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“A Slave-Trader Who Wrote Christian Lyrics” from The Story of Our Hymns

By Ernest Edwin Ryden – Public Domain

The Name above All Names, John Newton, 1779

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
‘Tis Manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary Rest.

Dear Name! the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding-place;
My never-failing Treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace.

By Thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled:
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath;
And may the music of Thy Name
Refresh my soul in death.

~

In one of England’s famous old churches there is a tablet marking the last resting-place of one of its rectors, and on the tablet this epitaph:

“John Newton, clerk, once an Infidel and Libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa,
was, by the rich Mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored,
pardoned, and appointed to preach the Faith he had long labored to destroy.”

This inscription, written by Newton himself before his death, tells the strange story of the life of the man who wrote “How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds,” and scores of other beautiful hymns.

Newton was born in London, July 24, 1725. His father was a sea captain.His mother, a deeply pious woman, though frail in health, found her greatest joy in teaching her boy Scripture passages and hymns. When he was only four years old he was able to read the Catechism.

The faithful mother often expressed the hope to her son that he might become a minister. However, when the lad was only seven years of age, the mother died, and he was left to shift largely for himself. On his 11th birthday he joined his father at sea, and made five voyages to the Mediterranean. Through the influence of evil companions and the reading of infidel literature, he began to live a godless and abandoned life.

Being pressed into the navy when a war seemed imminent, young Newton deserted. He was captured, however, and flogged at the mast, after which he was degraded.

At this point his life teems with reckless adventures and strange escapes. Falling into the hands of an unscrupulous slave-dealer in Africa, he himself was reduced practically to the abject condition of a slave. In his misery he gave himself up to nameless sins. The memory of his mother, however, and the religious truths which she had implanted in his soul as a child gave his conscience no peace.

The reading of “The Imitation of Christ,” by Thomas à Kempis, also exerted a profound influence over him, and a terrifying experience in a storm at sea, together with his deliverance from a malignant fever in Africa, served to bring the prodigal as a penitent to the throne of mercy.

After six years as the captain of a slaveship, during which time Newton passed through many severe struggles in trying to find peace with God through the observance of a strict moral life, he met on his last voyage a pious captain who helped to bring him to a truer and deeper faith in Christ.

For nine years at Liverpool he was closely associated with Whitefield and the Wesleys, studying the Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek, and occasionally preaching at religious gatherings of the dissenters. In 1764 he was ordained as curate of Olney, where he formed the famous friendship with the poet William Cowper that gave to the world so many beautiful hymns.

It was at Newton’s suggestion that the two undertook to write a hymn-book. The famous collection known as “The Olney Hymns,” was the result of this endeavor. Of the 349 hymns in this book, Cowper is credited with sixty-six, while Newton wrote the remainder. “How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds” appeared for the first time in this collection. It is a hymn of surpassing tenderness, and ranks among the finest in the English language.

Other notable hymns, by Newton are: “Come, my soul, thy suit prepare,” “Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat,” “While with ceaseless course the sun,” “One there is above all others,” “For a season called to part,” “Safely through another week,” “On what has now been sown,” “May the grace of Christ our Saviour,” “Though troubles assail us, and dangers affright,” “Day of judgment, day of wonders,” and “Glorious things of thee are spoken.”

Newton’s life came to a close in London in 1807, after he had served for twenty-eight years as rector of St. Mary Woolnoth. Among his converts were numbered Claudius Buchanan, missionary to the East Indies, and Thomas Scott, the Bible commentator. In 1805, when his eyesight began to fail and he could no longer read his text, his friends advised him to cease preaching. His answer was: “What! shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?”

When he was nearly eighty years old it was necessary for a helper to stand in the pulpit to help him read his manuscript sermons. One Sunday Newton had twice read the words, “Jesus Christ is precious.” “You have already said that twice,” whispered his helper; “go on.” “John,” said Newton, turning to his assistant in the pulpit, “I said that twice, and I am going to say it again.” Then the rafters rang as the old preacher shouted, “Jesus Christ is precious!”

Newton’s whole life may be said to be summed up in the words of one of his appealing hymns:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found–
Was blind, but now I see.

