Book Review – Clouds of Witnesses

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Perhaps forty or seventy or a hundred years from now, someone will pen a valuable book about Christians who are living in places such as Iran or Syria or Tunisia today.

Like the seventeen men and women profiled in Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom’s Clouds of Witnesses, many of the subjects of this future work will be individuals who will have held fast to the faith despite being at odds with their national culture; a culture that seems inhospitable to Christianity and where one might assume the church will never thrive.

Shi Meiyu was raised by parents who were early Chinese Christian converts. She studied medicine at the University of Michigan, one of the first women to enter a coeducational medical program. She returned to China and was instrumental in developing a hospital and training nurses—nurses who had far more responsibility than their counterparts in the United States.

Shi Meiyu required that her nursing students be trained as Christian evangelists as well as medical professionals.

This is a not uncommon theme in the book—many of the individuals profiled expected that Bible teaching and training of Christian workers would be paired with their efforts in social areas—and vice versa.

The account of Pandita Ramabai (1858–1922) is virtually un-put-downable. The journey of this woman of India to faith in Christ did not happen easily, nor all at once. But her conversion and commitment were solid.

Ramabai had a life of incredible experiences and achievements, among which was the publication of The High-Caste Hindu Woman. This work helped educate Americans about the plight of Hindu women, many of whom faced a bleak life. Using proceeds from her book, she aimed to reenter their world in order to bring them hope. She began a school in Bombay, using some ingenious and bold methods to act within a Hindu social system to read aloud and introduce Christian Scriptures to students.

These few words can’t do her story justice, nor can they tell of the culture of the Hindu world she had been born into and knew so well. When you pick up Clouds of Witnesses, turn to her story first!

In addition, you won’t want to miss:

• Byang Kato, who noted that Christianity is deeply rooted in African history, and who outlined four workable, long-term goals for the church on this continent

• Sun Chu Kil, whose conversion and life during times of great national change in Korea greatly influenced the church there today

• Yao-Tsung Wu, who was so impressed with the Sermon on the Mount that it became the basis of the view of social justice he developed for China so all could have enough.

Readers may find some of these richly detailed narratives, with their abundance of unfamiliar proper names, places, and events a bit difficult to follow. But nevertheless, they’re interesting and worth pursuing.

Countless Christians are laboring within their own cultures today—some in hostile climates where we wonder how the church can ever grow—bringing hope, reform, the Word. Their stories, too, should be told one day this side of heaven.

Reviewed by Pam Pugh, General Project Editor, Moody Publishers

* Thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a review copy.

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By 2020 Most People Will Access the Internet on Mobile Devices

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Network World, reporting on a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, states

“The mobile phone – now with significant computing power – [will be] the primary Internet connection and the only one for a majority of the people across the world,” the Pew Internet & American Life Project writes in a new “Future of the Internet” report. “Telephony [will be] offered under a set of universal standards and protocols accepted by most operators internationally, making for reasonably effortless movement from one part of the world to another.”

With the ease of communicating and sharing information with people around the world, will this lead to greater social tolerance?  Most experts don’t think so.

Only 32% of experts agreed that the Web will bring about greater social tolerance, while 56% disagreed. “A number of the survey participants indicated that the divide between the tolerant and intolerant could possibly be deepened because of information-sharing tactics people use on the Internet,” Pew writes.

Social tolerance is “not in mankind’s nature,” Pew was told by survey respondent Adam Peake, policy analyst for the Center for Global Communications. “The first global satellite link-up was 1967, BBC’s Our World: the Beatles ‘All You Need Is Love,’ and we still have war, genocide, and assassination (Lennon’s poignantly).”

True, the sheer availability of information on other peoples and cultures won’t by itself help the cause of tolerance.   But for those interested in getting to know their other-cultural neighbors better, the Internet provides an opportunity to learn more about them — and even talk to them — which is a positive step in itself.


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