Let My People Go book review

1024 576 David Joannes

Date read: 12.28.2017. How strongly I recommend it: 10/10.

Let My People Go: The Life of Robert A. Jaffray (Jaffray Collection of Missionary Portraits) by A. W. Tozer on Amazon.

See my Kindle highlights here.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that the ministry of Within Reach Global will receive 4.50% of your total purchase from Amazon.)


The missionary biography has, in my mournful opinion, largely disappeared from the forefront of Christian literature. We are left instead with a thousand ways of bettering ourselves, becoming better leaders, and a wide array of other praiseworthy endeavors. These, however, rarely and unfortunately touch on the heart of God for all nations—specifically among unreached people groups. Jaffray constantly pondered this reality: “The question he had been asking, which indeed had been wringing his conscience, was this: ‘What is of first importance now in light of the world’s need and the soon coming of the Lord?’” He valued leadership training, theology, and higher Christian learning, but he never forgot that the heart of God beats for all nations. “Souls won from those parts of the earth where as yet no witness has been given are especially precious in His eyes.” So his conclusion was, “that which is of first importance is the carrying of the message to those who have never heard.” The reader may become enlightened to this paramount facet of God’s character and thus be thrust headlong into a missional endeavor to see every nation, tribe, people, and language standing gloriously before His heavenly throne.


Missionary biographies with hand-drawn art like those presented on the covers of the Jaffray Collection of Missionary Portraits are typically met by a subtle antipathy. I myself cringe ever so slightly at such a sight for a book is generally judged by its cover, and the imagery is too cartoonish to take seriously. The narrative between the covers is suffused with such divine brilliance and heroic missionary service that I wished for a more appropriate portrayal on the outset. This is the only fault I find with this book (and every other book in the Jaffray Collection of Missionary Portraits series). The author’s narrative is beautifully penned, as one would expect from the likes of A. W. Tozer. He writes of Robert A. Jaffray, “[He] was a great missionary, but he was not a foot soldier. Instead, he was a missionary general, a strategist, and tactician of undoubted vision.” I personally had no idea that Jaffray impacted Southeast Asia in such formidable manner. The author states well the case for Jaffray’s success: “Every notable advance in the saving work of God among men will, if examined, be found to have two factors present: several converging lines of providential circumstances and a person.” The reader will become thunderstruck by a man who looked toward the powers of darkness with took a stern, condemning attitude, and in the name of God said, “Let my people go!”


In most books about cross-cultural missionaries, we find that the protagonist is the typical unassuming type who dares something great for God and is used in mighty ways despite their own inabilities. This story differs in some ways. The author explains: “We may as well know at the outset that we have here no etherial saint full of the gentler graces but too sweet and fragile for this rough world. Anything but that! Jaffray was a man of authority; his whole bearing bespoke it, and everyone who knew him felt it unmistakably.” The story tells of a man not only of great faith but also of much talent and prowess. His commitment to the field to which he was called led to the opening of numerous mission stations and thousands of people were led to the Lord. “Common sense said that he did not belong in China,” the author says. “But he was a fighter, so he stayed on and got the work done.” Jaffray’s passion for unreached peoples without the hope of the Gospel compelled him to go where Christ was not named. “As he grew older his passion to reach the lost grew stronger, his vision widened and his purpose narrowed.” This is the Jaffray’s message in his own words: “We have not busied ourselves treading on the toes of other missionaries. We have sought only new fields, virgin soil, untouched regions where Christ has not been named.”


Tozer does an exceptional job of revealing Jaffray the man, his calling, and the God who went before him. But his creative style of writing is most appreciated in the occasional pauses he takes to reveal a spiritual lesson or philosophical anecdote between the narrative. This causes the reader not only to contemplate the story at hand but to explore how God might use them to join Him in His missionary passion for the world. Rather than lingering from a distance, knowing that “we are all children enough to love the thrill of missionary adventure enjoyed by proxy,” the author then examines the Christian’s place in the “great cloud of witnesses” by saying, “It is a blessed thing when a person is found to do a work of God, to catch the scattered parts prepared by others and weld them into a perfect whole.” The threads of this missionary narrative and the corresponding spiritual insights of this book weave a beautiful mosaic of creative missionary storytelling.


I can be a stickler for the language selection of good literature. Call me an old soul, but I appreciate the loquaciousness of the past rather than the superficial works that seem to permeate modern writing. The author is a master of this high art; though not overly verbose, he displays a beautiful oeuvre of artistic flair. Just listen to how he describes the passion of Jaffray: “The missionary must go to the lost tribes. This was the basal tenet in Jaffray’s missionary creed, and to him, it was the voice of command. It created within his mind an eager restlessness that never left him. The sight of a map or the sound of a foreign name stirred him as the sound of an alarm bell stirred the old fire horse of yesteryear. Jaffray was a pioneer, an explorer, an adventurer obsessed with the urge to discover new peoples and hidden tribes.” Justice was done to this missionary biography by the skillful articulations of the author.


At first glance, I did not expect this book to make such a strong impact on me. The book itself is rather thin and, as mentioned above, the cover art was not particularly appealing. But the story was highly compelling, the protagonist intriguing, the success of his missionary service astounding, and the call to action persuasive. I somehow resonated with Jaffray, both as a man and as a missionary. My aspirations for the new season I am now entering in my own missionary endeavors have been challenged. I desire to emulate the life of Jaffray in some small way as I journey toward a new horizon of Christian service.


I give Let My People Go a 10/10.