Using the Gifts God has Given
Constance Padwick, Lilias Trotter, and Temple and Margaret Gairdner were contemporary British missionaries to North Africa. All were ahead of their time in their approach to missions. They were talented and creative, using these skills to proclaim Christ.
Constance Padwick, the Writer
According to Ruth Tucker, Constance Padwick (1886 – 1968), Paddie to her friends, was convinced that biographies were “the most effective means of presenting… mission methods and theories that would challenge others to become involved in Muslim missions.” She worked with Temple Gairdner in Cairo and wrote a biography of him after his death. Her other biographies include Henry Martyn (working in India and Persia), Lyman MacCallum (in Turkey) and Lilias Trotter (in Algiers).
She wrote for a Christian monthly (published in Cairo) and also wrote a wide variety of literature for Muslims. Gairdner and she were critical of the existing literature which was “filled with the spirit of disputation rather than of worship and love, and apt to hammer rather than to woo and win.” (from The Problems of success: A History of the Church Missionary Society by Gordon Hewitt, pages 314-16). One of her significant works is a compilation, Muslim Devotions: A Study of Prayer-Manuals in Common Use, which is still read (see the reviews on GoodReads).
Paddie wrote for Christians back home, stirring up interest in Muslim ministry. I’m sure Paddie would be a blogger in today’s world.
What We Learn from Paddie
- Her main creative expression, writing, is still read today.
- Her conviction that writing missionary biographies advances mission work.
- She wrote to a variety of audiences and through various means.
- Her audience included Christians in-country and back home.
- She wrote material reaching out to Muslims which was more positive in tone than what was available.
Lilias Trotter, the Artist
Lilias Trotter (1853 – 1928) could have become a world-renowned artist, but instead followed God’s leading to do missionary work in Algeria. She was far ahead of her time in the ways she reached out to the Algerians.
Lily wrote faithfully in her journal, filling the pages with sketches. (Do a Google search to see some of her art.)
She was as gifted in writing as in art. Her best work is The Way of The Sevenfold Secret, written for the Sufi Mystics (read The Way of the Sevenfold Secret). The Sufis sought divine union through seven spiritual stages, but they had no confidence these would please God. In her book, Lily explored the seven sayings of Christ about Himself in the gospel of John, explaining “how each offers the ‘secret’ for which the Sufi’s long: satisfaction (Bread), illumination (Light), access (Door), leadership (Shepherd), life (Resurrection and Life), progress (Way), and the ultimate union (Vine).”
“Within three years of publication, it went into six new editions in four languages – Arabic, English, French, and Persian – creating a spiritual resonance for seeker and believer alike with its mystical nuances grounded in solid biblical truth. It is relevant today [as] a singularly comprehensive and succinct presentation of the Christian life.” (Quoted from Miriam Rockness in her post, “Sons of Sunshine.”)
What We Learn from Lily
- She and her friends learned that printed material was very effective. They distributed:
- Illustrated Scripture cards lettered by an Arabic scribe.
- Leaflet and story parable booklets printed in an Algerian fashion; again, illustrated with her art (the birds are an example).
- French translations as well, also reaching into Tunisia.
- To reach women, they put Scripture into rhyme and rhythm (with drums).
- Lily combined art and writing, particularly for stories and devotionals. (Order one of her illustrated devotionals.)
Temple and Margaret Gairdner, the Musicians
Temple Gairdner and Margaret Mitchell were missionaries with the Church Missionary Society. He was serving in Cairo; she was assigned to India. He wrote to propose to his childhood friend; they were married in Nazareth in 1902.
Kenneth Cragg explains that “she altogether shared his convictions and his dedication. Their partnership and their home in Boulac, Cairo, were the secret of all that he achieved. The disciplines they kept and the hospitality they gave made their home the very sanctuary of the gospel for which they lived and cared.”
Temple collected about 300 Syrian and Egyptian tunes to be used for worship. He “hoped for the day when the Church would discover and use the beauty of her own Eastern airs.” (Tucker, p. 243)
The Gairdners used their classical training as musicians while serving in Cairo, hosting concerts; he on piano and organ and Margaret on violin. Christians and Muslims attended these as well as the plays which Temple wrote and directed. In the last eight years of his life, the Gairdners had a significant impact through his plays. According to Kenneth Cragg, Gairdner presented “basic themes of suffering and grace, evil and salvation, God and human tragedy, in ways that addressed Muslim susceptibilities…”
About 1,700 people came to his production, Joseph and His Brothers, an Old Testament Passion Play. These five performances were held in a Cairo church, which came to an abrupt halt. According to Paddie, in her biography of Temple, “… suddenly at the height of this creative joy, came [word from his mission board concerned that] the idea of plays in church should prove too shocking to supporters of the Society and money gifts should be lost.” (Padwick, Temple Gairdner, p. 260)
What We Learn from Temple and Margaret
- They championed music for the Egyptian believers in their style.
- They shared their talent as musicians in concerts.
- They presented God’s truth through drama.
- Temple also left quite a lot of printed missions material that was used past his lifetime.
What encourages you about these missionary pioneers? Have you been able to touch the souls of people through your creativity?
Look at the tiny measure of creative power given to man, in music, poetry, art – where there is a spark of it, how it refuses to be fettered by repeating itself. The history of His wonders in the past is a constant succession of new things, and He is not at the end of His resources yet. ~ Lily Trotter
- I discovered the missionaries mentioned in this post in From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: a Biographical History of Christian Missions by Ruth A. Tucker, pages 242 – 248.
- Read the entire article about Constance Padwick taken from Ruth Tucker’s book in this blog post (Women Missionaries).
- I learned about Lilias Trotter through watching the film biography, Many Beautiful Things. I also found more information about her online:
- The bird illustration is from one of Lily’s out-of-print stories. Read it here.
- Check out the Lilias Trotter Center: enabling thoughtful Christian engagement with Muslims.
- I found more about Gairdner and worship in Temple Gairdner’s Legacy by Kenneth Cragg (Oct. 1981).
- The Egyptian Diocesan Association has lots of antidotes about the Gairdners and other Egyptian missionaries.
Sus Schmitt has served on Cru staff since 1975. She works in my office, helping Cru staff with ministry and technology mainly through her blog, eQuipping for eMinistry. She has two other blogs and an active social media presence. Find all her sites at about.me/sus.schmitt.
She has many interests and loves her family of three married children and four grandchildren.
The original version of this post, To Hammer… or to Woo or to Win by Sus Schmitt, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.