Review: The Path of Life: Memoirs of Clare and Grace McGill

Published by Guardian Books, Essence Publishing, Belleville, ON.

Calvin BrownCalvin Brown is a former Executive Director of The Renewal Fellowship.

The Path of Life is an excellent title for this book, for although it really is three stories in one, all of them affirm that only Jesus is the Way — the path of life. The title itself is taken from their life verse found in Psalm 16:11: Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Woven in its pages is the story of the Presbyterian Mission to Taiwan and the historical and changing political realities the missionaries had to labour under, including rule by the Japanese and the Chinese (on two separate occasions), as well as European colonisers. It documents the growth of the Presbyterian Church and the development of indigenous church leaders. It gives important social and anthropological descriptions that enable you to feel and see, and at times, smell as well as hear, the story. It brings alive many mission personnel through sharing personal connections which otherwise often seemed to be merely names in reports home.

The second thread is the story of Bible translation work. It includes the challenges, the successes, the disappointment that the work was sometimes not fully appreciated at the time, the entrepreneurial evangelism needed and the labours involved. In truth, Clare McGill created a written language for the Tayal people which enabled them to preserve much of their heritage and value their roots when so many in power discouraged this. More importantly he allowed God to speak to them in their own language through translating the Bible, hymn books and Christian primers. Much that is most exciting in the book are the stories of lives changed by the power of the gospel. An appendix tells stories of the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit especially in the lives of the Mountain people. (Part of the story was earlier reported in Channels Winter 2001 edition The Tayal Church Experiences the Holy Spirit at Work.)

The final thread is the the McGill family story. Two Canadian farm youths are brought together by Providence and led on a path to serve in a far away land. It shares all the joys and richness of such a life as well as the demanding and sacrifice of missionary life. It tells of personal heartbreak in getting a baby, the pain of separation and challenge of teen years. It is an insight into the lives of PK's and MK's (preacher's kids and missionary's kids) that can help people minister more sensitively and pray for earnestly. It tells of the mundane challenges of doing holy work when the ordinary things of everyday living seem to crowd out for a time "getting the gospel work done." By sharing the family memoirs and recollections Grace has invited readers to enjoy the family hospitality and share in the Path of Life together.

The book may be purchased at a special price of $15.50 through the RF office.