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Elisabeth Elliot: Joyful Surrender (Christian Heroes: Then and Now) is a biography in the series Christian Heroes: Then and Now. The series is written especially for young people. Janet and Geoff Benge authored this biography on Elliot. It was published by YWAM (2010). I’m making a particular point of this because there is an autobiography by Elliot with the similar title, Joyful Surrender. It was written for adults and not for children.

The Benges’ biography of Elisabeth Elliot is an important read for young people. It shows how following God may not take us in a straight line; doubts and setbacks are inevitable. Yet God still loves us and helps us walk through shadows and difficulties and on to see the fulfillment of his plans for us. Elisabeth Elliot is a close up and personal look at a life-long journey of faith.

The writing level of this biography is suitable for middle school and high school students. That said, it is important for adults to caution would-be readers of the facts before giving them the book.

From the news, previous generations knew the story of Jim Elliot’s martyrdom, but today people have not heard that Elisabeth’s husband was speared to death while attempting to bring the gospel to an unreached Ecuadorian tribe. The book also contains descriptions of the death of a woman in childbirth, the murder of a language informant, and the painful illness of Betty’s second husband. These descriptions may upset and frighten some younger readers and not be suitable until they are older, and mentally prepared to process it.

This biography differs from Elisabeth’s famous book Through Gates of Splendor. Instead of telling us about Jim, it outlines Betty’s faith journey. We learn about her family life and how meeting many missionaries in her home influenced her choice of career.

It was her plan to become a translator for people who did not have the Bible in their own language and so she studied linguistics in college. She met Jim Elliot and felt drawn to him, but both were planning to remain single and they were interested in different countries.

Betty taught for a while after completing her training. Then God brought people and events into her life that led her to accept a missionary assignment in Ecuador, where Jim was serving, but at a different location. Betty worked hard and faced many heartbreaking setbacks. Sometime later, Jim and Betty married and began serving together.

After Jim was killed, Betty sought out the same tribe whom he had tried to reach. Slowly, members of the tribe began to open their hearts to Jesus. She wrote many stories about the work Jim, herself, and others were doing in Ecuador, giving readers a window into the adventure and challenges of such a calling.

Betty’s writing and speaking brought her back to the United States, where she inspired many people to serve as missionaries and to support missions. During this time her own life had many ups and downs, but her spirit remained strong and surrendered to God.

Elisabeth Elliot: Joyful Surrender (Christian Heroes: Then and Now) is available at Christian bookstores, on Christianbook.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. In paperback, it is approximately 230 pages long.

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon.  

 

Shaken, by Kariss Lynch and published by Realms (2014) is Book One in the Heart of a Warrior Series. This story really got me down on my knees for Haiti and other poverty stricken countries. I liked that this book was a little more realistic than some others I have read. It wasn’t completely happy at all times and explored issues of trauma following a tragedy. There are some very happy, peaceful parts of the book, but I also learned a lot about life’s challenges.

The story centers around Kaylan Richards and her best friend Sarah Beth, who have a passion to be used to change the country of Haiti. Kaylan comes from a very loving Christian home with three brothers.

As the novel begins, she has just graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in nutrition and is trying to decide when is the best time to tell her family that she has decided to take a short-term missions trip to Haiti. Her graduation party is in full swing at her parents’ house. Among the guests is Nick, her brother Micah’s best friend. He and Micah are Navy SEALS. Before Nick left for Afghanistan a year ago, he and Kaylan dated. Now he regrets breaking up with Kaylan and will do anything to win her back.

Later that evening, with Sarah Beth by her side, Kaylan explains to her family why she wants to go to Haiti and forgo her internship in California. She states that Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. She wants to train parents how to take care of their children’s nutritional needs and share Jesus. She and her friend want to change some of the negative patterns the people are caught up in. While her family is concerned and questions her timing, they admire her determination and self-sacrifice.

The young women travel to Haiti and move in with Rhonda, a long-term missionary, who lives in Port-Au-Prince. Kaylan begins helping Rhonda at the clinic and Sara Beth, whose specialty is education, helps teach children. The local voodoo priest, Eliezer, is hostile to Kaylan and Sarah Beth. He has a degree of control over the people and he doesn’t want to give it up. He threatens Kaylan and Sarah Beth, telling them to stop interfering.

Meanwhile, Nick and Micah are on missions with the SEALS. Nick misses Kaylan and writes to her often, receiving letters back from her as well. He is not able to tell her exactly where he is or what he is doing.

