June 2 Book Reviews

The Most Unlikely Missionaries: Serving God’s Kingdom in the Middle Kingdom

The Most Unlikely Missionaries: Serving God’s Kingdom in the Middle Kingdom

J. M. Gurvsy

Reviewed by: David A. Okken

The Most Unlikely Missionaries: Serving God’s Kingdom in the Middle Kingdom, by J. M. Gurvsy. Christian Focus, 2023. Paperback, 224 pages, $15.99. Reviewed by OP pastor David A. Okken.

This account by J. M. Gurvsy (pen name) of his family’s brief foreign missionary tenure for a confessional Presbyterian denomination in North America includes his honest and understandable questioning of the value of their service. He states that he does not regard himself as having made a “good return” on the church’s investment.” He is unsure “what was the Lord’s deep purpose” in sending them overseas for such an unexpectedly brief period. This reviewer believes that we have in our hands part of the answer. The Lord purposed to give us a true treasure of a resource in this book. It is filled with interesting content and many valuable gospel lessons.

We learn about discerning a call. Missions is not the work of only individuals or families, but of the church. In this case, the decision to serve in China involved counsel from many. It involved patiently waiting for the Lord to work through the church’s committee on foreign missions. It also involved the elders where Gurvsy had served as pastor. I appreciated the thoughtfulness given to how to shepherd the congregation through the process.

We also learn about the importance of family. For Gurvsy, at every step, decisions were made with his wife. And together they wisely shepherded their children and cared well for them both through the process of preparing to go and in serving on the field. It was God’s wisdom that enabled them to make the right albeit difficult decision to return to the States.

We are given a wonderful look at their life and ministry in China. Though their time was shorter than planned, they poured their hearts into labors for which the church can give thanks and praise to God. Reading the book helps us to do just that.

We also learn much about China, the nation where they served: its history, geography, language, rich culture, and beautiful people. Very helpful was the identifying of “Five Key Events in the History of Chinese Missions.” There and throughout the book we are given to appreciate our sovereign God’s great work in establishing his kingdom in this fascinating land.

The words of the hymn “This Is My Father’s World” ring true in China even among unbelievers. The effects of the curse do not undo God’s common grace. Sadly, missionaries can sometimes focus on the negative aspects of the countries where they serve and adopt a disparaging attitude about them. Gurvsy’s tone in this book is quite the opposite. He shows us that the Chinese are a kind, patient, gracious, and helpful people.

Yet, like all peoples, they desperately need Christ. We learn about the challenges and the blessings of finding creative and winsome ways to communicate the gospel—and about doing so where it is illegal and must be done covertly while teaching English.

We are helped to appreciate what life is like for our dear Chinese brothers and sisters who suffer for the gospel in ways that we do not. We learn of missionaries who serve in a place where there are the heartaches of seeing beloved friends, teammates, and partners in ministry suddenly forced by the government to leave.

From beginning to end, the book is wonderfully pastoral. It provides valuable wisdom to those considering foreign missionary service as well as to the church as it supports its missionaries. I also appreciated its Christ-centeredness. As a thread that runs throughout, we are well reminded not to strive for the attainment of some measure of “success” as we may define it. The true treasure is Christ himself. Read this book, and it will help you grow in sharing the author’s conviction that, indeed, “Jesus is still worth it!”



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