A Marriage on Mission: a book review

The Yankee Officer and the Southern Belle by Nell Robertson Chinchen

The Yankee Officer and the Southern Belle is the story of Jack and Nell Chinchen. Both Jack and Nell were raised by families of relative privilege. Through a series of  personal surrenders and the providence of God, they end up dedicating their lives to world missions, by serving God as missionaries to Liberia, building the African Bible College there, and starting a radio station. This is the story of their marriage and life together, and the ways that God has guided them through out their lives.

Nell Chinchen’s warm personal style of writing makes this an easy and engaging read. She writes with wit and charm as she tells about their early courting, their deepening faith, the early years of Jack’s pastorate in the United States and their life abroad.  On the other hand, personal details about Nell and Jack’s life retreat to the background once their mission in Liberia begins. Nell talks about the mission, the national turmoil and their struggle and desire to see the gospel go forth. I admire their dedication, but I felt like I was getting the ‘prayer letter’ story. What Nell shares here, seems very safe.

I also know little about the Chinchen’s ministry and African Bible Institute, other than what I have read in this book. From what I have read, I applaud their dedication to spread the gospel and raise up African leaders. I like Nell’s trust  in God and the way she can sovereign  hand at work as she recounts her story, even in the little stuff. But occasionally I felt like Nell glossed over sociopolitical struggles in her narrative (such as her description of the fall of president Tolbert). But this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the book. It is just a book about missionaries I don’t know, in a country whose history I am only marginally aware of. I felt this book raised more questions than answers.

One impact that African Bible College has had is the raising up of indigenous leaders. At one point, Nell Chinchen talks about Franklin Graham’s realization that many of Samaritan’s Purse’s workers in Liberia were graduates of ABC. Thus, even though the school was forcibly closed until recently, it has had a continuing impact in the region.

I would give this book 3/5 and would recommend it for those who like missionary stories or stories about people taking risks based on their faith.

Thank you to Christian Focus Publications for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

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