In this episode we look at stories about missionaries and other heroes of faith as we end 2020 with a challenge to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world working to carry the Gospel to those who do not yet know Christ.
Books Discussed in This Episode:
Welcome to “Books that Spark” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. This is our last podcast for 2020. I’m looking forward to a new year and the different topics that we’ll be discussing throughout that year. But as we close up 2020, I wanted to focus once more on missions and missionary stories. For me, traditionally, December is a month of missions and praying for missionaries, and having been a missionary for so many years, I miss the mission field. So I thought I would share some really great books with you that you can share with your kids to talk about missions and helping people around the world to know the truth of God’s love for them.
To start with I want to share my favorite story. That is a book that is from OMF. OMF stands for Overseas Missionary Fellowship. It is the missions group that was started by Hudson Taylor. They used to be called the China Inland Mission. And they’re now, like I said, OMF. The book I want to share with you is called Ping Ping and the Very Hairy, Slightly Scary Man. It’s by Jennifer Su MacIntyre and illustrated by Rolla Pan. And I want to read a little bit of this story to you. My friend bought this book for me because it is about a missionary in Taiwan. This book says, “On the Island country of Taiwan where the traffic bustles and the summers blistered, there lived a young boy named Ping Ping, the ordinary one. Ping Ping loved three things in the world: dogs, especially when they were very hairy, video games, especially when they were slightly scary, and playing at the park. There he sometimes saw a very hairy, slightly scary man who sang songs and shared stories with other local children, but Ping Ping usually kept his distance. After all he was a very busy boy. Ping Ping spent most of his time trying to concentrate on his homework. ‘I Work long, hard hours for you to go to extra classes,’ said his father whenever his grades came in. ‘Why Can’t you do better than this?’ ‘I don’t know, Ping Ping shrugged. Pretending that he didn’t care at all was much easier than pretending that he could be at the top of his class. One day Ping Ping’s parents announced that they were changing his name. ‘The Fortune teller told us that changing your name could change your fortune,’ his mother said. ‘So From now on your name will be Chung Wei, the great and successful one.’ Chung Wei was excited about his new name. His grades got better for a while, but then got even worse than before. ‘You’re Bringing shame to this family,’ his father said. ‘I’m Changing your name back to Ping Ping.’ One day Ping Ping’s father got very sick because he had been working so hard. ‘The Doctors say I need to take time off,’ his father said, ‘but I can’t afford to do that, or you won’t get a proper education. See how much I sacrifice for you.'” He wants to make his father happy, but the only thing he knows how to do is to go to the temple and see if that will be able to help him help his father. And he needed to give money at the temple, which is typical. They have to give money to get a fortune or to get good luck or whatever. But his mom got really angry because he stole money from her to give at the temple. And then he had learned the Buddhist prayer to pray for good luck and for success. And he should repeat it over and over. And so for days he did that. He repeated his prayer over and over while his classmates were learning their times tables. He was practicing his prayer, but the teacher got upset with him because he wasn’t paying attention. And so he was embarrassed by that. Through all of this, trying to figure out through the temple, through the prayer, the Buddhist prayers and everything, how he could help his father, how he could be better, he finally just felt hopeless and alone, and he started to cry. It says, “As he blinked through the tears, something startled him. But then he realized it was the very hairy, slightly scary man, the man who would bring a guitar and some toys to the park every week. He and his family would invite other families to join them, sing songs, and listen to stories. Today, though, the very hairy, slightly scary man was by himself. He saw Ping Ping’s tears and smiled gently. ‘Are You okay?’ he asked. Ping Ping froze, shocked that the foreign looking man would speak Chinese so well. ‘I See that you’ve been crying,’ the man continued. ‘Do You want to tell me what’s the matter?’ Ping Ping couldn’t remember the last time a grown adult had asked him about his feelings. So without thinking, Ping Ping told the very hairy, slightly scary man everything. The man nodded, but before he had the chance to respond, Ping Ping got up and ran home.” So then a couple of weeks later, he winds up back at the park again, and he learns the song that the missionary is teaching. He starts to listen to the stories that the missionary tells, and he finds the gospel. He’s also given a Bible, and he takes it home, and he looks through it, and it had nice pictures. “And Although he could not understand all of the stories inside, something felt right about them. That Saturday Ping Ping was getting ready to go to the park when his mother stopped him. ‘You’re Not going anywhere,’ she said to him. ‘You Have too much homework to do. Go up and do it now.” As he headed up the stairs, his mother muttered, ‘When you turn 40, you can believe in whatever religion you want. Maybe it’ll even do you some good, but until then, you need to worship our gods and ancestors.’ As Ping Ping set out his homework, his mind started to wander. He just couldn’t concentrate. But then he remembered how the very hairy and no longer scary man taught him to pray to God, his Heavenly Father, at any time, in any place. He bowed his head and asked Jesus for help. When Ping Ping opened his eyes, he looked out the window at the bright sun shining down on him. He realized that even though life would not always be easy, he was never alone. And so then he finished his homework.” That’s where the story ends. The book has some questions for parents and children to talk through together.