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Book Review: These Are the Generations

By Susan Verstraete

Grandmother Bae burned all three Bibles that her family owned. All night long she sat by the fire, tearing two or three pages at a time out of the book she loved and feeding it to the flames.  A North Korean State Security Officer could knock at any time, which made keeping the books just too dangerous.

Can you imagine what was going through her mind as she burned the sacred pages? Did tears stream down her face? Did she wish she had memorized more? And what was Grandfather Bae thinking as he guarded the door until it was finished? How could he lead his family without the Word? How could God save their family or the rest of North Korea when Scripture was outlawed?

These are the Generations tells the exciting and heart-wrenching story of the next three generations of the Bae family, Chinese Christians who escaped to North Korea to flee persecution by the Japanese after World War 2.

I’ve read a great number of Christian biographies, but this one struck me as unique in its honesty about the extremely difficult choices faced by believers under persecution. For example, some Christian families actually hid their beliefs from their own children for fear that the children might slip up in public and bring the Security
Office to the family doorstep. Others, like the Bae family, felt they had to burn God’s Word. A Christian mother asked her son to steal to keep the family from starving, and her believing son did what she asked.  The Pastor hid in fear when the Japanese army came to burn down his church, and no one spoke openly about Christ.

I kept asking myself, “What would I have done? Where’s the line between protecting my family and betraying my faith?”

The only criticism I have of the book is that the gospel is not clearly explained in this narrative. At times it sounds as if being a Christian is equivalent to obeying the Ten Commandments, for example, and Mr. Bae never mentions Christ. But Mrs. Bae does mention Him later in the book, and I think that this oversight may be attributed to the lack of systematic teaching in their lives rather than to a completely faulty understanding of redemption. Still, while I heartily recommend reading These are the Generations as a family, I wouldn’t  let a preteen read it alone without making sure to explain that we all often believe more than we articulate.

Susan Verstraete is the Church Secretary at FCC.

 

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Two Book Reviews: Biographies of Paul and Margaret Brand

The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt and What We Can Do About It

Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Zondervan, 1997

Paul Brand was a medical missionary in India, and the son of missionaries. He specialized in treating people who suffered from leprosy and is credited with being the first to discover that leprosy did not cause rotting of the flesh, as previous generations has supposed. Brand observed instead that the disease deadened the nerves that brought messages of pain to the brain. Without these messages, his patients repeatedly injured themselves. These injuries became infected and caused the loss if fingers and toes, and often the loss of ability to earn a wage. Brand fought this progression with surgical and practical means—surgically rerouting healthy tendons to replace deadened ones, for example, and sending each patient home with a cat, so rats didn’t chew off numbed digits while the patients slept. He set up a school to teach those with leprous hands how to safely use them to earn a living as a carpenter or plumber, and set up a cobbler’s shop, where customized shoes were made to protect the deformed feet of his patients. Brand spent decades treating patients who could not feel physical pain, and though it sounds odd to our sensibilities, he said, “If I could give any one gift to my patients, it would be the gift of pain.” The Gift of Pain is available through Amazon.com and CBD.com.

If you prefer to watch the Brand’s story on video, here’s a link to a three-part series by Day of Discovery http://www.dod.org/Products/DOD1982.aspx . (It does graphically show the effects of leprosy on the hands and eyes, and may not be suitable for tender-hearted children.)

Vision for God: The Story of Dr. Margaret Brand

by Dr. Margaret Brand and Dr. James Jost, Discovery House, 2006

“We always believed that the Lord who took us in would take us through, adventure by adventure.”-Dr. Margaret Brand

Her baby was just two weeks old when the note came, asking Dr. Margaret Brand to go to work part time, without salary, in the mission hospital where her husband was on staff. The note arrived by messenger and said, “We must have help in the eye department.” It couldn’t have been a worse fit. Margaret had actually missed the ophthalmology rotation in her medical school training and had no experience in the field. She wrote back, “I know nothing about eyes. You’ll have to look for someone else. Sorry.” One hour later there was another knock on the door. The messenger once again handed Margaret a note. “You’ll learn,” it said. “Please start on Monday.”

