I recently re-read the autobiography of author and missionary Patricia St. John. We grew up with daily read-aloud time, and her books were frequently the subject. Many Christian children’s books (of a certain era) involve a pithy, pious child being persecuted for their faith, then bravely dying of some disease while everyone in the house finds Jesus and my mom cries. Patricia St. John does not follow this vein. Her characters are realistic and believable; they deal with real-life problems and have no sanctimonious death-bed speeches. In fact, they are alive and happy at the end of the stories.
As interesting as her fiction is, St. John’s life is even more exciting. She was a nurse and spent many years as a missionary to Muslims in Morocco. She traveled all over the world, writing about relief efforts and orphanages. As I was going through her autobiography this time, I was also reading the news stories about the devastating fires locally as well as the extreme famines in Africa, hardship across the world. When St. John visited the famine refugee sites in Ethiopia in 1985, she was pained by the suffering and questioned why God couldn’t just send rain or stop the civil wars.
Then she saw the amazing things that were happening in the refugee camps and wrote,
God’s solution is sometimes different. He does not always lift people out of the situation. He himself comes into the situation, as Christ the eternal man once entered this world and in a sense came to stay. He does not pluck them out of the darkness. He becomes the light in the darkness, the peace in the midst of the conflict, the spirit’s riches in the midst of poverty and loss and physical degradation. Right there in the desert, he gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
I can’t wait to read Patricia St. John’s books to our family. She is a heroine of the faith. Whoever says the Christian life is boring should read her autobiography.