One book I have to recommend for you as a parent, as an adult–it’s an older book, but it is so well worth the read–and it is called Eternity in Their Hearts. And it shows how every culture once worshiped the true God. And it often has the story of when they walked away from worshiping God. It’s such an interesting book. I think that it would be one that would be fantastic to share with your high schoolers, as you’re doing different Bible studies, as you’re doing a study of history and missions, it would be an excellent resource and an excellent book to share with your kids. It is still available and has been reprinted. It’s written by Don Richardson. He was a missionary in Papua New Guinea. He is the best-selling author of Peace Child. He’s the author of Eternity in Their Hearts, Peace Child and Lords of the Earth. He’s just a fascinating person and all that he has gone through and all he has experienced, but Eternity in Their Hearts is just a brilliant book. And I highly recommend everyone read it. I think it’s such a good book. It has so much information about the history of faith and the history of religion and especially the history of a faith in a single God. It says in Ecclesiastes that God put eternity in the hearts of man. And it talks about general revelation, and it talks about the different ways that different nations, like I said, have walked away from God and how they have come back to God. As missionaries, when we go into a culture, we are changing a culture. We are affecting a culture, but we are, in reality, in truth, bringing the culture back to its original roots and helping a culture to embrace the beauty of their language, their people, their history, while still choosing to worship the Most High God, the God of heaven. It’s very interesting and a very helpful book.
Another book I’d like to recommend, and there’s actually two books. One is Ten Girls Who Changed the World. It’s from the Lightkeepers series. It goes through several biographies of different, well ten different women who have changed the world who have changed history by the choices and the effect and influence they have had. There is also the Ten Boys Who Changed the World, also from Lightkeepers series. And each of these also has a boxed set with five volumes of stories of a Ten Girls Who Made History, Ten Boys Who Used Their Talents. So there’s five books for boys, five books for girls. And I haven’t read all of those books, but I have read the Ten Girls Who Changed the World. Also Ten Boys Who Changed the World. So these two books are very well-written. They are for your elementary student. They give short biographies. They jump quite quickly through the life of each individual, because they are short stories about their lives, telling the history of their lives and their experience and what they did. And so you jump rather quickly through the person’s life. That’s a little jolting, I guess, at first, because I’m used to reading biographies and memoirs that give much more detail, but these are shorter and more accessible, then for the elementary student to read. And all of these are written by Irene Howitt. It’s called the Lightkeepers series. They have the five books for girls and five books for boys. And each one is dealing with 50 then in the five books; each book deals with 10 short biographies of different influential people who have changed the world. Now the Ten Boys Who Changed the World include stories of Billy Graham, Brother Andrew, John Newton, George Muller, Nicky Cruz, William Carey, David Livingstone, Adoniram Judson, Eric Liddell, and Luis Palau. And then for the girls, the ten girls covered are Isobel Kuhn, Elizabeth Fry, Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, Mary Slessor, Catherine Booth, Jackie Pullinger, Evelyn Brand, Joni Eareckson Tada and Corrie Ten Boom. And so those are the ten that are covered in that first book, the Ten Girls Who Changed the World. So these are really nice little books. So at the end of each biography, it has “Fact File” where it discusses one item from within the story. “Key Note,” something that they’re trying to really bring home, the main message of the story or the person’s life, and then “Something to Think About” questions to discuss and think over. And then it has a prayer to share together as a family. So each of these are really meant to be read together or at least discussed together with your kids.
