There are many gifts from my parents for which I will forever be thankful. One is the gift of reading. And another is the gift of books.
My mom taught me to read, and I actually remember when “the light turned on.” From that moment on, I was a voracious reader. Because we had no television in our home, I read everything I could lay my eyes on—including the ingredients on the cereal box.
But mostly, I read books. Good books. Books that stretched me and challenged me to love God, grow in maturity, and live by faith. And all this was before I was even in third grade.
What kind of books could do this for a grade schooler? Missionary biographies.
We just completed our missions conference at church, and I realized how deeply the lives of missionaries have impacted mine through the years—largely through their written testimonies.
Before I was even old enough to fully understand and appreciate them, I read books about Ann and Adoniram Judson, Mary Slessor, David Livingston, Hudson Taylor, Gladys Alyward, Jonathan Goforth, William Cary, Darlene Deibler Rose, and many others.
Looking back, I can see that as a child, these books stirred an appetite in my heart to see God use my life. Even though I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, it planted the thought, “If God could use them, He can surely use me!” As a teenager, I remember key decisions I made as, through biographies, I observed the spiritual disciplines and fruitfulness of godly men and women who abandoned themselves to God’s call on their lives.
I’m not a missionary today. But I am a different person because of the missionary biographies that I have read. The lives of these godly heroes of the faith have convicted, challenged, encouraged, and influenced me.
I read more widely now than I did in grade school (which is a good thing!). But I’m still far more challenged by a real life testimony of a person who walked with God, wholly surrendered herself to God, and saw God bless her faith and faithfulness than by any other kind of book.
Have you read a good missionary biography lately?