Summer Reading Suggestions [Part 2]

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Episode Synopsis

Jani and Heidi discuss more uplifting and challenging Christian biographies to read as they share the life stories of Darlene Deibler Rose and Amy Carmichael.

Audio Transcript

Heidi: Hello, everyone. Welcome to He Restores My Soul.

Jani: Today, we’re continuing our series on summer reading. And we’re specifically focusing on Christian biographies. Jani, I love reading Christian biographies, don’t you?

Jani: I do. Heidi, they really inspire me and help me and challenge me.

Jani: Yes, they inspire me, too. And sometimes they really humble me in a beautiful way, especially when I’m reading about Christian missionary women and the horrible living conditions that they’ve endured, the hardships that they’ve gone through, it makes my problems not seem so bad. You know, like, for example, our HVAC broke last week, and I thought, oh, this is so awful and it’s going to be so expensive. It can get overwhelming. But just to take a moment to pause today and prepare this talk about Darlene Rose and the things that she went through, I was reminded that so many people go through so many harder things, and the things God is asking me to walk through, I can do it.

Jani: Yes, yes. Oh, that’s so true. That’s a good testimony, Heidi.

Jani: We do want to encourage you, dear listener, to read. And we’re encouraging you right now to read Christian biographies. We’re hoping that you do not let summer pass without reading a couple good books. God will use them in your life. Heidi and I are going to share two biographies of Christian missionaries that we have found very helpful. Heidi, why don’t you begin and share one that you’ve read.

Jani: Yeah. So we thought we would just go through their stories. And I hope that they encourage you today as you listen to the podcast, as they’ve encouraged us.

Book #1: Evidence Not Seen

Darlene Rose Autobriography

Featured Book

Evidence Not Seen: Newlywed American missionary Darlene Deibler Rose survived four years in a notorious Japanese prison camp set deep in the jungles of New Guinea. Thinking she was never to see her husband again, Darlene was forced to sign a false confession and face the executioner’s sword, only to be miraculously spared.

Heidi: So Jani, the book I’m going to talk about today is called Evidence Not Seen. And it’s an autobiography by and about Darlene Rose and her life story.

Heidi: So this young woman was born in Iowa and came to know the Lord at a very young age. When she was little, she used to tell the Lord, “Lord, I’ll go anywhere for you.” And little did she probably know that the Lord would call her to be a missionary.

Heidi: As she grew up, she married a man that was into missions, and they decided to begin work on a small island in the East Indies. And so day by day, they’d serve the people on this island, and they’d walk through the forest, and really were living the missionary life. But as time passed, they began hearing on the radio of a war starting. And this was World War II. And day by day, they would hear that the war was coming closer and closer to the little island that they were serving on as missionaries in the East Indies. And they always wondered, “Is Japan going to come to us?”

Heidi: And they hid out in a quiet mountain retreat, but sure enough, eventually Japanese soldiers came, and they captured all the men and they took them off to a Japanese prison camp. Darlene talks about wondering if she would ever see her husband again. The Japanese came and they took all the men to the prison camp, but the last thing Darlene remembers was her husband saying to her, “Remember one thing, dear: God has said he would never leave us nor forsake us.”

Heidi: A few weeks later, the women were also captured. So the Japanese came back once again and captured all the women and took them to a different Japanese prison camp. And they were placed together in Barracks 8, so very bad living conditions. There were insects and I mean, everybody has an image of what a World War II prison camp is. Just horrible conditions and the women had to start doing work, taking care of pigs and farming. They endured brutal work day after day. But each night they would gather together in their little barracks, and they would read scripture and pray. And somehow, through that little devotion time spent together every night, they would feel the Lord fill them up and give them the strength that they needed to face the next day of imprisonment.

Heidi: Many times Darlene wondered how she could go on. In fact, Darlene was in this prison camp for over four years. Can you imagine? I just, I can’t even imagine four years is a long time. I mean, my youngest child is only five years old. That’s a long time to be in a prison camp and endure horrible conditions, and yet she talks about how God always sustained her.

Heidi: And there’s something to know in this prison camp. Eventually, all the women knew that there was this Japanese secret police and they would come to the camp and they would take one or two women from the camp to interrogate them. And sometimes the women wouldn’t come back or sometimes they would come back brutally hurt. Darlene in these four years always had that trepidation, “Will I ever be taken by the Japanese police?” And sure enough, one day they took her. They thought the Americans were spies. And so they would take women that were imprisoned here and torture them and they’d go through horrible, horrible interrogation. And Darlene was taken and put in a stone cell above which were written the words “This person must die.” She was brutally tortured day after day until the police condemned her to execution as a spy.