About three weeks after the young women arrive in Haiti, the huge earthquake hits. The description of what happened is somber and frightening. Kaylan and Sarah Beth are trapped under their beds. Finally, Kaylan is able to get out and go to Sarah Beth. Quite a few hours pass before Kaylan is rescued, but Sara Beth doesn’t make it out alive.

Kaylan is crushed in mind and spirit. She keeps putting one foot in front of the other, helping others amidst overwhelming grief. The voodoo priest, Eliezer, confronts her, accusing her of being at fault for the earthquake, and even for Sara Beth’s death. Kaylan is not thinking rationally and begins to believe him.

Micah and Nick hear the news about Haiti. They get permission to take supplies there and to bring Kaylan home. They find her in the rubble and ruin and get her home as quickly as possible. Nick stays around for several weeks, but Kaylan is not herself. She has become despondent and bitter toward the Lord. Nick finally has to return to his work with the SEALS. He assures her that the Lord will take care of her.

Kaylan slowly begins to put her mind and time toward relief efforts for Haiti. She also teaches dance to little children. When she and Sarah Beth were children, they would often dance together. On leave again, Nick finds her in the dance studio. Kaylan is praying for the first time in many weeks. She tells the Lord she will begin to trust Him in the middle of all the tragedy. Nick and Kaylan have a lovely reunion and decide to go steady.

This is a series, so the ending isn’t complete, but you have the impression that Kaylan and Nick are doing well with each other and with the Lord. So much has been healed. They both decide they want to focus on the future and not the past.

This is a particularly enlightening book as all of our lives are challenging and even tragic at times. This story can help in dealing with such experiences. It also encourages us to see how we can be used to pray for other countries and to go there if the Lord is calling us.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

Mimosa: A True Story was written by Amy Carmichael and published by Christian Literature Crusade. Carmichael, a young Irish woman, went to India as a missionary in 1895. She stayed over fifty years and ministered mainly to women and children, founding a remarkable community called Dohnavur.

It was at Dohnavur where Amy first saw Mimosa, a young Indian girl dressed in bright colors and flashing jewelry. For one afternoon Mimosa visited the community with her father. She begged her father to let her stay and learn more of what these people believed, but he said it would cause their family shame. She left with him, trying to smile through her tears. Amy Carmichael did not see Mimosa again for twenty-two years.

This is the story of how Mimosa took what truth that she heard that day, living it with only God’s Spirit for a guide. Her life was marked with trials: punishment from her parents, persecution from neighbors, an arranged marriage to a difficult husband, sickness, poverty, the loss of a child. But through it all, prayers and hope in a loving God sustained her.

After Amy is reunited with Mimosa we hear the end of her story in epilogues. Her life inspired many others to persevere through their hardships.For those experiencing difficulty or discouragement, this book offers an uplifting perspective. Its primary message seems to be “Love will find a way.”

First written in 1924, the writing style of this book may pose problems to some readers. Prayers are expressed in King James English. Some vocabulary words, like “heathen” and “succor,” are out of style now. The formatting of the opening chapters includes distracting quotes from the reading sprinkled throughout the pages.

I am recommending this book for high school students and college age/working people. The difficulties of Mimosa’s life might be too distressing for younger children.

I read Mimosa’s story almost as a devotional—a chapter at a time, pausing to reflect. I entered into her sense of peace. It reminded me to live in hope.

A paperback of 147 pages, Mimosa: A True Story is available from Amazon.com, Barnes &Noble, and Christianbook.com.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

Do you know a teen who gets passionate over a good cause or loves thrillers?  This nonfiction book, God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill (1967), was written for adults, but it would certainly satisfy older teen readers who long for stories about people who walk the talk.

Andrew’s childhood dreams of adventure become daring deeds of resistance when he tries as a teen to frustrate Holland’s Nazi occupiers during World War II. After the liberation comes, he joins the army, but finds it isn’t the heroic life he expects it to be.  Recovering from a wound, he returns to civilian life and at last finds healing for his soul in Christ.

Andrew enters a period of Bible study, practical leadership experience, and other course work at a school for evangelism. At the end of this time an idea forms in his mind: why not take Christian literature into countries where the gospel is banned?  Andrew attends an international youth festival, his suitcase bulging with booklets explaining his faith. He plans to exchange them with people handing him pamphlets on communism.

This begins a long series of high-risk trips behind the Iron Curtain.  In country after country, Brother Andrew brings Bibles and speaks to underground churches. He resolves never to lie to authorities.  He relies on God to provide for all his financial needs.

Time and time again, the seemingly miraculous occurs. God does amazing things through this devout yet humble man. To quote Andrew: “It’s high Christian adventure if your heart is in the right place. Because wherever you are, Jesus will be, too.”

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Book Reviews

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