To say that she learned is an understatement. That first day, the small eye clinic saw nearly 400 patients. Within a few weeks, she had learned to remove cataracts, a major cause of blindness in sun-drenched India. In eye camps held in remote villages, the team might perform 100 surgeries in a day, literally saving the lives of those who could no longer work to support themselves because of their blindness. Over the years, Margaret would also learn much about how the disease of leprosy affects the eye, and became the world’s foremost expert in the field. She pioneered surgical techniques to restore the ability to blink to her patients’ paralyzed eyelids and, still without becoming board certified in ophthalmology, became the Chief of Ophthalmology at the National Hansen’s Disease Center in Carville, LA.

But this biography is much more than a medical journal. Margaret tells us what it was like to raise six energetic youngsters in a foreign and sometimes dangerous country. Someone always seemed to be having an adventure—like the time the pet leopard punctured their daughter’s jugular, the time Margaret locked herself and some friends in a padded cell in an abandoned mental hospital, the time the gibbon grabbed her daughter’s hair and Margaret played tug-of-war with her screaming child, the time marmalade exploded inside all their trunks on a sea voyage, the day they were presented to the Queen and Margaret twisted her ankle when she curtsied, and the many times one or another of the family succumbed to a tropical disease. All this happened as Margaret and her husband Paul homeschooled six children, became world-class authorities on the treatment of leprosy and, most importantly, shined the light of the gospel into the spiritual darkness of India.  Vision for God is available through Amazon.com and CBD.com.

 

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Book Review: A Heart for Freedom

Review: A Heart for Freedom: The remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and her Quest to Free China’s Daughters, by Chai Ling. Tyndale House, 2011

I wish Chai Ling had waited a few more years to tell her story.

In A Heart for Freedom, she recounts the events that led to her involvement in the leadership of the Tiananmen Square student protest in China in 1989. We have a front-row seat as the students and the Chinese government come to a stand-off over personal freedoms, and we vicariously experience the horror of the massacre. Ling evokes our sympathy as she tells us what like to leave her country as a political refugee to start over, a young girl alone and misunderstood.

The final third of the book was the most compelling, as Ling details coming to terms with her helplessness to change the political system in China, her conversion to Christianity and the process of grief and repentance over her four abortions.  We see her understanding progress— first Ling realizes that her abortions ended the lives of real children—that something wrong happened. She grieves over her loss and begins to talk about it. At first she blames China’s one child policy and her ex-husband, but eventually she comes to realize her own role and to understand grace and forgiveness.

On the positive side, it is possible for someone to read this book (and especially the description of grace  on page 320) and learn enough about God to be converted.  Ling’s honest testimony of struggle, of learning about God and the truth about her own sin and helplessness over the period of several months is no simple reciting of a sinner’s prayer – there was real change involved in her life and I have no doubt that she knows God.

But on the negative side, I found that Ling came across as judgmental toward nearly everyone she mentions in the book. Everyone from her father, boyfriends, friends, potential employers to her current husband (whom she seems to love very much) seems not to have “done it right” in their relationship to her. For example, when Ling finally confesses her abortions to a spiritual mentor, she is asked, “Did you confess to God? He will forgive you.” Sound advice, right? Not according to Ling. She left judged by her friend. Over and over she says in her book, “For the Chinese women who will someday come out of their trauma, what they need to hear first is not, ‘Come to God and He will forgive you.’ but, ‘Come to God and He will love you, heal you, and free you.’”  It’s as if Ling cannot stand even the implied criticism by her friend that she needs forgiveness. This is only one of dozens of examples where Ling explains to us her “rightness” sometimes at the cost of condemning the actions and attitudes of others. This is where a little Christian maturity might have tempered some of her judgments and made the book a more edifying read. Her theology is not always perfectly on target, and the book is probably not suitable for young people because of the general (not detailed) descriptions of her sexually immoral teen years.

That being said, I do believe that because of her unique role in China’s history, Chai Ling has a story to tell about grace that no one else could tell.

Review by Susan Verstraete, church secretary at FCC.

