You may take out your handkerchief several times as you read David Trim’s latest book, A Living Sacrifice. Your heart may ache as you witness so many young people sacrifice their lives to take the love of God to others. These unsung men and women were willing to risk danger, deprivation, disease, and death—their all—for the church and Christ in the mission field. Their stories are sad but inspirational.
Trim begins by chronicling the story of Eva May Clements, representative of those heroes who surrendered their all. Born in 1897 in Australia, she accepted a call to India. Eva departed her homeland on March 3, 1920, and safely arrived in India on March 29. She soon suffered from a devastating local fever and, on top of that, had to be hospitalized for appendicitis. Greatly weakened by the fever, the routine operation proved too much. She passed away on the morning of November 3, 1920. Eva was 23 years old when she died. She had been in the mission field for only seven months. Eva never had a chance to accomplish anything great and died in anonymity.
Chapter 3 tells of the deadly diseases that missionaries faced in Africa. A party of four Americans disembarked in West Africa on October 3, 1895, in answer to a plea from a national believer who had read about the Sabbath. Within eight months of their arrival, George and Eva Kerr, two nurses, buried both of their children, suffered repeatedly from blackwater fever, and died. G. P. Riggs, a colporteur, suffered so badly from dysentery that he was sent to Liverpool for treatment but still died 15 months later. Only one in that party of four survived for more than two years. Many others followed them in death as they penetrated the heart of Africa.
Chapter 4 recounts the bravery and sufferings of missionaries who built churches in Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean countries. It also recounts the harrowing stories of those who were buried in these countries after just a few short years of mission service. Chapter 5 chronicles the sacrifices in the Far East and the South Pacific. Chapter 6 records stories of missionaries who succumbed to lethal diseases in the Middle East and Mediterranean region. Chapter 7 catalogs the advance of the work in southern Asia, but many paid the ultimate price.
The death of young, talented, dedicated missionaries did not thwart the work but inspired new missionaries to take their places. The death of missionaries was seed, and the number of new missionaries going out always exceeded the number of deaths. In the first four decades of the twentieth century, the Adventist Church formally dispatched 4,591 missionaries. After World War II, because of the introduction of antibiotics and public hygiene programs and the expansion of hospitals, the dangers in many places diminished.
The last part of the book is happier. It shares the stories of those who sacrificed by remaining in mission fields their entire lives. Many missed the graduations and weddings of their children, the fellowship of their family and friends, and the comforts and conveniences of the homeland. But they stayed and ministered. Dr. Arthur C. Selmon and Dr. Bertha Loveland, two physicians, sailed to China a few months after they were married and lived there for 21 years. Merritt and Wilma Warren served 36 years. George and Laura Appel, 38 years. Ezra and Inez Longway served in the Far Eastern Division for 55 years!
Trim closes with an appeal. The task that Adventist missionaries faced a century ago is still unfinished. Across the 10/40 window, especially, there is still a need for cross-cultural missionaries. Those with the greatest resources must help those with the least. Those who cannot go can still give and pray. Adventists must continue to offer their all as living sacrifices until Jesus comes.