Monday, November 18, 2019

Christian Heroes Then & Now

Heroes Then & Now Book Review Series
Christian Heroes Then & Now series came to my attention nearly two decades ago when I attended a homeschool conference.  YWAM Publishing had a phenomenal deal on the Gladys Aylward title, and though my kids were nowhere near old enough for these books, I wanted to see what this was all about.

I was hooked from that first book.  It wasn't long before I was sharing the books with my children.  George Müller was their first introduction to this amazing series, and that is still one of my very favorite titles.

I don't yet own everything, but I have a pretty good collection of both their paperbacks and audiobooks.  Some of it is pictured below.

Benge Books has recently started a website of their own, and they now have a social media presence as well, such as their Facebook page.  As part of this site launch, they are giving away three sets of five books, and reviews are posting all this month.

Part of my Benge shelf
I knew I wanted to write a review.  The only hard part was choosing which book to use.  We're studying Twentieth Century History this year, but that doesn't help a lot as there are still so many options.  Richard Wurmbrand: Love Your Enemies won.  His life covers most of the 20th century, and his is a story we really are not familiar with.

I knew the basics.  Richard Wurmbrand lived in Eastern Europe where he was a pastor.  After World War II, his country came under Soviet influence.  He spent years imprisoned for his faith, and he was tortured while a prisoner.  Eventually, he was released and was able to come to the US.  He spoke out in the Vietnam War era about the way Christians were being treated in communist countries.  He founded Voice of the Martyrs, which expanded to address the persecuted church everywhere.

I knew there was more to the story, and I obviously was missing some details, like just which Eastern Bloc country he was from.  Like all of the Benge Books, there is so much in the way of life lessons.  Janet and Geoff Benge always write these biographies in a way that makes it natural to have fabulous "what would you do?" conversations.  Richard and his wife, Sabina, had many opportunities to love their enemies, as the subtitle suggests.  They see all people as people, not as Nazis, communists, or enemies. 


My kids are now on the older side, so many consider the Christian Heroes Then & Now to be too juvenile for high school students.  I disagree.  The thing is, my kids are doing a full history program already, and while it is coming from a Christian perspective, there is so much going on in the world that the text can only spend a bit of time on missionaries like Eric Liddell. 

The Heroes books allow us to supplement with well-researched and well-written biographies that are a great length.  They don't take longer than maybe two weeks to read, or a couple trips to town when we listen to the audiobook. 

The twentieth century can be a rather depressing time period to study.  Armenian genocide, two world wars, the holocaust, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and on and on.  A Benge biography helps to lighten the mood, even when it is covering topics like torture.  There is enough detail that you know he is being hurt, but not so much that the book is depressing.

Like all Benge biographies I have read, the story jumps into some exciting, tense moment in the person's life.  For Wurmbrand, he is being put into leg irons as the story opens, with no idea where he is being taken.  He ends up in a train car, wondering if he is heading off to his death.  You jump back to his childhood as a non-practicing Jew in Romania and you follow along as he grows up, becomes a Christian, continues life... and eventually ends up replaying that same scene that the book opened with.  Then you find out what happens from there.

Janet and Geoff Benge do such a great job with cliff-hanger chapter endings that even when you are familiar with the overall story of the person, you can't wait to find out what happens next.  My kids (now in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades) enjoy these biographies, and I appreciate that we have the opportunity to talk about the lives of so many real people, people who are true heroes.



This giveaway is available now through December 5.

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