Another very popular series. These books have been around for awhile. They have, I believe, 45 volumes of different biographies. These are excellent when you’re starting to introduce biographies to your children, when they’re in the upper elementary grades through middle school, and each book is about a specific Christian hero. These are called Christian Heroes Then and Now written by Janet Benge and Geoff Benge. And they come in boxed sets of five. And so you get five volumes in each boxed set, so you can choose which biographies you’re most interested in, but they have biographies on DL moody, Elizabeth Elliot, John Wesley, Eric Liddell, Lottie Moon, David Livingstone, CT Studd, Lillian Trasher. So there are so many volumes of these books, and they’re, like I said, they’re all around upper elementary to middle school level of reading. So they’re not overly complicated or too difficult to read. They are geared toward a nine to twelve year old reading level, fourth through sixth grades.
These books that I’ve mentioned are some that I highly recommend. If you’re wanting to do a study on missionaries, you’re wanting to talk about the history of Christian history and individuals who have really made a difference in the world. I mentioned how, when I was teaching, I would do little passports for my kids, and we would get stories about the country that we were talking about. We would get fairytales or native fairytales from that culture. We would also get coloring pages and different things from the culture and talk about that culture for that week. And I would give a sticker to each student to put into their passport, like a stamp, but I made the stickers. And so I’ve wanted to post that on my website for you to be able to download if you’re a homeschooling parent or just interested in doing this with your missions group at church or something like that, I’ve only gotten to, let’s see, I’ve gotten a few countries covered, but not very many. If there’s one that you would like me to research and find some good stories from that country, some missionary stories, some fairytales or some cultural stories, let me know. And I will do the research. I enjoy looking into other cultures and other countries and the stories that go with those countries. And so please let me know, but for now I do have a few countries listed in my notes and that I have already done the research for, and I will try to post that for you and link in this blog for this episode and have those available for you to download. I do have the graphics for making your little passport book. You can change the cover according to your country if you want to. But if you’re from the United States, the one I’m providing is for like a US passport and then the graphics for the stickers. You can either print those out and glue them into the book. Or I have a sticker maker that I use, but you can also print on sticker paper and then cut it out. And you’ve got a sticker that has the adhesive already on it to go into the books. I will post that in my notes for you to download. And again, if there’s a country you would like to add to the list, just put it in the comments on the blog. And I will be happy to include that as I get that research done, I’ll put it as an additional comment in the blog. So you can download that information.
So as we come to a close for 2020, we are helping our children to grow in their faith, to become disciples who follow Christ with all their hearts. I think we have to help them understand that we are part of a global community, not just our own family and our own local community, because our brothers and sisters overseas go through many challenges we may not face here in the United States at this time. I think our children and ourselves that we should educate ourselves and grow in our understanding, that we should be praying for our brothers and sisters overseas. We should be praying for the missionaries who are working so hard with social welfare. They’re working to help those who are persecuted for their faith. They’re helping those who are so impoverished who need to start businesses. They help many women to start their own businesses and to come out of poverty. And in many situations, those women have also helped their whole village and their whole area then to thrive and to find ways to bring themselves out of poverty. And God has chosen to use His people to do these things, not just Americans. The two countries that have sent the most missionaries in recent years has been the US and South Korea from what I understand. I know Canada sends out many missionaries as well, and many countries send missionaries to other countries to help share the good news. We need to be praying for those missionaries, if for no other reason than that they are going through severe culture shock. When they move to a new country and they have chosen to leave their families and follow God in the calling He’s put on their lives. And so we need to be lifting them up and praying for their safety.
