Tag Archives: Explorers

Review: Ventures among the Arabs

Ventures among the Arabs recounts the adventures of Archibald Forder, a missionary who worked among Arabs. Forder worked primarily in the lands we know as Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, but also travelled in many other areas, especially where Bedouins are found. He and his wife first went to Kerak, Moab (present-day Jordan) to fill a gap for William and Jane Lethaby while they travelled elsewhere.

Forder travelled alone into northern Najd, an area that was almost wholly untouched by Europeans. Alois Musil is perhaps the only explorer who overlapped closely with Forder in place and time, and they interacted with the same tribes.

Forder is known—like Musil—for adopting native language, dress, and lifestyle as much as possible. He lacked institutional backing and was forced by the Church of England to become independent, but he did not forsake his missionary outpost. He is refreshing for his lack of worldly prestige or ambition; he is simply a man with a message.

He pioneered among the Bedouin in present-day Jordan, and made visits to rural areas all over the northern Arabian Peninsula. Little or no missionary work was being done in most of the areas he visited, so that his accounts and his depictions, for the time in which they were written, were almost wholly unique.
In terms of day-to-day life, Forder did medical work, often aiding wounded Bedouin after tribal skirmishes. He also distributed Scriptures as a colporteur.

In his lifetime, readers of Forder’s books complained that he didn’t supply any personal details about his life, and he tried to remedy this in 1919 when he published In Brigands’ Hands and Turkish Prisons. Later books show how he pioneered a new mission among Palestine’s Bedouin (based in Jerusalem).

Ventures among the Arabs is a fascinating little collection of stories about Forder’s beginnings in his Arabian mission. I highly recommend all of his books for those interested in the history of missions among Arabs.

Review: Captain Allen Gardiner of Patagonia

Rating: ★★★★

Who: Captain Allen Gardiner (1794-1851) was a British Navy officer, explorer, and pioneer missionary to several indigenous people groups. He spent some time among the Zulus in South Africa, founding a mission station there. When the mission was no longer viable, he turned to the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego.

Captain Gardiner is best known for the tragic end he met with his mission crew in Tierra del Fuego, but his exploits before that time were numerous and interesting.

The author, Jesse Page, authored a number of interesting and readable missionary biographies around the beginning of the 20th century.

Overview: Adventure stories captivated Allen Gardiner as a child, and his mother once found him sleeping on bare floor boards, “to accustom himself to roughing it some day” (loc. 205). In adulthood, he entered the Navy and travelled all over the world. He had a hairbreadth escape from death off the coast of Peru, in which he had to swim to shore.

Gardiner came to true faith after being impressed by missions work among the indigenous people of Tahiti. The transformation taking place there led him to reconsider his life, and eventually use his sailing skills for pioneer missions work.

His first few years of mission work (1834 to 1838) were spent among the Zulu of South Africa, and he published a narrative of this time. He founded a mission a Port Natal, which later became Durban. He left South Africa because of political turmoil and tribal issues.

His appeals for funding to the Church Missionary Society, the Wesleyan Missionary Society, and the London Missionary Society were all rejected. As a result, Captain Gardiner founded the Patagonian Mission in 1844, which later became the South American Mission. Although American missionaries are extremely active now in Latin America, it was then a neglected field, as Jesse Page takes pains to show.

The situation slowly increased in desperation until one by one his crew died of starvation over the course of a two-month period. The missions work, however, continued, and Allen Gardiner’s son also worked in missions in Patagonia.

Meat: The most impressive aspect of Gardiner’s life is his fortitude against material obstacles. He survived a number of treacherous voyages and shipwrecks. His missions lacked funding and were hedged in by political obstacles. In South Africa he dealt with tribal conflicts; in Tierra del Fuego he dealt with theft and treachery; finally, his crew of eight were stranded, but held out hope until the bitter end.

Bones: This book is concise and interesting but doesn’t provide any information about Gardiner’s pioneering strategy.

The author also seems to treat indigenous peoples as one unit, with one simplistic language, following the stereotypes of the time period. But we now know these stereotypes to be false, and their languages and customs to be more complex than a brief tour can justify.

Quotes: The most interesting passage from the book is undoubtedly the poem that Captain Gardiner penned while slowly dying on Picton Island:

“A moral desert, dark and drear;
But faith descries the harvest near,
Nor heeds the toil—nor dreads the foe,
Content, where duty calls, to go. …
The troubled sea, the desert air,
The furnace depth, the lion’s lair,
Alike are safe, when Christ is there.” (loc. 78)

The author’s words about South American missions are also prophetic:

“Some day the Church will wake up to its responsibility in this matter, and an impetus of zeal, something like that which created the China Inland Mission, will send forth the labourers by hundreds into this field, which is white with opportunity and need.” (loc. 1688)