Heidi: I mean, I don’t even have a category for that either. You know, here’s this beautiful Christian woman serving the Lord as a missionary, her husband’s taken to a prison camp, she’s taken to a prison camp—she’s endured a Japanese prison camp for four years—and now she’s being condemned to execution. How do you live? How do you go on? I don’t have a category. And so she was in this cell waiting for her death. And then she becomes very, very sick with dysentery and malaria. They made her eat this rice that had worms, and she didn’t have a certain vitamin that she needed.

Heidi: So now she’s expecting to be executed, but she’s horribly sick, can barely lift her eyes. And she just remembers praying, and she got a taste for a banana in her mouth. And she could just had felt so weak, but just prayed “God, could do Just give me one banana?” You know, still holding on to her faith in the Lord.

Heidi: And God did a miracle. And the next day, the head of the Japanese prison camp that she was at, had mercy on her and sent her 92 bananas to herself. Can you believe that? Like a miracle, the Lord did a miracle and heard her sweet little prayer—well, not sweet and little; her triumphant prayer—and he answered it. The vitamin in the bananas was exactly the vitamin that her body was missing. So she would eat one banana a day, and she was gaining strength, and yet still expected to be executed. She had heard some time before that her husband had died in the prison camp, so she felt very alone in those times. In the book, she just talked about how those moments in that prison cell waiting for her execution, she couldn’t feel God with her anymore.

Heidi: So she was eating the bananas, but, you know, days were passing, and the bananas were running out. She had one more banana left, and she was thinking her execution was coming closer. That night, she just felt empty and cold inside, like God wasn’t with her, and she was crying out. She often would recite the Bible verses that she had memorized. So she talks about how sweet it was to have scripture in her heart. But even then, on that night, she was trying to recite her Bible verses, and just felt nothing.

Heidi: And yet, in that moment, when she felt nothing, and she felt so alone, she spoke this quiet prayer to the Lord.

“Lord, I believe all that the Bible says. I do walk by faith and not by sight. I do not need to feel you near, because your Word says that you will never leave me nor forsake me. Lord, I confirm my faith, I believe.”

– Darlene Deibler Rose

Heidi: You know, calling back those words that her husband spoke to her. And at that moment, God brought this verse to mind:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

Heidi: And she just felt the comfort of the Holy Spirit, you know, and that’s where the book gets its title, Evidence Not Seen.

Heidi: So the next morning, she finished her last banana and was led out for execution. And I mean, she was as close to the Japanese soldier was over her, he took out his sword and as he was doing that, somehow, in God’s mercy, a confusion broke out amongst the Japanese soldiers, and like it was chaos. And all of a sudden, they took the women and they put them in the car, and they brought them back to the Japanese camp. And God had spared her life and she was once again returned to Barracks 8.

Heidi: Thankfully, the war eventually ended, and Darlene was saved and she was able to come back to America and be reunited with her family. But having a heart to love and serve the Lord, she and her then second husband even eventually returned to the small island to continue their missionary work.

Heidi: And that’s a very, very brief summary of the book and just some of the highlights but I think what I love about Darlene is she endured unimaginable hardship, and she never gave up her faith in Christ. How many times dear listener, have you felt like the Lord isn’t near? I think we all go through seasons like that, where we just don’t feel him. And yet what a beautiful thing to know that he will never leave us nor forsake us. And that he hears those prayers that we whisper. Darlene was a woman of faith. You know, faith, evidence of things not seen and God carried her through, and I think He smiled on her for that faith. And she really inspired me that we can go through a lot more with the Lord by our side than we even know.

Jani: That’s so good. Heidi. Oh, I hope our listeners will get a copy of that book: Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose. And it’s not a long read (it’s not a very long book). I wouldn’t say it’s an easy read emotionally, but it’s not difficult to read it. It’s just very inspiring because you see a woman of faith—as you’ve so beautifully described for us, Heidi—in absolutely the worst situation that we could imagine ourselves in: after prison, torture and then going to be executed, and yet spared. And one of the reasons she was spared was so she could write this book. It could be one of the reasons she was spared, dear listener, was so that you could read the book and be encouraged by it.

