Good booksGoldsmith, Elizabeth (1998). Roots and Wings: Five Generations and their Influence. 
London : OM Publishing. 199 pp.

Elizabeth inherits a family line of missionaries and she is the fourth generation missionary! The missionary baton was not passed to her without experiencing a divine call, “God used Mummy to challenge me for overseas mission” (p. 151) and the call was confirmed through a youth meeting that led her to pray, “Here I am. Take me” (p. 152).

Serving with her famous husband, Martin Goldsmith, they have covered cross-cultural mission fields in North Sumatra in the Karo Batak Church, in Malaysia to pastor a church and in Singapore to superintend a Language School to train new missionaries. In God’s mysterious way of leading, the Goldsmiths returned to Britain as staff of All Nations Christian College. Here, they discovered their exposure to “all the world’s major religions” during their “ten years in Asia,” a pedagogical asset to spend the next twenty years training people to enter different countries for evangelism and church planting (p. 166).  Remaining in Britain, Elizabeth did not abort her missionary heritage. They continue to minister to the varied cultural groups in their home tuft. They have not stopped crossing cultural boundaries to extend their passion for teaching and The Biblical Graduate School of Theology is honoured to be a recipient of their “regular” service.

How did the missionary legacy come about?  The book is a historical research of the author’s family tree to find out “what impact one generation has had on another” for missionary work. It describes Elizabeth’s effort to find answers to, “How did the task of mission develop over the years and what legacy did they pass on? In what way is the ‘heritage’ channeled within a family from one generation to another? And how is it modified and developed as new influences come in, often bringing new blessing?” (p. x).

Her gift as a writer stands out in the book as she guides a tour of her family heritage of Christian faith and call to mission. The legacy of a Christian heritage began with the conversion of her great grandfather, Royal Wilder and his determination to put God first in his life (chapter 1). In preparation for ministry, he studied at Andover Theological College where the first American foreign missionary movement was launched resulting from the well-known “Haystack” band which every mission minded church should get acquainted. The mission exposure on campus confirmed his call and together with his wife, Eliza Jane, they began work in the unevangelized state of Kolhapur in India.

An item of the legacy they left for the next three generations of missionaries was the holistic approach to doing mission that “people are not just ‘souls’ needing to be saved, but whole persons with physical, emotional, and mental needs as well as spiritual ones” (p. 20). Sensitive to the children’s need for literacy, the Wilders set up schools for education and as channels to present Christian instruction and the gospel. Another item of the legacy was, “native churches should have native pastors; that native churches should be trained to responsibility, and taught to keep on a level with their neighbours’ so that they might win them” (p. 32).  Their principles of planting an indigenous church worked! The Wilders were forced to return home in 1875 but with much joy that the church in Kolhapur was growing with three trained Indian Christians appointed as elders and “the slow and difficult beginning brought very rewarding progress which was built on solid foundations” (p.34). In 1927, a Memorial Church to the Wilders was being planned, and this church still stands there today!” and to the delight of Christian Educators, “it was designed with as much space for Christian education as for worship!” (p. 34).

The family heritage of missionary vision was caught by Robert Wilder, Elizabeth Goldsmith’s grandfather (chapters 3-4). With fellow Christians, the Princeton Foreign Missionary Society was set up on Princeton College campus and met for prayer every Sunday afternoon and if God permits, they were ready for foreign mission. They were serious about the Great Commission but their question was “not whether [they] are called to go, but whether [they] are called to stay at home!” (p. 40). The power of student movement for “the evangelization of the world in this generation” (p. 59) was demonstrated in the mission of Robert Wilder whose leadership influenced the establishment of Student Christian Movement, Student Volunteer Movement, Inter-Varsity Fellowship and many others. His legacy “played a vital part in the development of the church of God [and] many who were challenged to give up everything for God while at university became Christian leaders of great influence” (p. 58). Robert’s slogan, “The evangelization of the world in this generation” remains a legacy for the church of today to respond.

The heritage saga continues with Dr. Stanley Hoyte and Grace. They were the third generation of missionaries and parents of the author (chapters 5 and 6). Following the legacy of holistic mission, they set up a Christian hospital in China for the purpose of bringing the “love of Christ to the local people, and to show them the possibility of a richer and fuller life in fellowship with God.” (p. 98). Literacy work was also implemented to teach the locals to read and apparently, it increased their motivation to read the Bible for themselves. Elizabeth gave a poignant account of the family’s suffering in China that led to her own imprisonment for Christ in a Japanese prison camp. The incident was a realization that “what my parents passed on to me was this steady determination to obey God no matter what difficulties presented themselves, coupled with a quiet confidence in God’s sovereign care” (p. 136).

Suffering is an item in the Christian heritage for those who answer His call to live out the Christian Faith and to a life of faithful service stands out in the experience of the four generations of Christians. Their will to remain committed that, “nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished without surmounting great obstacles” (p. 44) is rooted in a deep understanding of the Word, dependence on the Holy Spirit’s working (p. 99) and the discipline of prayer, “He that saveth time from prayer shall lose it. But he that loseth time waiting on God shall find it in blessing others” (p. 69).

The responsibility of parents in fostering strong family ties is one other important Christian legacy Elizabeth wishes to emphasize in her book. She has fond memories of going to church together as a family on Sundays, praying and reading the Bible as a family (p.151).  These family “traditions” can serve as a “solid foundation” and a “model” on which children could build their Christian roots in later life and to pass the legacy to the next generation. What will her children [the fifth generation] pass on to their children?  She invited each of her children to give their personal response (pp.184-197).

Establishing a stable foundation, however, is not easy to accomplish for missionary families out in the fields, “Despite the influence of our family heritage, we have each been free to develop our own personality. . . . In each generation one or two have chosen to go their own way, although the majority have walked in the spiritual footsteps of the family line” (p. 198).

The book provides biblical and sound mentoring to missionaries and leaders of missionaries. Most significant of all, it is a testimony that God is still writing the history of the Christian church and its mission!

(Reviewed by Dr Ng Peh Cheng)

CHAPEL NOTES

Dr Philip Satterthwaite chaired the chapel service last week. It was a meaningful time spent on reading from the Book of Psalms, singing hymns and praying.

Next week (17th December), you are warmly invited to join us for a time of worship and fellowship from 12 noon to 2pm . There will be a pot-luck lunch after Chapel. If you are coming, please call Mr Phua Kok Wee at 63538071 to indicate what food item you will be bringing. See you then!

NEWS BITS

  1. We extend a warm welcome to Prof & Mrs Paul Stevens.

  2. Marketplace Ministries Seminar, a two-weekend course, will commence this Saturday (13 Dec), from 2pm to 5pm at the Sanctuary, Zion BP Church. Admission is free for the first session. Those who wish to complete this seminar course may proceed to the second half of the course held on 20 Dec, 2pm - 9pm, and the usual fees will apply: $75 (by audit); $150 (for credit).

  3. The Christian Life will commence this Sunday (14 Dec) at 7.30pm at Rm 302. Admission is free for this 1st session. Fees for the whole course: $150 (by audit); $300 (for credit).

  4. Library will be closed at 1pm this Saturday.

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A BLESSED 
BIRTHDAY TO ...

 

Mr Bernard Chan  10/12

Mr Choi Suk  11/12

Mr Woo Chong Yew  1112

Ms Agnes Cher   11/12

Ms Jenny Low  12/12

Mdm See Poh Chan  12/12

Mrs Ang Tiong Keng  13/12

Mr Clive Lim  14/12

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