Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Hey, let's continue our mini-series on getting the most from missionary biographies. A little disclaimer, yes, some of the missionaries that I'm highlighting here are some of my favorite. You may have other favorites. There is a lot of information on missionaries, biographical information, books available on the internet. There's plenty of information just in articles on some of the more well-known ones. I've already mentioned, my favorite anthology is Ruth Tucker's book entitled From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya. Today as we get started, I want to give sort of a general outline of looking at a missionary biography from a different perspective. That is usually when missionary biographies are presented, they're presented in basically a historical perspective, just kind of giving the data about the missionary when they lived and what they did. However, some of the greatest value to the reader or to the listener of a missionary biography are things that are a little bit between the lines.

It may mean that you have to do a little more digging or research to figure it out. For instance, when did this person live and what was the spiritual climate of the environment and their upbringing? What were the formative influences and events which moved this person to serve God in missions? Sometimes it's an outstanding event. Sometimes it's a more subtle working of the Holy Spirit in their heart, in their life, in such a way is to draw them into missions. How did this person become equipped to serve God in missions? So many times we short circuit the idea that it takes a long time to be adequately prepared for the mission field, particularly in difficult fields. For some reason, younger adults today kind of feel like if I feel moved by God in some subjective way to become a missionary, then everybody automatically owes it to me to support me and send me off to the field, even though I may not have had any real practical training to keep me on the field and be effective long term.

So we asked this question of missionary biographies. How did they become equipped to serve God a=in missions? What was their determination, their path of education and experience and skill building to help them be effective on the field, even if part of that was while they were on the field? Another question is what were the unique characteristics of the people to whom they ministered and with whom they ministered? That is their colleagues or mission sending agency or the means by which they got to the field. How did did they get sent out to do ministry and what did they actually spend most of their time and energy doing? I read some of the daily journal kind of stuff from William Carey and am astounded at the pace and the discipline and the dedication to do all the things that he did in a day. What were some of the most significant challenges and achievements of his ministry?

Not just that he lived and perhaps died in a foreign country, but what was actually achieved during his lifetime or her lifetime, and what were the results longer term after they went on to be with the Lord? Were there continuing results spiritually? And this lends toward the question of what was the most important legacy of their influence? What did he or she do and what were his or her principles that continued to influence others after their death? I think of somebody like Lottie Moon and the tremendous legacy that she left for the Southern Baptist Convention of interest and passion for missions, and particularly sending people out to populate needy fields. One of Lottie Moon's personal passions was to see men get to the field, and the last sort of summary question you ask of biographies, especially when you're presenting it to people, is what lessons might we learn from this great missionary?

Maybe it has to do with personal, spiritual life and disciplines. Maybe it has to do with their exercise of faith. Maybe it has to do with some sort of unique discovery of cultural insight that enabled the gospel to be understood and communicated better. Maybe it's just their personal commitment to endure no matter how hard it was. Today, we're going to continue in the timeline. We're going to look at Samuel Zwemer. He was born in 1867, died in 1952. He was the preeminent missionary in, I'll say, modern times to the world of Islam. He had a great heart for reaching Muslim peoples, scattered all through the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula and around the world. In his academic role, in his later decades, he continued to edit, write, compile, and publish information about ministry to the Muslims for about 50 years. He was the primary spokesperson and expert on ministry to Muslims.

Again, the pace of his life and commitment to productivity was phenomenal. His acceptance in his day by Muslim leaders was also amazing. I would say that perhaps the greatest legacy that Zwemer left was not only his passion for Christ personally, but his understanding of Muslim ministry in such a way as to propel many other people in the direction of gospel ministry to Muslim peoples. The next on my list is Lilias Trotter, who came sort of as a fruit of Samuel Zwemer's interest. She lived from 1853 to 1928. She was a radical in some ways because she was declined to go to the mission field by well-known mission two Muslim peoples of her day and went to the mission field anyway on her own funds. By rights, she was an up and coming artist in the British and European community, but she took all of her skills and her life and dedicated it to ministry to Muslim people, including even though of ill health, sometimes making long treks by camel to reach other areas with the gospel.