Jani: So do read. We hope you’re reading this summer.

Book #2: A Chance to Die

Amy Carmichael Biography by Elisabeth Elliott

Featured Biography

A Chance to Die is a vibrant portrayal of Amy Carmichael, an Irish missionary and writer who spent fifty-three years in south India without furlough. There she became known as “Amma,” or “mother,” as she founded the Dohnavur Fellowship, a refuge for underprivileged children.

Jani: A book that I wanted to share. Some of you who know me know, it’s one of my all-time favorite books. It’s written by my hero, whom I mentioned last week. It’s a book authored by Elisabeth Elliott. She wrote this book about one of her heroes, Amy Carmichael. It’s called A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael. And it’s a little bit longer book than the book Heidi shared, but I find it absolutely fascinating.

Jani: Amy Carmichael was Elisabeth Elliott’s first spiritual mother. She was inspired by Amy Carmichael’s books. Amy was an author as well as a missionary. She saw, Elisabeth said, that the chance to die to be crucified with Christ wasn’t a morbid thing, but the very gateway to life. So she wrote this biography of Amy Carmichael, and she called it A Chance To Die.

Jani: It’s the story of Amy Carmichael, who was born in Ireland (she’s an Irish lady). She had a very strict upbringing, and at 17 she came to experience Christ in such a way that she gave her whole life to Him. And I must say Elisabeth Elliott does not present Amy Carmichael as a perfect saint. Elisabeth interviewed family members and read personal correspondence; she read Amy Carmichael’s books and researched her thoroughly. But she’s written a biography with, I don’t know, all the color and suspense of a great novel. To me this biography reads more like a novel than a biography.

Jani: Amy Carmichael never married. She was a missionary in Japan, in China, in Salon, and then for the greater part of her life, in India. She established the Dohnavur Fellowship in India, this was a mission for rescuing children from temple prostitution.

Jani: The life of Amy Carmichael is a testimony to the impact of one dedicated woman. What kind of impact can she make when she understands the cost of giving her whole life as a chance to die?

Lessons Jani Has Learned From This Book

Jani: And so I’ve really appreciated this book. I find it very helpful for women who have children, whether they’re your own, your grandchildren, if you teach them, if you teach Sunday school, there are a lot of good rules for working with children in here.

Lesson: “Become” never “Go”

One was where she said, “It must become never go”. That means do it with them. Don’t just boss them into obedience. But come on, I’ll do it with you. That really helped me.

Lesson: Count the Cost

Jani: I’d like to read just a few things that I found so helpful in this book. She talks about counting the cost and this is something she said:

“To any whom the Hand Divine is beckoning: count the cost, for He tells us to, but take your slate to the foot of the Cross and add up the figures there.”

Amy Carmichael

Jani: Such a good reminder for me, Heidi, when I’m counting the cost. “Oh Lord, are you asking me to do that?” I like the vision of taking that slate where I’m counting the cost, and bringing it to the foot of the cross and counting it up there. Compared to Christ, it’s nothing.

Lesson: Be Faithful with the Little Things

Jani: She also encourages us to be faithful with the little things. And I need that reminder. Sometimes, you know, the laundry, the housework, Ray wants to invite someone over for dinner, company for the weekend. cleaning out the medicine cabinet, you know, whatever it is, to be faithful in the little things. This is what she said one of her poems, Amy Carmichael wrote a lot of poems. Here’s one of her poems about that.

Jesus, Savior, dost Thou see
When I’m doing work for Thee?
Common thing, not great and grand,
Carrying stones and earth and sand?

I did common work, you know,
Many, many years ago;
And I don’t forget. I see
Everything you do for Me.

Poem by Amy Carmichael

Jani: This is helpful to me that Jesus sees. He sees what I’m doing. And Amy Carmichael says a little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a very great thing. So let’s be faithful in the little things.

Jani: One other thing that really helps me and this is, I think, maybe one of my favorite poems of Amy Carmichael, is that discipleship means that we will bear scars at times. Amy took wounds and scars and pain for granted as part of her life. I think Elisabeth Elliott did too. I saw that in the book we talked about in our last podcast, Becoming Elisabeth Elliott. But Amy took them for granted. And she found some who came to her to serve there at Dohnavur Fellowship were kind of week. And when the pains came, they wanted to give up and she wrote this poem called “Hast Thou No Scar?”. Let me read it to our listeners.

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?”

