Dangerous Territory Discussion Group discussion

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Did you grow up reading missionary biographies? If so, which ones stood out to you? Do you have a favorite example from this genre? Can you think of a missionary biography that might strike you now as problematic or strange or misguided?

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message 1: by D.L. (new)

D.L. Mayfield | 7 comments Mod
I grew up reading missionary biographies. I especially loved the stories of intense, awesome women like Gladys Aylward: Missionary to China and Amy Carmichael Amy Carmichael. I found them very thrilling, and like maybe there was a place for me in the world after all.

Two of the books that in retrospect might have been weird for a little kid to read and adore were Bruchko: The Astonishing True Story of a 19-Year-Old American, His Capture by the Motilone Indians and His Adventures in Christianizing the Stone Age Tribe and Peace Child: An Unforgettable Story of Primitive Jungle Treachery in the 20th Century. Why were Christians so obsessed with stories about jungle tribes and cannibals for awhile? And why was I so fascinated/horrified by them?


message 2: by Noel (new)

Noel | 1 comments Offhand, I don't remember reading missionary biographies growing up. I guess I wasn't into them back them back then. More recently, I've read A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter and The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. I'm sure there are others that I would find interesting and would be glad to receive recommendations.


message 3: by Lauren (new)

Lauren | 1 comments I feel like I grew up reading missionary biographies, but when I think back I can only really remember reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger. I wanted to be a missionary from young childhood, though, and I was certainly inspired by books. I think I was, perhaps, more inspired by fictional (or semi-fictional) stories instead like Christy by Catherine Marshall and Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace.


message 4: by Breanna (new)

Breanna Randall (breannarandall) | 2 comments My parents read us a lot of missionary stories when I was a kid (they weren't very enthused when I later moved overseas, but they blamed themselves because of all the missionary books they read to us). I remember being sort of obsessed with the story of Elisabeth and Jim Elliot. One of the other stories that particularly struck me was that of Adoniram Judson, and the losses he suffered in his life. I remember getting to the end of the book on his life and being in tears.

One thing that was interesting about Judson was that he requested his family members to burn all of his personal writings at his death, so that no one would canonize him into some great hero. I think despite some pioneer missionaries' best intentions, biographers often make them out to be these super humans, when in fact they were quirky, eccentric folks who were crazy and determined enough to move to a difficult place and stick with it, even at great personal cost.


message 5: by D.L. (new)

D.L. Mayfield | 7 comments Mod
Breanna wrote: "My parents read us a lot of missionary stories when I was a kid (they weren't very enthused when I later moved overseas, but they blamed themselves because of all the missionary books they read to ..."

Whoa that is so interesting about Judson! I too remember reading about him (his time in prison was especially impressionable to me at a young age).


message 6: by Ethan (new)

Ethan Edward | 1 comments As a child I read more than one laudatory biography of David Livingstone, printed by evangelical publishers. I am tempted to go back and read more about his life now, since he was definitely an extremely interesting and complicated figure, and reading about him sparked my interest in foreign missions. However, these biographies of course focused almost exclusively on the “eternal reward” of his mission and gave little attention to the practical consequences, such as his terrible neglect of his family or the fact that his adventures paved the way for vast colonial expansion into Africa. A common theme in the many missionary biographies that I read as a child was that the material effects of missionary work are essentially irrelevant; So long as a missionary is “saving souls” any amount of collateral damage is acceptable. (This tends to be more prominent, in my view, when biographers are describing missionary work in “exoticized” locations.)

I also had a morbid fascination with tales of cannibal and headhunting tribes as a kid! I’m sure this says something about the American evangelical psyche.


message 7: by Gena (new)

Gena Thomas | 4 comments Noel wrote: "Offhand, I don't remember reading missionary biographies growing up. I guess I wasn't into them back them back then. More recently, I've read [book:A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias ..."

Irresistible Revolution is a great one!


message 8: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Snow (supersnow) | 1 comments I didn't become a Christian until high school, and didn't read missionary biographies until I spent a year living overseas as a missionary myself. The only book about a missionary I remember reading is Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot, which I found inspiring. I remember that when I got to the last chapter, I put off reading it because I didn't want the book to be finished.


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