Tag Archives: Christian Heroes

Review of The Heretic’s Wife by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

I like historical fiction because not only do I enjoy a good story but I also learn more about history. In the book, The Heretic’s Wife, I got the best of both worlds.Previously, I researched about the life of William Tyndale,martyred for translating the Bible for the common people of Henry VIII’s England for a non-fiction manuscript I wrote. In this story, I learned more about one of his friends and fellow martyrs, John Frith, who is not recognized as widely as Tyndale.

This book bases itself on a character named Kate Gough, who runs a bookshop with her brother. Her brother ends up imprisoned for having copies of the Scriptures in their bookstore, which were illegal at the time. Because her brother also had a wife and small child, he recants while in prison so he can get back to his dependent family. Kate, his sister, was disappointed in her brother for backing down on his Christian stand in exchange for his freedom.

She went to help (disguised as her brother) to receive illegal copies of the Scriptures that came into England from Germany by boat. In this dangerous and risky mission, she met John Frith, a Cambridge scholar and writer. Their lives become intertwined from that point on, although Frith, like Tyndale, had become a fugitive from England because of his Protestant sympathies. Her fate was to be a fugitive with him in Antwerp, Belgium, hiding from the English crown and its spies.

The setting of this book is the 1500’s, when England was a Roman Catholic country and Henry was still married to his first of eight wives, the Roman Catholic Katherine of Aragon. However, the king was tired of her and her inability to produce a heir for him. Henry desired Anne Boleyn to be his wife instead. Anne insisted that she would not go to Henry’s bed unless he was divorced from Katherine, who was the widow of his brother. Henry sought an annulment  from the Catholic Church, but the Lord Chancellor Thomas More will not permit it. Thus More fell out of the king’s good graces.

The story of political intrigue was woven with the narrative of the fugitive and his wife. Because More did not give the king what he wanted, he ends up resigning his position in disgrace. More took out some of his own vengeance on the Protestants, the ones influenced from the writings and Reformation movement of Martin Luther in Germany.

Frith wrote against the doctrine of transubstantiation and the doctrine of purgatory in rare acts of courage when he resided in Antwerp. In the meantime, reports came out of England that Protestants were being burned at the stake. Frith went back to England on a short mission, and left his wife Kate in Belgium. After that happened, the book was quite hard to put down, as any reader would discover for him or herself.

Like I said, I love the fact that I learned history while I was also reading for pleasure. I enjoyed learning more about Anne Boleyn, who had Protestant sympathies, Thomas More and his fellow Catholics who persecuted the Protestants, Henry the Viii who both loved and beheaded some of his wives. And I especially enjoyed reading about the courage of Frith, how the Lord gave him grace to endure to the end without recanting. As persecution increase all the more in the day and age we live in, it is good to learn of those who went before us, leading the way in a Hebrews 11 “hall of faith” kind of way.

I look forward to reading more of  author Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s books.


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Review of God’s Double Agent by Bob Fu

100_1399When we read about martyrs, it is easy to think of Isis spreading terror among the Christians in the Middle East.But China has been undergoing persecution for many years. In fact, Bob Fu, the author of China’s Double Agent, says that Christianity in China is under the worst attack now since the Cultural Revolution.


I picked up this book at the library because I’d heard before about ChinaAid, the organization Bob Fu founded, which provides relief to Christians and others who suffer human rights abuses in China. His own story of coming to faith in Christ was a miracle.

Fu was a university student, trying to get an education so he could help his impoverished family. He became one of the leading organizers of the student demonstrations for democracy in Tienanmen Square in June, 1989. I remember the horror I felt the day I heard of the students gunned down by their own government when they peacefully demonstrated for freedom.

In this book, I found out that Bob Fu was one of them. He was a dynamic leader at his university, garnering support for the cause and had many friends. But after the disastrous massacre by the government, suddenly he was abandoned by all  and under government surveillance, being forced to write confessions. Only one person stood by him, and he was ready to commit suicide.

It was then someone handed him a tract with the testimony of a Christian in class one day so they could get him to stop crying. One thing led to another and Fu found Jesus in the midst of his despair. Thus, Bob Fu’s life was never the same again.

