A Missionary Childhood in War-torn China
By Faith Cook
Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004
Book review by David Potter
How should we deal with trials and tragedy on the mission field? What are the principles that should govern missionary child-rearing? An unusual woman raises these important issues in an unusual missionary autobiography, Troubled Journey.
Faith Cook tells the story of her parents, Stanley and Norah Rowe, and their devotion to the cause of reaching China for Christ in service with the China Inland Mission. No one can read biographies of missionaries like Hudson Taylor or Jonathan Goforth without being moved by their single-minded dedication to the cause of Christ. The same is true of the Rowes.
The book is not primarily the story of the parents, however, but of their children, Christopher and Faith. These two children paid a high price for their parents’ service. Cook tells of perilous travels by mule train and airplane. Worse still were the hardships of separation from their parents in boarding school, where uncaring adults tormented the Rowe children almost to the breaking point.
Worst of all, as far as Cook was concerned, was the way that her parents handled or did not handle heart-wrenching losses and separations. Whatever resentment or bitterness she might have had toward her parents is long gone. What remains is admiration and love for them but also nagging questions about the wisdom of the decisions that they made. They acted as they were taught and expected to act as missionaries. They believed that they were following the good examples set by missionary heroes, but should they have acted differently?
Reading the book was an emotional experience for me, because the book is not really just about missionary service, but about the ministry generally. Having grown up in a pastor’s home and having suffered the loss of both my two-year-old brother and my mother before I reached my teen years, I could appreciate to some degree what Cook went through.
How should we handle trials and loss? Where do our children fit in our service for Christ? One answer is that if you take care of your service for Christ, He will take care of your children. As the book ends, both of the Rowe children know and love Christ. But could their journey have been less painful and produced better results? Answering this question has relevance not only for our philosophy of missionary service but also of the pastorate. Whether or not you agree with the conclusions which Cook suggests, you owe it to yourself to travel the troubled journey with her and wrestle with the same questions.
Faith Cook has written biographies of great Christians like Anne Bradstreet, John Bunyan and Jane Gray, as well as numerous biographical vignettes in anthology form, such as Singing in the Fire. Her husband Paul is a pastor. They are associated with ministries begun by David Martin Lloyd-Jones.
David Potter serves as a missionary in Hungary with Baptist World Mission.