Authors: Amy E. Zwemer is the co-author of Topsy-Turvy Land and Zigzag Journeys in the Camel Country. A native Australian, she met Samuel M. Zwemer while she was serving as a pioneer missionary in Basra, present-day Iraq.
Samuel M. Zwemer was a pioneer missionary among Arabs along the Persian Gulf. His later career was spent writing, teaching and mobilizing for missions among Muslims while he was based in Egypt for many years, and later at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Where Topsy-Turvy Land was focused on daily life in the Arab world—which has, needless to say, changed—Zigzag Journeys has a narrative basis. Although it’s not always clear who is narrating (whether Amy Zwemer or her husband), the chapters that recount journeys are easy to read and fascinating in their detail.
There is a wealth of interest and irony in the Zwemers’ accounts of their journeys, such as “A Pioneer Journey on the Pirate Coast” and “Along Unbeaten Traces in Yemen.” “The Jews in Kheibar” is a particularly interesting and seldom-told tale of the Jews who once inhabited the Arabian Peninsula.
This book maintains everything that’s best about Topsy-Turvy Land but in a much less childish style. Adult readers who felt patronized by Topsy-Turvy will find this book much more engaging.
Who: Thomas Valpy French, missionary bishop in Lahore (present-day Pakistan). He lived a long life and pioneered in a wide region in ministerial education and preaching.
Eugene Stock, a member of the (Anglican) Church Missionary Society who wrote many volumes of missions history, narrates the story.
Overview: Bishop French pioneered the Anglican bishopric of Lahore in present-day Pakistan. He helped establish a cathedral and a theological school there, in which he taught in several languages. Amazingly, in his eighties, French chose to pave a way to Oman, where he interacted with James Cantine and Samuel Zwemer. He died trying to secure passage into the interior of Arabia, which today we know as Saudi Arabia. Stock’s retelling of French’s life story is concise and inspirational.
Meat: Missionary biographies almost always impress us with the uniqueness of God’s calling and preparation in the individual life. What’s impressive about Bishop French’s life is his evangelistic zeal and his pioneer passion.
Bones: The author leaves the reader to wonder at French’s linguistic prowess—however, Zwemer points out in his own autobiography, that French’s literary Arabic was very difficult for native Arabs to understand. Christian biographies of the period (the early 20th century) tend to be brief and overwhelmingly positive, skimming over any details that might put a damper on the theme.
The Arab World Pioneers series seeks to draw together the best available histories and biographies of the early modern missionaries to the Arab world. Among these pioneers, the most well known are Ion Keith-Falconer (Yemen), Henry Jessup (Syria), and Samuel Zwemer (Bahrain, Iraq, and Egypt). However, even these men didn’t come the earliest, or stay the longest. They must be taken as only a sampling of the host of both men and women who sacrificed and plodded in a place that has remained, even to this day, one of the driest and most difficult mission fields on the globe.