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To End All Wars

Book by Ernest Gordon, Zondervan 1963

Agnostic Ernest Gordon wanted no part of the religion he witnessed during his first months in a Japanese prison camp in Southeast Asia. Most of the men, he wrote, “believed that if they cajoled God properly He could be persuaded to save them from the unpleasantness of their present existence. They prayed for food, freedom or to be spared from death.” Gordon goes on to explain:

The men who turned to religion in this and other ways were only putting into practice what they had learned in their impressionable years from their parents and Sunday School teachers . . . . As children they had doubtless been told, ‘If you go to church and are being a good boy, God will reward your goodness by giving you what you want.’ . . . The motive . . . was not love or faith, but fear: fear of the unknown, fear of suffering, fear of the terror that walks by night, fear of death itself.

Despite their best efforts to manipulate God, the situation for all the prisoners kept getting worse. They were transferred in steaming boxcars deep into the jungle, where they spent days hacking away at the overgrowth. Their camp was a clearing – just a clearing – with no shelter or facilities. Any buildings that would be added would have to be built by the men after their long day’s work. The only food they were given was a meager 12 ounces of rice per day, per man. Diseases like malaria, worms and diphtheria ran rampant through the camp. The men were unimaginably miserable. On average, twenty died every day. They stole from each other, ignored the cries of the sick and wounded and hardened their hearts against the constant suffering around them. In response to inhumane treatment, they became almost inhuman.

But, in the same way that a jeweler’s black velvet backdrops causes a diamond to show up brilliantly, this backdrop of evil was the perfect showcase for real Christianity.

Stories began to emerge about a soldier who starved himself to give a sick friend his ration of food. Another officer took a beating in order to protect his men, who were falsely accused of stealing a shovel. Others cared for the sick night and day. As these brave men taught about Christ, they had the attention of all the camp.

To End All Wars is the story of how God transformed a WWII prison camp, not by changing the inhuman conditions, but by changing the hearts of the men. It is a story of the triumph of the Gospel.

This book has been published under two other titles, Through the Valley of the Kwai and Miracle on the River Kwai. Two movies have been based on the book: Bridge Over the River Kwai, and To End All Wars. The first movie is not accurate biographically (as fiction, it’s a good movie) and the second, while a powerful movie that sticks more closely to actual events, is peppered with language and graphic violence which makes it unsuitable for children. The book, To End All Wars is available from Amazon for about $10.

Review by Susan Verstraete, church secretary at FCC.

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Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery

Book by Eric Metaxas, Harper Collins 2007

William was anxious as he walked around the square one more time, trying to summon the courage to face his scheduled meeting with John Newton, a friend and pastor from his boyhood. He thought back with regret over the years since they had last met in his Uncle’s home, and wondered just what the outspoken former slave-ship captain would have to say about the situation in which William now found himself.

William Wilberforce bought his way into politics. He was only 20 years old when he began campaigning to represent Hull, one of the top 20 districts in all of England. He spent the summer of 1780 hosting expensive dinners and charming the electors in his district, culminating with a huge ox-roast at his estate in August. He invited everyone in the district to a lavish celebration and provided food, drink and music to celebrate his 21st birthday, which coincidentally fell just two weeks before the election. All in all, Wilberforce spent about £9,000 (over a half-million dollars in today’s money) wooing his constituents and won the election by a landslide.

This great expense might cause someone to think that Wilberforce had a serious political agenda he hoped to implement, but nothing could be farther from the truth. He was wealthy and spoiled, given to excess and had what he called a “butterfly mind,” prone to flitting lightly from topic to topic. He was charming, but had little depth. Still, he gradually began to earn notoriety in Parliament for his rapier wit and ruthless eloquence in debate.

Of course, all that was before what Wilberforce called “the great change.” During the winters of 1784 and 1785, Wilberforce asked an old school friend, Isaac Milner, to accompany him to the French Riviera and the Italian Riviera for vacations. At first he did not realize that Milner was “an Enthusiast”—an evangelical Christian. Through studying the Bible with this friend, Wilberforce began to see himself as a sinner. He hated the flippant attitudes and extravagant lifestyle he formerly loved, and understood that for those to whom much privilege is granted, much is required. He trusted Christ, and began to wonder if he needed to leave Parliament altogether, since up until this time his chief motivation in pursuing a political career was the gratification of his ego and acceptance in high society.

