These people and others like them are every bit as important and perhaps more important than many of the people who fill our history books, yet their memories exist in relative obscurity. They are the people who have, in many different contexts around the world, put their safety, security, and sometimes very lives on the line to minister to others in Jesus' name and to be part of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. They are missionaries of the past who now dwell at home with their heavenly Father.
Not only are their stories worthy of our attention, but the life and spiritual lessons that can be drawn from their experiences are breathtaking. It is up to us as parents to introduce these amazing role-models to our children.
There are some great missionary biographies available both online and in stores. Right now, I bet you are thinking, "ZZZZZZZZZ. That will put my kids to sleep, and me, as well." Not true: These incredible stories deliver more excitement, drama, suspense, and interesting characters than even the best episode of The Bachelor, 24, or Law and Order!
If you are enthusiastic and entertained by missionary stories, then likely your kids will be as well. In some cases, they can be even more captivating than series like the Magic Tree House, Harry Potter, or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, because these stories are about REAL people, REAL dangers, REAL adventures, and REAL heroism! This summer, our family is going to have fun "getting to know" about several missionaries from the past--I hope you will consider doing this with your own family.
Here are some resources I have found to get you started:
http://www.christianhof.org/ -- a website showing pictures and presenting brief biographies of many missionaries throughout history.
"Heroes for Young Readers" series (YWAM Publishing) These books are simple with great illustrations and written in rhyme form. They are geared towards children ages five to ten.
"Hero Tales" by Dave and Neta Jackson (Bethany House). Each volume contains 15 key Christian heroes, including a short biography and three extra stories for each hero. This book is aimed at children ages 6 - 12 and is meant to acquaint children (and parents!) with historically important missionaries and also to teach valuable spiritual and life lessons.
"Heroes of the Faith" (Barbour Publishing) Written by various authors, this series contains biographies of various missionaries as well as other men and women not thought of as "traditional" missionaries, like Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, and C.S. Lewis.
"Men and Women of Faith Series" (Bethany House) This excellent collection of books is geared toward older readers--7th grade to adult.
"Trailblazer Series" If your child likes action, suspense, adventure, and a thrilling plot line, these books are terrific! They are geared for children ages eight to thirteen and are perfect for children to read to themselves.
Of course, there are a number of individual missionary biographies, too many to list here (such as "Through the Gates of Splendor" by Elizabeth Elliot).
I suggest you borrow or purchase a book about a missionary and dive into it with your kids. The books by themselves are wonderful, but they additionally provide so much in the way of jump-starting conversations about taking risks for our faith, trusting in God to provide, keeping an eternal perspective, and many other topics. They may even ignite a spark within our children's own hearts to serve the world on God's behalf someday.
Our kids need some new heroes--let's give them some that are worthy of their interest and respect. Here's to great reading, great life lessons, and a great awakening to the importance of taking the gospel of Christ to then ends of the earth!
"God had an only Son and he made him a missionary."--David Livingstone