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Book review – A Martyr’s Grace: 21 Moody Bible Institute Alumni Who Gave Their Lives For Christ

“I can think of nothing that would make death more welcomed than to meet it here, to die for these dear children as my Savior died for me. It is the suffering and dying Savior that melts the stony heart. So with us – that which our lives cannot do our deaths may do.”


So wrote Ella Mary Schenck, missionary to Sierra Leone, West Africa, in the late 1800s. Only a handful of years later, she was dead – brutally killed by a band of bloodthirsty rebels. Ella Schenck was the first former student of Moody Bible Institute to die as a martyr in a foreign land. The stories of all twenty-one are recounted in this fascinating and moving book, A Martyr’s Grace.

The title comes from the answer D L Moody gave to the question, “Have you grace to be a martyr?” His reply was, “I have not. But if God wanted me to be one, he would give me a martyr’s grace.” The missionaries in this book, ranging in age from twenty-seven to sixty-three, and serving in such diverse places as China, Brazil and Lebanon, surely experienced this grace as the actions of cruel men ushered them into the presence of the Master they loved and served.

When I lifted this book in a shop, I expected to recognise many of the names on the list, but was surprised to find only three that were in any way familiar to me – Bonnie Witherall (shot in 2002 in Lebanon), and John and Betty Stam (a married couple beheaded in China in 1934). As I read the book, it was with a sense of guilt – these believers died horrible, violent deaths for Christ, and up until then I’d been totally unaware that they’d even existed!

It does us good to read stories like these for a number of reasons, not least because they lift our eyes from our own comfortable surroundings and our safe little world. They remind us that this life is only a part of the greater picture, and the few years we have here on earth is only a tiny drop compared to the vastness of eternity. They help us to adjust our priorities, to remember what is truly important in life. These people gave their very lives for Christ. The least we can do is read about them, and be inspired by them.

I highly recommend this book. Not only is it thought-provoking, it is very easy to read. The book is little over 200 pages in length, with a decent font size and manageable chapters divided into short sections. Each chapter discusses the background of the missionary, their work, and the events leading up to their death. Quotes from various sources, including personal letters, are also found in many of the chapters. (A word of caution, however – despite the book being easy to read, the circumstances surrounding some of the deaths contain subject matter which is unsuitable for younger children.)

The book closes with the words,

‘It becomes the responsibility of the living…to take pause and reflect on the heritage that has been passed along through their deaths. Only then will we be prepared to endure the same kind of treatment if so granted the honor (Philippians 1:29).’


A Martyr’s Grace: 21 Moody Bible Institute Alumni Who Gave Their Lives For Christ, was written by Marvin J. Newell and published by Moody Publishers in 2006. It is available online and from good local Christian bookstores.

1 Comment
  • Meta Chesney

    26/01/2018 at 18:55 Reply

    It sounds like a very good book Ruth. I might have a read at it sometime. It’s the type of book I can’t leave down once I start reading. A bit like Evidence, Witness and Trial. Very good reading.

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