The Oxford Dictionary defines biography as ‘an account of a person’s life.’ A Missionary Biography might be defined as ‘an account of the life of a person whose response to God takes them outside of their own community’.
This definition isn’t meant to devalue the mission of those called to serve God in their communities, it's simply to help readers looking specifically for guidance or inspiration in the lives of men and women whose service took them into a culture not their own.
Going beyond the comfort zone
Of the more than 2,500 biography titles listed by Eden.co.uk, about 270 are classified as Missionary biographies. At the time of writing, of the top 10 bestselling Christian biographies, the DVD ‘Faith Like Potatoes’ is the only one classified as a Mission Biography.
In the list of 10 bestselling Mission Biographies, 4 each are about missionary work in Africa and China, 1 is about India and the tenth about a 38 year mission to carry the cross (literally) to every country and island in the world.
Historical Mission Biography
6 out of Eden.co.uk’s ten bestselling Missionary biographies have some autobiographical input. The other 4 are to some degree historical works, concerning the missionary work of men and women in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The historically significant missionaries of the 19th century, such as William Carey (India), David Livingstone (Africa), have more than one biography about them. Choosing which to read depends on what you want to know about the subject. Some will concentrate on the people themselves. More recent biographies will review their legacy to the Christian faith or the countries they served.
Modern Day Mission Biography
Missionaries of the later 20th and continuing into the 21st century often write their own Missionary biography, sometimes with the help of a professional writer. Finding two names on the book’s cover is a good indication that the contents will not only be authentic, they’ll be well written and easily readable.
The current number 2 best selling Missionary biography at Eden.co.uk is ‘Chasing the Dragon’; Jackie Pullinger’s own account of her 1960’s mission in the drug dealing, prostitution and murder of Hong Kong’s infamous Walled City. Also in the list is ‘Dangerously Alive’. Simon Guillebaud’s account of evangelism, witchcraft, miracles and aids in 21st century Burundi.
Reading Missionary Biography
Readers of Missionary biographies are looking to get an insight into the lives of real personalities in same way that readers of secular biographies look to get ‘inside ‘ the lives of the famous and the infamous.
Missionary biography is a search for understanding and inspiration. Readers want to understand the motivation, the difficulties, the vision and the triumph of faith. They want to share in the spirit of courage, endurance, assurance and peace that missionaries seem to find in themselves.
Inspiration From Missionary Lives
Many readers facing a time of trial or a time of decision in their own spiritual lives find reassurance in the stories of others. The certainty of calling is a gift given to few and even the most spiritually aware can be uncertain of what God requires of them.
Missionary biographies might not supply all the answers. But they may clarify the issues and the challenges. Readers will find reassurance that even the great and the good suffered similar times of fear, doubt and spiritual darkness.
Good reads in Missionary Biography
New biographies of ‘historical’ missionary lives provide readers with a new perspective on the world today and give direction for the future. Recent and present day missionary lives often have relevance to the experience and calling of readers today.
Good reading depends on whether you want to know about the person or about the work. You may be more interested in the personality; such as what motivated Arthur Blessit to carry a large wooden cross to every country of the world (‘The Cross’). Or you might have a concern for a particular country or issue; such as the Church in the 21st century China of Brother Yun (‘The Heavenly Man’).
Find Missionary Biographies
To help you find what you’re looking for, at Eden.co.uk Christian biographies are listed under the headings: autobiography, Biblical biography, Missionary biography, general and autobiography. Under Missionary biography, you’ll find around 270 listed titles. You may want to select your reading by named personality, issue and need, or country and region.
Some authors have produced a whole series of Missionary biographies, while others produce just one or co-write with the missionary whose life the book is about. For a good introduction to Missionary biographies, simply follow the Eden.co.uk links to Missionary biography and look at the bestsellers list.
Missionary Biography for children
Not all Missionary biographies are written as life and death accounts of great works. For stories that are human and inspirational, look up these titles at Eden.co.uk:
- Beyond Coral Shores PB - by Martin Haworth. Life and Work with a Remote Tribe in the Philippines.
- Missionary Stories from Around the World - by Betty Swinford. Early days to the present; Africa, India and China.
- Into Africa, Adventures of a Missionary Kid (series) - by Beth Y. Lambert. Monkey Hunting & Crocodile in the River.
- Pig In A Taxi - by Suzanne Crocker. Humour amid hardship and other African adventures.
Quick Guide to Missionary biography
what is it?
- Stories of men and women serving God outside their own communities.
- Historical and contemporary personalities in evangelism and practical service.
- Encouragement, comfort and challenge for your walk of faith.
What will it do for me?
- Encourage, reassure and inspire in the trials and triumphs faith.
- Help to explore your own purpose and role in God’s great continuing story.
- Make a gift to encourage, comfort or reassure another in their walk of faith.
Over to You
At Eden.co.uk you can find a truly interactive Christian community helping you find all you need to live, learn and grow your faith.
Not everyone is called to a life of missionary service, yet many Christians will have questioned, at some time in their lives, whether or not that’s what God wants of them.
- Have you felt challenged at some time to undertake a life of mission? How did you resolve whether or not the call was from God and what did you do about it?
- If you’re on missionary service, what’s the single most supportive thing the rest of us can do to help you feel connected to life ‘back home’ and how do we do it?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips - bizarre and brilliant at Eden.co.uk.
February 27th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison