Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship is part of the Bearing Witness Stories Project, a collaboration of Anabaptists from a wide range of traditions. I was asked to review this book by Propeller / FlyBy Promotions.
Although I am not a member of the Anabapitst community, I am a Christian and I do know what it means to stand up for Jesus. This book recounts the lives of many martyrs throughout the ages. Beginning with Stephen one of the first deacons and martyrs all the way to Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria who has been persecuted from 2009 to present.
I was very impressed with how easy the book is to read. With such an enormous amount of history you would expect it to be very dry reading. On the contrary, and I believe it is mostly due to the inclusion of actual conversations and discussions as have been recorded and passed down through the centuries. And it is important that we continue to tell these stories as mentioned by John D. Roth and Elizabeth Miller in the Introduction. I especially like how they said “we should continue to tell stories of courageous witness because persecution is not just an ancient story but a contemporary reality” (p. xii). I was pricked in the heart when they said “North American Christians need to tell stories of persecution and martyrdom because remaining silent, or willfully forgetting, or averting our attention from the reality of suffering, is simply unchristian” (p. xiii). I could not have said that better myself from my cozy office and the freedom of my secure Wi-Fi connection to the Internet. If this book does nothing more, it will make you question whether or not you are doing enough for the cause of Christ.
I like how each chapter is headed with the name of the martyr as well as the period and location. I also like the little globes which are appropriately marked at the region to be discussed. The book is broken down into four parts: Part I: Early Christians; Part II: Radical Reformers; III: Early Modern Witnesses and Part IV: Recent Witnesses. At the back of the book are some very well crafted Questions for Reflection and Discussion which lends well to a group study. I imagine this would be a great resource for a Small Group Study or even a Sunday school class. They have even included a generous listing of Notes on Sources just in case you would like to do a little more research.
Overall I enjoyed reading about these martyrs of the faith, though I was overcome with emotion on several occasions, so I would say this is not for the faint of heart. Though there are some happy times too. Here are some excerpts that really grabbed me:
“… truth cannot be killed” (Introduction p. xvi)
“Atheist was popular term for Christians, who in denying the Roman divinities in favor of God who could not be seen, were thought of as atheists” (Polycarp p. 10)
“Regina expected to find dreadful lies inside (of the New Testament). Instead, as she read she began to realize that Jesus, Paul and other New Testament writers where themselves Jews … As Regina studied the New Testament in light of the Jewish scriptures and listened to her friend’s description of true Christianity, she found herself praying, repenting, and longing to follow Jesus. She became a Christian”. (Regina Rosenberg, p. 131)
“Her disobedience was punished severely, but in the filth and brutality of prison, she shared the gospel with her fellow prisoners. Later she said, ‘I cannot explain how such a weak woman as I was given such wonderful blessings during times of fear and suffering’” (Ahn Ei Sook, p. 143)
This is a good book and would be a great addition to your library. I would even go so far as to say that it would be a great enrichment study for upper elementary or high school students.
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Purchase the book here: Bearing Witness
Begins 5/17/16 at 12:00 AM and ends 5/24/16 at 12:00 AM. The publisher, Plough Publishing House, Walden, New York, will send a paperback copy of “Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship” to one recipient. The winner will be randomly drawn after the deadline of 5/24/2016 at 12:00 AM. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. This giveaway is open to addresses within the United States of America and Canada. No P.O. Boxes please.
Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Photo credit: Propeller / FlyBy Promotions