Some Far and Distant Place
A review of Jonathan Addleton's, "Some Far and Distant Place," by Dr. James Beck.
Addleton, Jonathan S. Some Far and Distant Place. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 1997.
Denver Seminary’s link with the Conservative Baptist movement is longstanding. The seminary finds itself associated with a far ranging set of relationships as a result of this 50 year connection that includes, among other things, the worldwide missionary outreach of the movement. The Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society (now known as CBInternational) has a long and distinguished record of service around the globe, a ministry that includes mission work in Pakistan (formerly West Pakistan). This book is an outgrowth of that mission work primarily among the peoples of the Sind desert.
Jonathan Addleton is the child of Conservative Baptist missionaries in Pakistan. His memoirs are a poignant contribution to the growing literature about and by the offspring of missionaries (Mks). God’s people have rightly displayed concern and care for such Mks, and a considerable amount of social science research has investigated the question many people have asked about this population: “Does the MK experience handicap children in such a way as to cause lifelong impairments.” This book contributes to that discussion by offering a resounding, “Not in this case!”
Jonathan Addleton is currently a U.S. Foreign Service officer working with the U.S. Agency for International Development. He has held posts throughout the countries of the middle east. He has previously worked with the World Bank and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is an example of what many other Mks have been able to do: To build their adult lives on the foundation of a wealth of cross cultural experience that they possess because of their exposure to the Christian missionary enterprise around the globe. Addleton has chosen to utilize his unique blend of experiences in a governmental post; others re-enter the missionary force in the exact footsteps of their parents. Success stories such as Jonathan Addleton’s do not mean that there are not casualties along the way among Mks. But those casualties must always be understood in the larger context of successful and high achieving adult lives that also occur among the MK population.
These memoirs give us a valuable glimpse of what missionary life looks like through the eyes of a child. Addleton makes extensive use of his father’s prayer letters sent home to reconstruct the many and varied events of his childhood. His parents entered missionary service with seemingly unadulterated goal of shining the light of the gospel in the Pakistani Muslim world in a way that would give opportunity for their contacts to receive the truths of the gospel. The senior Addletons pursued their calling in humble obedience to the Great Commission; they found great inspiration in traveling to far off lands much like the Apostle Paul had done. They noted the honor of being able to bear the gospel to distant regions just as early Christians had done. The connections that the Addletons made between their work and the events of prior centuries of the missionary movement far exceed what one would expect.
Jonathan Addleton portrays his parents and their response to God’s call on their lives in reverent tones. He is especially taken with the tenacity to the call exhibited by his parents in the face of almost overwhelming failure of the evangelization efforts they made. The author does not disclose to us the spiritual position from which he currently views his childhood and the early work of his parents. But we do see an adult child who forwards to his parents the best of intentions, the purest of motives, and the kindest of assessments. The tribute this adult son pays to his parents is moving. More specifically the entire book can be viewed as a son’s tribute to his father, a tribute that is both admirable and worthy of emulation.
Other valuable contributions of the book include glimpses into the larger circle of Conservative Baptist missionaries working in Pakistan and portraits of modern day Islamic religion and culture. This well-written book is a valuable read for all those interested in cross cultural issues and in the modern missionary movement.
Dr. James R. Beck
Professor of Counseling