Title: Second-Mile People
Author: Isobel Kuhn, Christian missionary
Genre: Christian Nonfiction
I was introduced to Second-Mile People through a sermon almost three years back. I can’t remember much of what exactly the pastor said that made me remember it all this time, but I do recall his explanation for its title. “Second-Mile People” refers to Matthew 5:41, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” In her book, Kuhn commemorates those two-mile people she’d admired. Even as the pastor transitioned onto a different topic, my mind lingered on the title, and I thought to myself, “I want to meet them.”
In a pithy yet at times remarkably artful description, Kuhn recounts six friends of hers on the China mission field who have made a lasting impact on her life. Despite featuring individuals of different backgrounds, ages, genders, and dispositions, I found the book cohesive. It felt like I was flowing down Kuhn’s memory river. We’d dock every twenty or thirty pages for her to introduce me to one of her intimates. Then, we’d sail on with me gazing fondly back at my new acquaintance even as we turn the bend into the next chapter.
Before we dive into the meat of the review, I want to make a quick comment on Kuhn’s writing. It might just be the vernacular of the early 20th century or it may be her personal style, but I found her syntax to be mildly difficult to grasp at times. It didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book overall, but it does leave me wondering if I’d missed her point in some paragraphs. You might have a different opinion than me on this if you read her, so who knows. Anyways, where were we.
It’s clear why Kuhn singled out these six as her “Second-Mile People”. It wasn’t simply that they’d all devoted their entire lives to delivering the Good News to the common people in China. Kuhn made it clear that there were hundreds of others in her mission program also doing that. It was because of their indefatigable devotion to the Lord and their completely Spirit-Filled lives.
While yet unable to speak the language, Jenny resided alone in a remote Chinese village for four months, praying and evangelizing to its people to the best of her abilities. Bud once preached earnestly to a passing nun even as he himself was fatigued from travel and nauseous with illness. Star parted with her child for four years to serve the isolated Lisu people with her husband. I would continue but I think it best for you to get to know these people yourself.
Personally, I found Kuhn’s most convicting words in her prologue before the stories even began. She wrote, “Today one finds a general apathy in the church, an unspoken feeling that one mile for the Saviour is quite sufficient! The writer has more than once heard this remark, ‘I am afraid to yield myself wholly up to Christ…afraid of what He might ask me to give up, or to do!’ There seems to be a fear of that ‘second mile.’”
I think without these words, the following stories would not have left as impactful of an impression as it did. In fact, I think these words were exactly why God led me to this book. I admit I fall within that category of Christians her remark encapsulates. I am often afraid of what Christ might ask me to give up or to do either today or tomorrow. I really, really want to yield myself wholly up to Christ, to live a Spirit-filled, second-mile life in which truly Christ is all that matters, but I struggle. A lot. Over all sorts of things.
Which is why it’s such a blessing to be able to look at these saints from almost ninety years ago. Their lives tell me that going that second-mile, as Christ has commanded, is possible when we give Him our utter devotion. I may not know how God will continue growing me, but I know He is. It’s evident from how He’s changed my perspective towards the Bible and Christian community in the past three years or from how He’s teaching me how to forgive even in extremely distressing circumstances. These working of His Spirit and grace as well as the knowledge that there is really no limit with God, gives me boundless hope that He is able to shape even someone as undeserving, obstinate, and often prideful as me into a Second-Mile Person.
So, give this book a read. Meet these six figures for yourself. See what thought-provoking, perhaps even life changing, lessons they might teach you.
You can grab the book HERE.
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