Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in North Garden, Virginia. The title "Stylos" is the Greek word for pillar. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul urges his readers to consider "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (stylos) and ground of the truth."
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Book Review: "Troubled Journey"
Note: In last Sunday afternoon's message, I made reference to Faith Cook's Troubled Journey. Here's the review of the book I wrote a few years ago.
Faith Cook, Troubled
Journey:A Missionary Childhood in
War-Torn China (Banner of Truth, 2004):118 pp..
Faith Cook is a pastor’s wife in England and a
gifted author who has produced several useful Christian biographies.In this brief work, she traces her own
memories of growing up as a child of missionary parents to China during the
Second World War.In so doing, Cook
writes appreciatively and respectfully about the sacrifices of her parents and
other missionaries for the cause of Christ, but she also offers an honest
critique of some of the negative consequences this meant for her family and
others.Cook makes this plain from the
outset noting in the Preface that “sometimes their zeal was misguided” (p. ix).
Cook’s parents, Stanley and Norah Rowe, served with
the China Inland Mission, founded by Hudson Taylor.She explains that it was Taylor who “had
established the regulation that the wives of missionaries should also be
missionaries in their own right” (p. 19).This policy meant “that the married women were expected to give their
time principally to their missionary endeavor, and therefore would find little
or no opportunity to provide for the educational needs of their children” (pp.
19-20).Based on a widely held
application of Matthew 10:37 which states that disciples are not to place love
of family members above loyalty to Christ, many missionaries sacrificed family
life for their missionary service.Cook
explains, “Taken in isolation from other Biblical teaching on the responsibilities
of family life, these words were used as a rationale for the long separations
between children and parents, not only on mission fields, but also in Christian
work in the home countries” (p. 20).
As her family served in remote corners of China,
Cook explains how they faced various serious illnesses and deprivations, how
her infant brother died with dysentery and her mother suffered afterwards with
depression, and how her parents’ devotion to ministry often meant that she was
left unsupervised and neglected.She
notes, “Many were the ugly sights and sounds that I inadvertently witnessed and
heard” as she wandered idle about the village where they lived (p. 28).Cook also describes the experience of being
sent to boarding schools where the treatment of children was not always
sensitive and caring.She sometimes went
for years without seeing her siblings and parents.She also describes the traumatic emergency
evacuation of her school from China to India on Christmas Day 1944 on an
American DC-3. She then relates how her
family was forced to leave China under communist pressure in the post-war
Upon their return to England, the family suffered
the tragic loss of another of Cook’s younger brothers in a road accident.
Though she expresses respect for her parent’s faith and courage in the loss of
their son, she also notes, “In later years, however, I came to see that such
fortitude, though admirable, could also act as a cloak for their sorrows and
delay that inner healing through faith so needful to them” (p. 95).She shares a letter that Dr. Martin
Lloyd-Jones, their pastor, sent her parents at that time:“As we would expect from you, your letter is
full of triumphant faith.But we are not
meant to be unnatural, and you are bound to feel the loss and the absence of
such a bright spirit very keenly” (p. 95).Not long, in fact, after this great loss, her parents decided to leave
Cook and her older brother in boarding schools in England and return to mission
service in Malaysia. She notes that her father’s commitment to mission work
“was all consuming:at times almost
obsessive in character” (p. 97).She
adds that to understand her parent’s decision one must realize “the ethos in
which it was made.An immense value was
placed on this sort of sacrifice by the Christian community in general and it
was viewed as honourable and highly commendable” (p. 97).She reflects:“These men and women felt they were offering up to their God their
‘Isaacs’—their most valued possession—as indeed they were; but sadly, the
question they did not address was whether God required such sacrifices” (pp.
As Cook completes the story of her childhood, she
relates the long distance letter writing relationship and infrequent contact
she had with her parents throughout her teenage and college years.She notes that her “unsettled childhood,
sheltered school environment, and now the loss of any stable home base” left
her “ill-prepared for the cold realities of the adult world” (p. 112).Despite the hardships, however, Cook also
points to the Lord’s gracious provision throughout the experience.She went on to marry, to become a pastor’s
wife, and to raise her own family.In
the conclusion, Cook reflects:“It had
indeed been a troubled journey for both my brother and me, but as I look back
over the path I have traveled, I can see now see that despite the undoubted
sufferings through which we had both passed—unnecessary sufferings in many
respects— God has supported, protected, and added unexpected provisions for our
needs along the way.Even the sufferings
themselves have proved to be part of God’s design for my life” (p. 116).
This book would be an excellent gift for the
children of missionaries and pastors who might have misgivings about the
circumstances of their upbringing.In
fact, it would likely be helpful for anyone who has painful childhood
memories.It would also be an excellent
read for those parents now serving in ministry, as they consider the impact
their decisions will have upon their families.Cook’s tone is both respectful and honest.She rightly challenges the Hudson Taylor
inspired view of family sacrifice on the mission field.There is no reason to believe that the Lord
brings the call to mission service and the call to family discipleship into
conflict where one must be sacrificed for the other.Cook also reveals that the real key to
resolution of hurtful things from the past is a firm belief in the providential
sovereignty and goodness of God.