Poem by Amy Carmichael

Lesson: Discipleship means we will bear scars

Jani: You know, Heidi, that just helps me welcome pain into my life, because pain does leave a scar. It might be a scar that only the Lord knows of, or only my husband; others might not see. But this book, A Chance To Die, has helped me to learn to welcome pain throughout my lifetime and not resist it.

Lesson: On Writing

Jani: One thing that she taught me about writing, which I find really helpful, because whether it’s for our podcast, or for writing blog posts, or some of the books that we work on, Ray and I, she says about her own writing,

Perfection I can never touch. But I do dislike loose threads lying about in book, or weak lines and needless words.”

Amy Carmichael

Jani: One of the things Ray helps me with are those “weak lines” or “needless words.” A writer needs to think about that, and that’s another reason why I like reading biographies. This biography has taught me a lot about writing.

Lesson: On Surrender and Trust, the Lordship of Christ.

Jani: I think I’d like to end this little biographical sketch about Amy Carmichael in this book called A Chance To Die. She wanted to keep saying “Yes” to God and “No” to herself. In a beautiful sort of surrender, an open-handed surrender which I want my life to be. I want my own life to come to Christ and say, “Whatever Christ—whatever you want for my future, I want.” And that is a chance to die. She says this,

Our God trusts us to trust him…Let us not disappoint God. Let us rise to this great trust of trusting him.”

Amy Carmichael

Jani: She reminded her supporters that, “Jesus having wept proves that tears are not sinful. But to go on lamenting would be sin. It would be as though we doubted the love of our most tender father, to wonder why this has been allowed to happen would be to dishonor him. I found myself doing this very thing, oh why am I left? Why am I who is so useless to you all and he…” (was a co-worker who had recently died?) ”…who could have done so much more for you why was he taken to heaven? Why not me, Lord? Suddenly, I knew that even to think such a thought for a moment was sin. I wish to thank God for the cleansing blood. But do not let us grieve his love by wondering why. Faith never wonders why.”

Jani: Each of these deaths of her co-workers was a death far harder for Amy to bear than her own physical suffering. But she saw in each of them a chance to die, the opportunity to acknowledge once again, the Lordship of Christ in her life. He held all the rights.

Jani: You know, that has really helped restore my soul, Heidi. When I remember that all of my life can be a chance to die, I can die to this desire, to this pain, to this hard relationship and offer it all to the Lord and say, “Lord, my life is yours. It’s a chance to die to what I want, and to live for what you want.” And I find that that’s very restoring to my soul. We pray, Heidi and I do, dear listener, that this podcast would restore your soul and that you would be reading this summer and find that soul restorative too. God bless you this summer as you read.

Biography Ideas

Here is a “shortlist” of 25+ Christian Biographies that have inspired and encouraged us in our faith! We pray that they might encourage you as well.

  1. Susanna Wesley — Arnold Dallimore
  2. The Hiding Place — Corrie ten Boom
  3. Stepping Heavenward—Elizabeth Prentiss
  4. Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee—Sharon James
  5. Mothers of Famous Men—Archer Wallace
  6. Abigail Adams—Janet Whitney
  7. Mrs. Robert E. Lee: The Lady of Arlington—John Perry
  8. Martha Washington—Patricia Brady
  9. It’s My Turn—Ruth Bell Graham
  10. Dream Big: The Henrietta Mears Story—Earl O. Roe
  11. Let Me Be a Woman—Elisabeth Elliot
  12. These Strange Ashes—Elisabeth Elliot
  13. Through Gates of Splendor—Elisabeth Elliot
  14. Amy Carmichael: A Chance to Die—Elisabeth Elliot
  15. Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History—Richard Hannula
  16. Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God—David McCasland
  17. Yesterday, Today, and Forever—Maria von Trapp
  18. Marriage to a Difficult Man: Jonathan and Sarah Edwards—Elisabeth Dodds
  19. Jonathan and Sarah: An Uncommon Union—Edna Gerstner
  20. Wives of the Signers—Harry & Mary Green; David Barton
  21. If I Perish—Esther Ahn Kim
  22. Evidence Not Seen—Darlen Deibler Rose
  23. I Dared Call Him Father—Bilquis Sheikh
  24. Mary Slessor of Calabar—W. P. Livingstone
  25. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy—Eric Metaxas
  26. Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God—Noel Piper
  27. Becoming Elisabeth Elliot—Ellen Vaughn
View All Biographies

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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