Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Book Review of A Martyr's Grace by Marvin J. Newell

One of the newest books to hit VOMC's shelves is A Martyr's Grace: Stories of Those Who Gave All for Christ and His Cause by Marvin J. Newell. I found it to be an interesting and worthwhile read. Also, at just over 200 pages, I think it can fit quite easily into most people's schedules. You could flip through a few of the stories at a time, say before bed or during a commute, or you could set aside a few hours and likely even finish it off in one sitting.

A Martyr's Grace tells the true stories of twenty-one men and women who died while serving as Christian missionaries in hostile nations. Each of these believers, who were all of them students at the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, are classified as martyrs according to D.L. Moody's own definition: "those who were killed because they refused to renounce their faith or because of active opposition to their witness."

Newell spent seven years as a professor of missions and intercultural studies at Moody in addition to spending twenty-one years as a field missionary in Papua and Indonesia. He writes authoritatively about the Moody missionary program and knowledgably about a number of countries and cultures.

A Martyr's Grace takes its reader around the globe and throughout history. Within the first ten pages, for example, it travels from Lebanon in 2002 to China during the Boxer Rebellion. It even goes as far back as the 1890's in order to tell the story of Moody's first known martyr, teacher Ella Mary Schenk, who met her death in West Africa.

Some of the martyrs told about are well-known, such John and Betty Stam, who were beheaded by Communist forces in China, and some are not. In either case, Newell reveals that all of the stories-new or old, short or long, well-known or unknown-are worth telling. None of them seem out of place or fail to show the power of sacrificing all for Christ.

One of the most compelling aspects of A Martyr's Grace is that it outlines the uniqueness of each martyrdom experience. In the introduction, Newell points out that there is "no specific personal qualification for one to enter the ranks of martyrdom." He proves this by thoroughly describing each martyr's childhood, personal relationships and individual gifts and abilities. He even describes many of their final moments in great detail, but his emphasis is on the glory of their faithfulness, not the gore of their death.

I appreciate that Newell also includes the moments of fear, frustration and sadness that these martyrs endured. He reminds his reader that, like all Christians, they were imperfect human beings for whom faithfulness was a constant struggle. They did not succeed by their own strength but by complete obedience to their Saviour.

A Martyr's Grace is an inspiring and challenging call to embrace the way of the cross. Not only do the lives of these missionaries demonstrate "a martyr's grace," they also encourage Christians in every country and calling to live for Christ at all cost.

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