And so, on December 7, 1785, he came to knock on John Newton’s door, ready to give up the only career he had known for the Savior whom he had just met. Newton, however, did not advise Wilberforce to abandon his position or to isolate himself from his friends. He restated his thoughts later in a letter. He wrote, “It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of the nation.” Wilberforce returned to Parliament with a new zeal and diligently began to study the Bible, making up for the lost time he regretted so deeply.

Though not a mystic, Wilberforce firmly believed “God Almighty has placed before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners [morals].” In 1787, he introduced the first motion for the abolition of the slave trade in the House of Commons. He would be involved in this fight for the next 46 years.

Metaxas’ excellent biography introduces us to the man behind the battle. Along the way, we will meet other characters who shaped this page in church history, including John Newton, playwright and educator Hannah More, former slave Equiano, philanthropist Lady Huntingdon, lobbyist Thomas Clarkson and more.

The book is available at Amazon.com for about $15 new. You may also be interested in the movie version of the book, Amazing Grace, (2006) which is available through Amazon or Netflix.

Review by Susan Verstraete, church secretary at FCC.

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SELINA, THE LESS-THAN-PERFECT SERVANT

By Susan Verstraete

Selina was discouraged. The evangelist John Wesley, her friend, had assured her that it was possible for Christians to attain a state of sinless perfection in this life. Try as she might, the strong-willed and devoted Selina could not accomplish this lofty goal. She felt her failure deeply, and wondered if she could ever be useful in the kingdom of God.

By <span class="fn value"><span lang="en">Unknown</span><a href="https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q4233718" title="wikidata:Q4233718"></a></span> - BBC your pictures <a rel="nofollow" class="external autonumber" href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/selina-hastings-countess-of-huntingdon">[1]</a>, Public Domain, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25144537">Link</a>

(c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, was converted early in the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century. From the beginning, she was determined to use every asset she had in the service of God. She soon found ways to use her position in society to persuade many of the English nobility to listen to the gospel, especially as preached by the evangelist George Whitefield and the brothers John and Charles Wesley, leaders in the early Methodist societies in England.

This was no easy task, as the nobility frowned on the Methodist movement. For example, the Duchess of Buckingham described the movement as “repulsive and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect toward their superiors.” While thousands of the common people of England flocked to hear the Wesleys and Whitefield preach in the open air, the Church of England tried to break up their meetings and made it increasingly difficult for Methodist preachers to be ordained. Selina used her influence with the king and others on behalf of the evangelists, going so far as to hire Whitefield as her personal chaplain to insure his ability to continue preaching in England.

Even though many of the nobility disapproved of Selina’s “excesses” in religious matters, others happily enjoyed her company. Selina filled her drawing rooms with musicians, poets, lords and ladies, statesmen, and philosophers for exciting discussions of religion. Often she asked Whitefield or another visiting evangelist to address the group. At the same time she was entertaining nobility in the drawing rooms, her kitchens might be filled with the poor and needy, to whom she dispensed both spiritual advice and material assistance. Selina took every opportunity to talk with her family, friends, and servants about God. Lady Huntingdon was also devoted to her husband and six children. But still, the perfection that John Wesley taught could be hers eluded Selina.

About this time, an older woman who lived on Huntingdon estate began to wonder what might happen to her own soul, should she die suddenly. Selina’s biographer recounts the story:

Speaking gently but firmly, the Countess pointed out the total inadequacy of any good works to save the soul. But that was not the woman’s problem. “It will not do,” she retorted, “I am too bad to be saved.” “Well, now that you are quite lost, you will find Him who came to seek and to save just such as you are,” was Selina’s reply. 1

Without knowing it, Selina had answered both the question of the elderly lady (who was later joyfully converted) and the problem of her own soul. She’d stumbled on the solution—dependence on divine grace. Even though our flesh (the part of our nature that is at enmity with God) was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6), as Martin Luther said, “the old man dies hard.” Remnants of the flesh remain to be battled as long as we live in our present bodies. Someone able to live in a state of sinless perfection might no longer feel his or her need for a Savior. Instead we are compelled to realize our moment-by-moment dependence on the grace of God to save us, to keep us from sin, and to forgive us when we do sin.

