Monthly Archives: July 2014

Review of View from the Faraway Pagoda

View from the Faraway Pagoda: A Pioneer Australian Missionary in China from the Boxer Rebellion to the Communist Insurgency by Robert and Linda Banks, Acorn Press, 2013
Authors’ Blog
This book describes the life and service of an inspiring woman, Sophie Newton, the grand-aunt of Robert Banks, whose desire to serve God led her to the forefront of missionary work in south-east China from 1897 to 1931. She lived through the tumultuous events of the Boxer Rebellion and Nationalist Revolution, as well as warlord conflicts and early communist uprisings.
Sophie spent her life empowering women through establishing schools and training Christian workers, as well as opposing the opium trade and challenging the practices of foot binding and infanticide.
Drawing on a wide range of family journals, personal letters, official records and newspaper reports, this story describes how the conviction, sacrifice and compassion of one single-minded woman can make a real and lasting difference to a community.
Robert and Linda Banks have worked in churches, universities and other educational institutions. Robert has taught in history departments and theological colleges and written several award-winning books. Linda has been a teacher, pastor and chaplain. Together they have produced a range of creative Christian resources.
Review by Hazel Barker
The story opens with an excerpt from The Sydney Morning Herald, August 1895. Due to the recently installed cable system, it reaches the ears of Australians, with life-changing consequences for the protagonist, Sophie Sackville Newton. She longs to serve the Master, but her father’s death delays her departure as family responsibilities require her to wait.
Early the following year, the Church Missionary Association accepts her, and, after undergoing six months of training, she joins a little band of missionary sisters and embarks for China.
Besides spreading God’s message to the Chinese, Sophie and her co-workers endeavour to stop such practices as foot-bind, opium addiction and the disposal of unwanted babies. She writes that Chinese fathers squeeze the little ones through openings in miniature round towers specially built for the purpose.
Sophie suffers from migraines despite prayers to remove her affliction. She lives in fear of her life during the Boxer Rebellion, when ruffians attack mission stations. The inmates are hacked to pieces, set alight or skinned alive.
Even during her leave back in Australia, she does not rest, but spends her furlough speaking about China and raising money for the CMA.
Sophie Newton dedicated 34 years to the cause of Christ in China.

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God’s Panoply by Anne Hamilton, Even before Publishing, 2013

When I opened God’s Panoply, I thought I was about to read a heavy theological treatise, but as I continued, I found the book a refreshing read. The author presents a theory and uses biblical quotations, mathematics, literature and fables to prove her premise. She quotes from various translations of the Bible and relies heavily on the Hebrew Bible.
That green is the colour of fairy folk and magic was news to me, as I’d always considered it to represent hope when trees break into life once again. Upon consideration, however, hope does raise one’s spirits, as if by magic.
I’d heard of the manner geese migrate in formation, and can relate with the author’s comparison of that phenomenon with Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. So too, I have always marvelled at ‘the golden ratio’ and the way ‘this proportion appears everywhere in nature.’
The themes of forgiveness, armour, covenant and the power of words are woven together into a rich tapestry depicting God’s love for us, and, just as Our Lord often taught us in parables, the author teaches us through stories. Her thoughts are profound, yet laden with meaning. The language is lyrical.
E.g. A thousand years ago, a Jewish teaching of the first century emerged from its chrysalis and took full flight into Christendom.
and
Like a lark ascending, it fills the air with the sweet music of lifting off, lifting up, forgiveness, removal of sin, burden-bearing, helping, supporting, covenant, submission, obedience, oneness. Armour-bearing.
The theme of forgiveness rings a special note to me, and the final words of the author, So put on the armour of God. And remember to lift your face for His kiss, are particularly appealing.
I urge everyone not to be daunted by the title but to spend a few hours meditating on the mysteries revealed in God’s Panoply by Anne Hamilton.

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Holiday in the UK

A few months after our trip to Thailand, we took off for a six-week holiday in the U.K. Colin longed to see more of his English heritage and now that I had retired from teaching, we could travel during the off-peak season. We bought a Brit Rail Pass, and had a glorious time touring England.
At Kew Gardens, we stood enchanted, reluctant to leave our charming surroundings. We drank in the beauty of acres and acres of daffodils. Their fragrance wafted towards us and brought back memories of Portland, Victoria, as a child when wandering round Daffodil Farm.
We spent April Fool’s Day visiting Penzance and St. Ives on the Cornish Coast but as the tide was high at Penzance, we were unable to visit St. Michael’s Mount.
The stunning scenery of Cornwall was a hiker’s paradise with trails scaling rugged cliffs and descending to isolated sandy beaches. The silence was only broken by the roar of waves or the shrill cries of the birds.
At St. Ives we climbed steep slopes, stopping to taste Cornwall’s famed clotted cream. The plaintive cries of seagulls filled the air as we looked down at the colourful fishing boats sheltering within the harbour. Ghosts of coastguards still patrolled the area on dark stormy nights and smugglers’ caves beckoned us to explore their depths. I stood motionless and Colin recalled his misadventures at sea, shivering visibly, remembering when he and his Dad were swept out into the ocean at Portland.
The following week, at the Salisbury Plains, Stonehenge with all its hidden history and mystery left us strangely silent and speculative.
At Exeter, we boarded the train to Ivybridge, a quaint little village not far from Dartmoor National Park, where the walking tracks were well sign-posted.
As we hiked across the moors, the wind whistled through the hilly tussocks.
The bleak conditions conjured up the deep baying of the Baskerville hound in the distance. Dartmoor looked forbidding.
At Eggleston, we rambled in forests of beech and larch.
The sheds on the Liverpool dockside housed a market, filled with craft stalls. The docks were much larger than the one at Portland, where Colin used to wander about as a child. We sheltered from the cold wind and peered out at the Liver Building and the two metal birds perched on top of the twin clock towers like watchful guardians. They glinted in the sunlight—a beacon guiding ships into the harbour. Legend has it that if they flew off, the city would cease to exist. The edifice still stood, though buildings just across the river were razed to the ground by the Luftwaffe during World War II.
After wandering around the craft markets, we went on a sightseeing cruise of the Albert, Victoria and Gladstone Docks. The swell of the water rocked the boat. Seaweed clung precariously to the side of the pier, dancing to the tune of the wind that whistled past, sweeping away leaves and paper in fierce gusts. Barnacles shut their mouths against the air.
The rhythm of the rocking boat, and the sights and smells on the dockside, made us think of the war. The navy had stationed the Liverpool Escort Force at the Gladstone dock and destroyers, sloops and corvettes had docked there. Scarcely able to control our excitement, our thoughts turned to the Compass Rose, made alive by Nicholas Monsarrat in his book, The Cruel Sea. I visualised it steaming in, battle-scarred and belching smoke, still smarting from encounters with Nazi submarines and planes. It was freezing even where we sat protected from the winds. Fifty years ago without air-conditioned cabins, the cold would have been unbearable.
We disembarked, my head filled with thoughts of war. The gale drove us to the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Beatles’ Museum—a magnet to all Beatles’ fans. Anything connected with the sea attracted Colin, so we spent hours there.
Excerpt from my memoirs.

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