Ruth Tucker’s book From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya caught my attention last week. Sadly, it’s a book I had never read until now, never even put on my summer list. After reading the first few chapters, I’m convinced that it’s a gem.
An “oldie but a goodie” is how I would describe it. Its sub-title, “A Biographical History of Christian Missions”, is a bit more revealing than the title First published thirty years ago (1983) by Zondervan, it received a lot of press in mission circles at that time. Today, though, it looks past its sell-by date at first glance. Few, if any, people mention it even in mission-minded churches these days. Well, I would like to change that for a couple reasons:
- Stories enrich us: when God is the center of the stories, then we’re enriched. And that’s what we find in From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya. In an age of comfort and convenience, who is not startled by Perpetua and Felicitas in the third century? Who is not inspired by learning of this 22 year old mother of an infant son together with her personal slave (8 months pregnant) who refused to recant their faith in Jesus, but rather face public execution from a bear, leopard and wild boar in a Roman arena? Who is not moved by Lottie Moon, a single woman missionary from Virginia to China in the 1800s? Who is not encouraged by the evangelistic zeal of the Anglican bishop of Uganda, Festo Kivengere?
- Stories are us: Biography that merely repeats certain facts and figures can leave us high and dry. But when we realize these stories of God’s expansion of his kingdom from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth is a story we are part of today, then we can connect. Their stories become part of our story as fellow believers in Jesus Christ. The story of God’s unrelenting love for sinners saved by grace is a story that turns our world upside down. It tells us we’re not inventors of our own stories, nor is anyone else. Our personal life history only makes sense in light of the unfolding drama of God reaching out through Jesus to all peoples of the world.
The book is not without its faults. It is tilted too much in the direction of the Global North for our tastes of today. However, Ruth Tucker, who describes herself as a biker, kayak-er, grandmother, skier, and blogger (see www.RuthTucker.com) has done us all a great service in making this simple, compelling collection available for us today.
And in my opinion, we shortchange ourselves by not reading it. And at the (used book) price of a fancy coffee , it’s worth it.