Over time, with prayer, and after counsel from Whitefield, Selina did give up the doctrine of Christian perfection, but never stopped using her every asset for the kingdom. Some of her many and varied accomplishments include founding a theological seminary, funding the building of 64 chapels, financing missionaries, and personally paying the debts of dozens of men so that they might be released from debtors prison. The Countess founded a group of churches later called “Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion,” some of which still exist today.

Did she do all these things without sinning? No. Selina was described as an autocratic ruler of the churches she founded and failed to set up Biblical church government in them, for one example. Still, at the end of her life, everyone who knew her believed she was a woman of tremendous faith. Thomas Wills, a man harshly treated by Selina, described her this way:

. . . one of the brightest luminaries that had ever shown in the Gospel hemisphere, though like other stars shining with a borrowed or reflected light. . . . Thousands, I say tens of thousands, in various parts of the kingdom have heard the gospel through her instrumentality that in all probability would never have heard it at all; and I believe through eternity will have cause to bless God that she ever existed. She was truly and emphatically a Mother in Israel, and though she was far from perfect in character, yet I hesitate not to say that among the illustrious and noble of the country she has not left her equal. 2

___________________________
1Cook, Faith, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon: Her Pivotal Role in the 18th Century Evangelical Awakening, Banner of Truth Trust 2001, p. 79-80.

2Ibid, p. 422.

 

Susan is the church secretary at FCC.

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No Looking Back: The Story of a Missionary to India

Review of a book by David Thrower

You’d never have guessed David Thrower would be a career missionary. He had always been rather nondescript. He was a believer, but didn’t have an exciting conversion story. In fact, he wasn’t sure exactly when he came to faith. He was born into a believing household in England in 1900. He attended church with his family each week and gradually realized that he loved God and trusted Christ. He was baptized and joined the Baptist church when he was 16.thrower

David went to war at 18. Well, actually, he was drafted in WW1 and served in an Army office in England until it was over. On returning home he found work in an office and learned to take shorthand. As soon as he perfected that skill, he looked for and found a job in an office that had a typewriter—a rare new office machine he was eager to master. He studied bookkeeping and taught shorthand in his spare time. He was a clerk, and a good one. His life seemed to be on a steady, dependable course.

But when Thrower read an appeal in a Baptist newspaper, everything changed.

A missionary named Booth was on leave from India and was looking for an assistant to return with him to the field. David wanted to fill this position. In fact, his desire to do so grew until it was overwhelming. He presented himself to the mission board as a candidate, and they turned him down. He spent a year studying every book on missions he could find, and preached a few times (but not very well). His desire to go to India did not ebb. When he returned to the mission board, he explained to them that, although it would be easier for him to go under their blessing, he would go to India no matter what their decision.

David Thrower left England in 1922 backed by the Strict Baptist Mission board and spent the next sixty years of his life serving the people of India.

Perhaps because he viewed himself as unremarkable, David approached missionary work with more humility than many of his contemporaries. While they set up churches and ran them autocratically, David mentored leaders and expected the churches he planted to become self-governing, under biblical guidelines. He knew he was not a gifted preacher, so he trained native pastors to do the preaching in their churches. When David was transferred from region to region, the works went on unhindered because they did not depend solely on him for leadership.

David Thrower was not a great theological thinker or a brilliant speaker. He didn’t lead a great revival or relieve all the poverty around him. He never wrote a bestseller or appeared on television. But when we look back over the sum of his life’s work, it’s staggering. He planted many churches still under native rule. He trained leaders. He taught skills to relieve poverty in many families. He compiled a concordance still in use today. He demonstrated a life of faith in Christ and obedience to God.

Like many of us, David Thrower plodded along unremarkably. But God used his life in a way that affected India for eternity.

No Looking Back is available from ChristianBook.com for $4.49

Review by Susan Verstraete, church secretary at FCC.

