“I am convinced of this: God is not going to look us over for medals, degrees, or diplomas, but for scars.” -James Gribble
Press On! by Dave Guiles is a new devotional guide for cross-cultural workers and, strikingly, for those who care about them. Dave has served as a cross-cultural missionary/church planter for twelve years in Argentina. And for the past twenty years he’s faithfully served as the executive director of Encompass World Partners, the missions organization of the Charis Fellowship (formerly Grace Brethren Churches). This book is the result of his life-long study of Dr. James Gribble—a pioneer missionary to Central Africa in the early 20th century. The subtitle states the goal of the book: to teach us about prayer, perseverance, and the ultimate prize. As I read through the book, I was struck by three things: its unique format, its compelling story, and its life-changing capacity.
Its Unique Format
I don’t have another book quite like this one on my shelves. It is biography/church history, philosophy of missions, and a guide to cross-cultural ministry all seamlessly fused together in a daily devotional. The format is designed to be interactive as each day is divided into three sections: Read, Reflect, Respond. First, you are prompted to read a specific passage of Scripture that relates to the topic at hand. Then a reflection on the life of Gribble is laid out as the main content of the chapter. Further, there is a set of questions at the end of each chapter for those who have been sent out as pioneers and another set for those who faithfully hold the rope from home. This unique format has a liturgical flow that will saturate your mind with Scripture, immerse you in Gribble’s story, expose you to philosophy of missions, and then encourage you to interact with the material in a practical way. Each day focuses on a new movement in the story and a specific topic related to cross-cultural ministry such as calling, culture shock, managing distractions, singleness, weakness, accepting delay, prayer, loneliness, betrayal, and the indispensable role of women. Each chapter also has pictures from Gribble’s travels.
Its Compelling Story
This century-old story is not only thrilling but incredibly relevant to modern missions and missionaries. Throughout the chapters, Gribble’s story unfolds chronologically as gripping biographical narrative. On the one hand, it’s blunt brutal realism will unveil the intense spiritual/physical/emotional/psychological obstacles of plowing the field. But on the other hand, it is balanced with the joyful potential of a bountiful harvest. It is truly compelling and dramatic. Additionally the story is laced with Gribble’s own words from various journals and resources. These quotes provide you with a glimpse into the inner life of a struggling pioneer as he walks the line between deep disappointment from the onslaught of obstacles and robust hope in the promises of God. They reveal his philosophy of missions and his unwavering posture of expectancy. You will be exposed to the mundane trials of missionaries—the ordinary joys and sorrows on the field, the spiritual battle between dependency and despair, and the great potential of challenges and rewards.
Its Life-Changing Capacity
This book will provide more than a thrilling read. It has the potential to be a life-altering, devotional experience. I am confident that this exhilarating, thought-provoking, and soul-searching resource has the capacity to rouse a new generation of pioneer missionaries and supporters thereof. Young people will be beckoned to far off places. Missionaries-in-training will be equipped for their future. Deployed missionaries will be encouraged in their exhausting labor. Eyes will be opened to the brutal realities of cross-cultural ministry. Hearts will be stirred to support more sacrificially. Supporters will be equipped to come alongside more effectively. Churches will be motivated to reaffirm their commitment to the necessary work of Gospel advancement in dark places. The conclusion was especially arresting as it delineated the plentiful harvest of Gribble and his team. Even though it was unseen by them, it reinforces that our evangelistic efforts to unreached people—however desperate and daunting—are absolutely worth it. Through much prayer and perseverance, we too can enjoy the ultimate prize . . .
“When I get to heaven and there see crowds of these bright faced people, perhaps I shall ask, ‘Who are these?’ And another shall reply, ‘These are those who are rescued from dark heathendom in neglected Africa.’ Oh, that He may be able to say—’through you.’ What will trials, financial and personal, mean then?” -James Gribble
This book was well worth my time. I was very encouraged and challenged. I read it straight through in one sitting. On the edge of my seat I couldn’t put it down. I can’t wait to slow down and read through it again daily with my family at the dinner table. My prayer is that God might use it to call one of my own children to the field. Maybe God will use it to stir your soul in an unexpected way as well.