One of the things we asked people to pray for when we first moved to Taiwan was for our safety in traffic. We weren’t used to the traffic there, and my husband was learning to drive. I waited a year or two before I started driving in Taiwan. But even if you’re in a taxi or on a bus, you still need prayer for safety in the traffic because the traffic was so heavy, so dense, and the rules were so different there that it was kind of frightening to go through traffic. And then of course, we always prayed that we wouldn’t be offensive, that we wouldn’t offend people, that we would learn the culture quickly enough, that we could adhere to the mores and the customs, the politeness, and appropriate ways to deal with humor and those kinds of things that can cause such a chasm between you and the people of the country. Because we loved the Taiwanese people. We didn’t want to offend them. We wanted to become part of that culture. And so we prayed for wisdom. We prayed for understanding. I always said, it’s the little things that trip you up when you’re trying to serve God, because when it’s the big things, we, you know, we stand our ground and we pray hard. And we, the faith we have just seems to well up. We find God’s grace is sufficient for the hard times we go through, but then you have the little irritations, the little inconveniences, or the little surprises that come along. And your first response is to try to deal with them on your own. And you wind up being hindered in your faith and hindered in your work and overwhelmed by these little things that frustrate and challenge you as a missionary. And I’m sure you could even say that for your life as well without being missionaries. It’s often the little things that really trip us up in our faith because our first response is not to turn to God for those, but you know, his grace is sufficient for those little things as well. Those little things can sometimes–they’re the things that squeeze us, that show what’s inside that slips out when it shouldn’t–the language sometimes that we find slip out when it shouldn’t, the attitudes, the frustration, the anger–all those things that show up over the little things that happen in our lives, the little inconveniences. And that’s where I think our faith is often tested and we don’t even realize it. And it certainly is tested in the eyes of our children because they see us living and dealing with those things. And then when it comes to the big faith things, they see us standing by our faith and hanging on. I think it’s confusing for them. And so we really need to learn to seek God first in every situation, even the simple little frustrations of life, help our children understand that God’s grace is sufficient for the big and the little things and that we can take everything to him in prayer. So this season, as we end 2020, let’s spend time in prayer for our brothers and sisters around the world, for the missionaries and ministers around the world. The prayers of God’s people make a difference. The opportunities we have to share the good news with people makes a difference. The planting of seeds of the gospel makes a difference, and we’ve got to just keep watering those seeds. We never know when the harvest is going to come, this is what we’re here for. And to help our children get to be a part of that is wonderful. We’ve taken the world map before and divided it up in different weeks or different days, pray for different parts of the world. I think to keep that in front of our children is important. I think it’s a blessing to let them feel that they are a part of changing the world for Jesus Christ through their prayers, through their efforts, and ultimately through their own personal testimonies that they share with others. As we’re coming to the end of 2020, that’s where I want our hearts and minds to be– what seeds can we plant in people’s lives? How can we bless others? And how can we make God’s name known among the nations? We’re here to glorify God. That is our purpose in being here and helping our children to understand. That is our number one purpose–to glorify God. And to glorify him means to make his name and his reputation known.
I hope that this discussion has sparked some ideas and some meaningful conversations with your children, and in their lives that they will be challenged to grow closer to God. Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. Remember you can go to my website, TerrieHellardBrown.com and find a sign up for my mailing list. You can find freebies to download. And if you sign up for my mailing list, you have access to even more freebies, including a fun phonics book that you can download for your children. There’s three choices you can choose from. You can download those for free and print them out for your kids and make phonics book that you can review with your kids.
I hope you have a very happy new year and that you enter 2021 with hope and joy and anticipation. And that 2021 is a year filled with God’s blessings in spite of whatever else happens–that we know God is with us and that he is sustaining us and his grace is sufficient in the little and the big things that come our way.
I only have books listed for three countries. I am having to redo the list. I lost my list I used when I was teaching. So, please let me know which countries you would be most interested in having a list of books for.
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.
Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!