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Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in a Japanese Prison During WWII

Book by Darlene Deibler Rose

The last words Russell Deibler would say to his young wife were, “Remember one thing, dear: God said He would never leave us nor forsake us.”drose

That was on Friday, March 13th, 1942, when Russell Deibler was taken from the cottage where he, his wife, Darlene, and their missionary team were under house arrest. Darlene didn’t even have time to say goodbye. She thrust a pillowcase of belongings into her husband’s hands, listened to his parting words and determined not to let the Japanese soldiers see her cry.

As the truck carrying Russell traveled out of sight, she remembered specific prayer from her childhood. “Lord,” she had prayed, “I’d go anywhere with You, no matter what the cost.” Now, as a grown woman facing an uncertain future, Darlene restated her prayer: “With greater understanding I confirm to You tonight, it is still anywhere—I leave the costing to You.”

“Anywhere” would cost unimaginable suffering. Over the next four years Darlene would endure first separation from her husband and then widowhood, the brutal conditions of a WWII Japanese internment camp including near-starvation, forced labor, deplorable conditions, false accusations of espionage, serious illness, months of solitary confinement, and torture. Through it all, Darlene was sustained by God, who never left her nor forsook her, just as He had promised.

How did God sustain Darlene through her long ordeal?

Through the Word—When the news came to Darlene’s prison camp that Russell had died, she was understandably devastated. That night, alone on her thin mat in the barracks, God came to her through Scripture: “He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted . . . to comfort all that mourn . . . to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:1-3). “Experientially,” Darlene said, “I was beginning to understand the comfort of the Holy Spirit. . . . The sword of sorrow had pierced deep within me, but He had bathed the sword in oil.” Over and over the Holy Spirit would bring to mind memorized Scripture at just the right time to sustain her.

Through encouragement from other believers—God blessed Darlene by providing other believers in her prison barracks. Every morning and evening, they read the Bible, sang hymns and prayed together.  Serving and encouraging others helped distract the women from their own suffering, and created a feeling of community in the barracks.

When Darlene was taken away for months of solitary confinement, she remembered the last charge one of the other missionaries gave her. “Lassie, whatever you do, be a good soldier for Jesus Christ.” That challenge became her prayer: “Let me be a good soldier for You.”

Through prayer—Darlene learned what it meant to pray without ceasing. During her months of solitary confinement and daily interrogations, Darlene had a conversational stream of requests and praise going up at all times. She asked God for strength to endure, thanked Him for her daily portion of runny oatmeal and maggots, asked Him to heal her body and begged Him to protect her friends. Darlene realized her own powerlessness and cast herself completely on God.
 
By taking every thought captive—Darlene had to learn the hard way of the danger of letting her imagination run wild. In solitary confinement, she drifted into what she called the “spiritually unprofitable game of suppose.”

Suppose the Japanese do win the war, what then? Suppose Mother and Father are gone. Suppose my brothers are fighting in this war. What if none of us ever return home?” After only a few minutes of this thinking, Darlene would be plunged into despair. But again, God brought Scripture to mind, “The Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe.” Darlene remembered that Jesus was her defense; she could hope in Him and be ultimately safe. She decided to take no thought of tomorrow, but to live gratefully and dependently in the moment.

Despite her fears, Darlene would indeed return home, marry again and return to the mission field. God never left her nor forsook her. Looking back over the years that had cost her so much, Darlene was grateful. She said, quoting Charles Spurgeon, “I can thank my God for every storm that has wrecked me on the Rock, Jesus Christ.”

Evidence Not Seen is the chronicle of God’s faithfulness in the life of Darlene Rose.  I will never Leave Thee is the audio version of her testimony, and I strongly urge you to investigate both. Hearing Mrs. Rose tell her story in her own voice seemed to me to be an even more powerful testimony than her book, which is outstanding.

Listen to the audio here: http://www.ccob.org/women/default.asp?pg=drose

Purchase the audio ($12 for CDs, $1.99 for MP3 download) here: http://www.christianbook.com/i-will-never-leave-thee-iii/darlene-rose/pd/5008888

Purchase the book new at CBD or Amazon ($11.00 new, as little as $2.00 used) or check it out through the Mid-Continent Public library system.

 

Review by Susan Verstraete

Posted in: Book Review, Women's Ministry

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