The rest of the book tells of his evangelism, escaping China and founding ChinaAid while living in Philadelphia with his wife. He shares how he intervened on the behalf of many others being persecuted, and used his influence in the highest levels of the United States government.

This book tells it like it is about the Communist government in China. How they persecute and enforce their population control, for example, and how people “disappear.” It is not safe or easy to be a Christian in China, yet he states that the Chinese people are hungry to be able to trust after living under threat for so long. He said: “…Chinese culture, especially after sixty years of communisim and wave after wave of class struggle, is desperate for trust.” (page 331)

I was privileged to meet a fellow believer whose story was shared in this book. At a Voice of the Martyrs conference last October, I met Sarah Liu, who was tortured with an electric prong by the government in prison. I did not know how badly she suffered at the time, reading about it in this book helped me to gain a knowledge of what our fellow brothers and sisters are undergoing even at this very hour.

God worked miraculously in Bob Fu’s life, and through his organization, many others in China have been helped and they continue to speak for the persecuted there today. Persecution is real, and happening more today than any other time in human history. If you would like to know more about the persecuted church you can find out more about them here:


You may sign up for their email newsletter there as well. You can also learn more at the Voice of the Martyrs website as well:


Though most of us cannot go to China to help, we can pray and give our aid and support to our beloved brothers and sisters there. I recommend reading God’s Double Agent as it will enable understanding of how things really are in the nation of China.

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A Review of Christian Heroes: Then and Now: George Muller by Janet and Geoff Benge

This book on George Muller is part of the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series by Janet and Geoff Benge

This book on George Muller is part of the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series by Janet and Geoff Benge

Reading the book: George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans was amazing. I don’t know how learning of this man escaped my notice until reaching my late thirties. Muller was an incredible man with incredible faith. I bought this book as part of my son’s home-school program. I was doing Sonlight Curriculum at the time. They have some wonderful books selected for each year and my kids were delighted by many of them. This book I read aloud to my son, and as we did so, I kept saying, “Wow!”

George Muller never asked anyone to meet his needs for the charity work he started. Instead, he told God and waited for the answer. He trusted God would provide at the perfect time. He is mainly known for the orphanages he started in Bristol, England in the 19th century. Many children were homeless and ragged. He had compassion on them and was moved to start an orphanage for them. This was only the beginning. By the time he died near 1900, over ten thousand orphans had been served by his ministry.

The thing I liked best about George was that he never complained to others of his lack. Amy Carmichael, another missionary during the time, was moved by his example and trusted God in this same way to be the One to provide for her Dohnavur orphanage in India.

The book is written for upper elementary age students, but I enjoyed it just as much as my son. Janet and Geoff Benge, the authors, have a whole series for kids on Christian heroes. Others include Gladys Aylward, Eric Liddell, Hudson Taylor and many more.

The pressure is on when it comes to being a school-aged kid these days. So many things in our world scream for us to deny our faith. Christian parents can encourage through reading to their children, whose faith is shaken by our culture and the world system on a daily basis. Kids need to know that Jesus Christ is faithful in every need of their life, and George Muller’s example of childlike faith demonstrates to them how it can be done. George had a huge Bible reading habit. He read the Word nearly 200 times in his life. Because he knew the Scriptures, he had no problem trusting God. Knowing the Scriptures also made him a happy man. It reminds me of one of my friends who reads like George did. She is the most carefree person I know, and has great faith not in her abilities, but in what God can do.

After reading this, I went on to purchase the Autobiography of George Muller, and his other book, Answers to Prayer. Seeing that God was faithful to Muller gave me the confidence to become bolder in my prayer habits, and also to be more serious in taking the time every day to read His Word. Reading this book started me on another quest as well: to learn about more heroes of the faith. I am continually in awe by learning of what our brethren during different eras were able to accomplish by grace and through faith.

Even if homeschooling parents are not doing the Sonlight Curriculum, I would definitely recommend including this book in your program. In the back of the book, there are listed other materials by the authors including Unit Study Curriculum Guides. It was an easy read with larger type. The upper elementary child could read on his own, but I recommend it as a read aloud so that the parents faith also can be encouraged. Also included in this book is a brief bibliography for those who want to find out more.

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