Missionary Biographies that Inspire and Encourage

Mahmud Fajar RosyadiPerhaps you find yourself in a difficult season of life right now—you’ve been having puzzling health problems, seen people leave your church or had a close family member pass away.  Maybe you just feel lonely or spiritually dry. Reading about Christians from the past can be one way to find encouragement and to give your spiritual life a boost.

Today’s blog comes from my lovely daughter, Lisa Bolton. She has always had a special interest in missionary biographies and found great encouragement from them. Consider choosing a biography written for children to read aloud to your family. I’m using my September blogs to feature ideas that help us get ready for Christmas. A missionary biography would make a great Christmas gift, and this gives you a wide range to choose from. Now back to Lisa.


I began reading missionary biographies as a preteen. I saw how these men and women trusted God to save their souls and to provide for their needs. I watched as God comforted them through Scripture. Sometimes, he saved them from certain death; other times, he allowed them to glorify Him through suffering. Reading about these men and women as an adult has brought different lessons. I’m amazed at the sacrifices their families made to spread the gospel to others. Again, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to sustain them through horrific circumstances.

Some famous missionaries of the past include:

Adoniram Judson (Burma),

John Paton (New Hebrides),

Hudson Taylor (China),

Amy Carmichael (India),

Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth (China),

John and Betty Stam (China),

J.O. Fraser (China),

Isobel Kuhn (China),

Gladys Aylward (China),

Eric Liddell (China) and

Jim Elliot (Ecuador).

Judson, Paton, Taylor traveled into uncharted territory to reach people hostile to outsiders. They, and many others, lost wives and children to disease. The Goforths lost five children due to disease and lack of medical care. Gladys Aylward and Eric Liddell continued serving others amidst the dangers of war and violence. The Stams and Jim Elliot were killed.

The following list of biographies places a special emphasis on autobiographies and books written by those who knew these men and women best.

To the Golden Shore (Judson) by Courtney Anderson

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor

A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot

Jonathan Goforth and How I Know God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth

Behind the Ranges (Fraser), by Isabel Kuhn

Mountain Rain (Fraser) by Eileen Crossman

By Searching, In the Arena, and Second-Mile People by Isabel Kuhn

The Little Woman by Gladys Aylward with Christine Hunter

Eric H. Liddell: Athlete and Missionary by D.P. Thomson

Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot

Many other good missions books are available. Two lesser-known first-person accounts that have really blessed me are:

Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Diebler Rose (imprisoned in Asia during WWII)

A Path Not Lined with Roses by Peter, Pavel and Luba Rumachik (a Russian pastor and his family dealing with persecution and imprisonment.)

Many of the missionaries listed here have been featured in children’s series like Christian Heroes Then and Now and Men of Faith/Women of Faith. Biographies don’t have to be a solitary event, either. Recently, the adult Sunday School teacher at my church took several Sundays to highlight several missionary biographies, which was a blessing to our congregation.


Several famous missionaries from the past wrote devotional books that are still available today.

Toward Jerusalem—one of several poetry books by Amy Carmichael

Rose from Brier—Amy Carmichael’s words of encouragement for other invalids

The Disciplines of the Christian Life—practical Christian advice from Eric Liddell

Streams In the Desert—words of encouragement from Lettie B. Cowman, missionary to the Orient and caregiver to her ailing husband

Note from Lisa Bolton: I’ve read most of the books I’ve cited, though not all of them. Several book titles came from friends. The great missionaries of the past did much to serve the Lord, but they were still flawed and human; some of their choices and interpretations of Scripture I might not agree with.

Note from Deb Brammer: the list of books about Chinese culture that I promised last week will be featured on October 15. Sorry about the confusion.

[Image by Deposit Photos/Mahmud Fajar Rosyadi.]

Giving Your Kids a Positive MK Experience

TRNAR044In past months we’ve talked about giving MK’s an appreciation for their host country (mission field) and their home country (where their parents come from.)  Here are some other things you can do to give them a positive MK experience.

1. Emphasize the positive parts of missionary life.

Face it. Sometimes missionaries feel like a round peg in a square hole. In many mission fields the missionary family may look very different from the nationals and have a very different lifestyle. Differences in language and culture may make it difficult to build really close relationships with nationals. Then they return to their home country and find they don’t fit in real well there either. They have changed. They see things differently than they did before.

But missionary life also has advantages. You may get to travel far more than the average person from your home country. You may get to eat exotic dishes and taste weird fruit that few people in your home country even know exist. How can you capture and emphasize the advantages of your life?


When my girls were little I began to realize that, over their growing up years, they would be able to visit some cool places. I made each of my daughters a “Neat Places I Have Been” book. I used about a page for each year, and put a photo of each major places they went. Furlough years took several pages. This was one book that they could take to college or show to their spouses in years to come. It emphasized travel, one of the advantages of being an MK.

You could do the same thing with a shadow box or a collection of some kind. What physical object can you put in their hands that makes them say, “Wow! I’m blessed to be an MK.”

2. When possible, give your kids an enjoyable part in your ministry.

We moved to New Zealand during our daughters’ high school years. Here they were able to have a vital part in our ministry. Lisa was only here for six months, but she immediately stepped into choir and some teaching opportunities. Lori lived here two years. She took over our puppet ministry and kept it going while she was here. Our daughters naturally attracted teens to our ministry. I was so pleased that they could have the chance to really take part in ministry and enjoy it before they left home.

Even small children can help pass out hymnals or greet people and make other kids feel welcome. Kids who play an enjoyable part in their parents’ ministry are less likely to resent being MK’s when they become adults.

Your particular field may present challenges for engaging your children and building memorable times as a family. Pray about it. Work at it. Somewhere in the context of your ministry there will be some fun things that you can do as a family or that your child can participate in individually that will give him great childhood memories and make him glad that he’s an MK.

What activities or ideas have you found in your place of ministry to emphasize the positive aspects of being an MK?

3. Encourage your kids to develop unique skills that are available to them because they are MK’s.

Arrange for ways to learn the language of the host country even if they move overseas at an older age. Give them opportunities to use the language and point out what a valuable skill that is.

Help them develop ministries on the field that translate into ministry skills in their home country. Use them to help teach children’s church or VBS when they are on furlough.

Encourage them to write about their life as an MK and direct them to writing contests or ways to use their writing.

Teach them to use the art of friendship as a ministry wherever you go.

This doesn’t mean that you should push your MK’s into uncomfortable situations, but look for ways to encourage your kids to develop their own interests in ways that will make them glad for the advantages they have for growing up in a missionary home.

What unique ways have you found to give your MK a positive missionary experience?