the time that her father was in Congress, Harriet enjoyed being a part of the elite Washington social set. She was attractive and very eligible as the daughter of one of New England’s oldest families.

Harriet met the man of her dreams while she was attending Atkinson Academy. Both families opposed the union. A few years later, during the War of 1812, her beau died. It was after this that Harriet decided to become a preacher.

Harriet had experienced conversion in 1811. She then attended several different churches – Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Quaker, Methodist, and Congregational – but each one seemed lacking in something that she was seeking. Finally Harriet encountered the Freewill Baptists, whose emphasis on the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit allowed for women to speak in public. Harriet spoke in public with men present several times but encountered much criticism from friends. She stopped attending the Freewill Baptist meetings for a while but then realized that she wanted to dedicate her life to Christ full time. She insisted on baptism by immersion even though it was winter. On January 2, 1823, a hole was cut into some ice and Harriet was plunged into the freezing waters.

She sought the Lord’s will for her life, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me to do?” She said that it came into her mind “with much sweetness to go and visit the Christian churches, exhorting the children of God to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free…”

Harriet began to visit churches all throughout New England. In the span of one three-month period she visited twenty-three churches and homes, exhorting at meetings. Within several years she was traveling further and further away and staying longer in some places.

H.Livermore bookHarriet wrote several books including: A Narration of Religious Experience (1826); Scriptural Evidence in favor of Female Testimony in Meetings for the Worship of God (1824); Thoughts on Important Subjects  (1864); and A Testimony for the Times (1843).

On January 8, 1827, with President John Quincy Adams in attendance, Harriet preached to Congress. One observer at the time said that the Hall, lobby, and Gallery of Congress were all filled to capacity. There were people standing outside because there was no room within. “She was judged to be an extremely eloquent speaker, as well as an extraordinarily fine singer, whose singing greatly augmented her message.” Harriet spoke in front of Congress three more times between 1832 and 1843.

One might get the idea that Harriet was a strident feminist. Actually, in her own words in a book that she wrote, Harriet explained her position. While she firmly believed that women should and indeed ought to exhort in public, her ideas of a woman’s place in ministry were similar to Conservatives today.

Harriet began by saying that the following was her own opinion and she did not wish to bind the consciences of women who differed from her. She went on:

“The scriptures are silent respecting the ordination of females. I conclude it belongs only to the male sex. The title of evangelist, or minister, I do not find in the department of Anna, Priscilla, Phoebe, or any other Christian women, left in Bible record. The administration of gospel ordinances, Baptism and the Lord’s supper, uniting persons in marriage, I believe are confined to the male sex; and to me it exhibits an anti-Christian spirit for a female to wish or believe them resting on her. I do not believe the spirit of truth will influence a woman to ask for ordination, and the connected duties, &c. &c.”

However: “The gift of illustrating scripture in public religious assemblies, may be conferred upon devoted female saints….”
Harriet went on to say that the spiritual gifts are for males and females alike.

While she believed that women could speak in public, she was cautious about women getting into the pulpit because there was so much prejudice against female preaching that the testimony of the gospel would be lost on deaf ears.

Harriet became a strong advocate of Indian rights during the time that many Native Americans were being confined to reservations. During the 1830’s while Jeremiah Evarts (1781-1831) was urging President John Quincy Adams to provide financial assistance to help the Cherokee nation, Harriet visited the Choctaw nation. Those familiar with this sad time in American history when the United States cruelly treated Native Americans will remember that the “Indian Removal Act” pushed natives further and further west without aid. Many died. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Fort Leavenworth thwarted Harriet’s plans because of his fear that she wanted to treat the Indians with equality. Harriet’s dream of bringing comfort and conversion to the Indians was ended.

This did not stop Harriet in her goal to serve Christ. She turned her attention to the Jews. Between 1836 and 1858, she made at least four trips to the Holy Land. She focused especially on Jerusalem. At this time she had a slim income and she depended on the support of friends during her journeys. She had even pawned some of her silver teaspoons to pay for her livelihood.

Though born in affluence, Harriet died in poverty, alone, at the age of eighty, in an almshouse in Philadelphia. She described herself as a stranger and a pilgrim on earth. She was buried as she requested in an unmarked grave. Thankfully, her story can still be read today and this remarkable woman’s testimony is an encouragement to women.

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