Since the book came unexpectedly and without comment or guidance, I set it aside for a while. I recently came back to the book and began to read its most interesting account of the life and work of a Southern Baptist missionary in the first half of the 20th century. After reading most of the book, I ran into Marilyn at church and mentioned how much I was enjoying the book and learning from it. Only then did I discover that Charles Alexander Leonard, Sr. was her grandfather.
For 10 weeks in 1964, I served as a student summer missionary in Taiwan. There I met several missionaries who had served in China before the Communist takeover. They told me exciting stories about the “Shantung Revival” (now called the “Shandong Revival”) that had taken place in China prior to World War II and before the Communists drove American missionaries out of China (around 1949). I confess that my first interest in reading Charles Leonard’s book was primarily to see how many of these missionaries that I had known personally would appear on the pages of his book.
When I talked with Marilyn and discovered that this was the story of her grandfather’s ministry, I had only run across familiar names like Lottie Moon and Bill Wallace, both made famous by their ministries and sacrifices in China, but neither of whom I knew personally. A few other names were familiar because of the leadership roles they assumed later at the Foreign Mission Board. But by that point in the book, Leonard had drawn me into his book and into amazement at his ministry in China. I had almost forgotten that I was looking for names of missionaries that were familiar to me.
Only in the last chapter (“Stories of Human and Spiritual Interest”) did I finally see a few names appear of missionaries that I had known. One of them, Dr. C. L. Culpepper, actually wrote a very kind letter to me that was delivered at the Taipei airport as I was leaving to return home. He apologized for being unable to see me off but graciously thanked me for my work in Taiwan that summer. [His daughter gives a tribute to him in the following video about the Shandong Revival: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tb17WWm3syc .]
In my next few blog posts, I will share some of my reactions to Charles Leonard’s book and some insights I have gained from reading his story.