The next on my list is also a lady, Lottie Moon. She has a tremendous reputation ongoing in the Southern Baptist community, but her life and ministry in China reflected a sincere commitment to ministry for the sake of the Lord and a sense that men should have been there with her at least communicating the gospel. She felt like men were not listening to God's called missions as single women were. That happens to be a continuing problem even today. The next on my list is Nate Saint. One reason I picked Nate is he's just an outstanding technical missionary. He was a missionary pilot and he's known for being one of those five Auca martyrs in Ecuador. He had an amazing creativity for using the airplane to assist in specific ways to help the missionaries reached into unreached areas. He was not just a technician as it were, or engineer. He was personally committed to missionary work himself for which he ultimately gave his life.

The next missionary on my list is Cameron Townson. He lived 1896 to 1982. He's most well known for his passion for Bible translation and help in the formation of Wycliffe Bible translators, which is an enormous worldwide organization focused on particularly New Testament Bible translation. He was convinced by the word of God that translating the word of God into the language of the people was essential for their understanding and acceptance of the gospel. His passion and influence toward translation with integrity and accuracy still resonates around the world today. The next one on my list is actually two men, Stan Dale, an Australian guy, and Phil Masters, an American that both died in martyrdom in 1968 in Irian Jaya. There are a couple of books that tell the story. The most outstanding is Lords of the Earth by Don Richardson.

These guys had very different personalities in any location. At any time in history, these guys would've had a challenge to work together in harmony, but they were so committed to reaching this lost tribe that they worked together diligently and together, ultimately making contact with the tribe it costing their life. The epilogue to their story tells of the tribe coming in contact with the gospel and embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. One little vignette of Stan Dale's philosophy was that he thought all true believers should separate from each other geographically equidistant around the world and evangelize all the spaces in between them. That's a pretty missionary philosophy. The last on my list is Viggo Olsen. He is more contemporary than the others as we've walked through this history timeline. He was a pioneering missionary in the land that became Bangladesh. In fact, my understanding is that he had the Bangladesh visa numbered number one in honor of his role in helping to form the state of Bangladesh.

He was a medical doctor who had built a hospital in order to reach the Bangladeshi Muslim people with the gospel. His 1973 biography is entitled Daktar, spelled D-A-K-T-A-R. Now, a few more thoughts about how these biographies can be used. Even though time may be short, the biography could be serialized. That is tell just little snippets of the story at a time and leave people hanging, waiting for the next opportunity to share on a weekly basis. So you're telling little bits that help people get a handle on their life and some of the things that we mentioned that are behind the story of the culture that influenced them, how they came to Christ, how they came into missions, what their legacy is and so forth, but just told in little bits at a time, five minutes, perhaps over a period of weeks.

I've also seen biographies well-used as woven into a message about something else by way of illustration. Sometimes just referring people to an excellent biography by way of illustration from their life that illustrates the passage or the point that you're teaching or preaching about, goes a long way toward helping nudge people to look it up and find out. More biographies are a great way to introduce extensive teaching on missions. So every mission session could have a little bit about a particular person in their biography as you launch into the topic of the day or the week, and there is the simplest form of just reading biographies yourself. Biographies are almost always an encouragement to our own spiritual life to see how other people responded to God in their step by step journey of faith with the Lord to the mission field and on. I dare not forget, reading biographies to your children.

There's a pretty good series of paperback, missionary biographies, I think produced by YWAM that are written on a kid's level and would be great to read to kids and get them interested in the lives of missionaries. I'll just remind you that there is a small packet of documents that describe these things and outline some of the names and recommended biographies on the website at, shop, look for missionary biography packet. And again, I want to remind you that we appreciate your feedback and your reflections on the podcast. Just email That's Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. Now to God, be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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