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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"An Asian Harvest" (Paul Hattaway)

TITLE: An Asian Harvest: An Autobiography
AUTHOR: Paul Hattaway
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2017, (320 pages).

Many of us have heard about the sensational book, the Heavenly Man. It powerfully describes the amazing miracles and testimonies of Brother Yun, a Chinese believer who suffered much persecution and hardship, and was able to testify God's work in his life. In spite of the horrific opposition to his preaching of the gospel, he persevered. The world have come to know his story, but the truth is, there are many other stories remain hidden, untold, and forgotten. We need more brave souls to uncover these stories to show the world that many believers have been unjustly and mercilessly persecuted by the local powers of the land. We need people to uncover these testimonies. One such person is Paul Hattaway, a native New Zealander who helped carry Bibles into restricted countries in the past and is now leading Asia Harvest, an outreach ministry to Asia. After telling the stories of Brother Yun (Heavenly Man) and experiencing the powerful testimonies of faith as he ventured into various countries, it is time to tell his own story as well. This book is an his autobiography.

He begins by sharing about his early years in the 70s and 80s back in New Zealand. Due to his lack of academic progress in high school, he has been labeled as one who is a "waste of oxygen." His family is not too keen on spiritual things. His early involvement in church is mostly about play. Thanks to some outreach efforts by local pastors and individuals, he was impressed with the genuine efforts by them to reach him. Before long, he became more interested in the things of God, which quickly meant facing the threats of persecution and emotional struggles. He left for Sydney not too long after and became a Christian in Australia at the age of 19. Upon his return to New Zealand, he witnessed to his family and encountered a few Chinese preachers that perked his interest in China. For a man who had garnered so much recognition and reputation, few knew about his difficult beginnings. He suffered a stroke in 2013, but pressed on in his ministry work even in the midst of recovery. From an aimless individual in the 60s, he has become a voice for the many believers in the suffering Church. Hearing the testimonies of Harry Lee and George Chen prepared him for as he became clearer about his own calling. Gradually he became passionate about getting Bibles into restricted access countries, such as China. He was prepared to be a "donkey for Jesus." Through his bible courier efforts, he came to hear of stories of persecutions and hardships by local believers. He witnessed multiple supernatural deliverances and how God had blessed the Bible couriers. Imagine he only had $50 when he started and he managed to make 52 separate trips to China! Another miracle was when he needed to travel back to Sydney but his air ticket had expired. He decided to see if it is possible to use it. Unfortunately, the airline told him that his ticket had expired and he was asked to buy another ticket. After some initial disappointment, he prayed. Moments later, he called the airline again and was pleasantly surprised that he had a confirmed ticket from Hong Kong back to Sydney? He enrolled in Bible school. Soon, he got invited to speak at various places. He became involved in many other Asian countries. All of these stem from the passion of knowing that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. The outreach ministry energized him. He was constantly challenged both physically and spiritually. Through it all, he summarized lessons from God.

Readers will come to know Hattaway up close and personal as he shares his feelings for Joy, a fellow missionary who he eventually married. It was not an easy relationship as he goes through periods of connecting and breaking up, encountering spiritual attacks from all directions, even within a Christian community. Even fellow missionaries could do mean things to one another. It's strange that people know Brother Yun more than the one who wrote the book about Brother Yun. This book in a way will address this imbalance. For by understanding the one who wrote it, we would understand the Heavenly Man better, just like we understand the story better once we know the background. In fact, it is through the testimony of Brother Yun that the author and his wife got to persevere in faith in spite of opposition. Toward the end of the book, Hattaway shares more about his marriage and how faith had enabled them to continue in their ministry together.

Let me give three thoughts about this book. First, Hattaway was urged to put his story in writing by many of his co-workers and supporters. Having experienced first-hand his passion and conviction to reach the unreached with the Word of God, they continue to be blessed by his ministry. Having a stroke a few years ago must have made him more aware of the limits of his own ministry. He had to count his days as well and this book is his way of making his past count. In an electronic generation where people are simply downloading Bibles into their digital devices, we may have lost touch of a generation that utterly depended on printed Bibles for their spiritual nourishment. By sharing his own story and the stories he had heard from the Asian region, he is able to preserve in writing for future generations, that they too may be blessed. Second, Hattaway's  life shows us that ministry work is not glamorous at all. Even fellow ministry workers can backstab each other. Financial concerns could easily derail the most well-intentioned projects. Learning to see God working in the midst of trials and tribulations is an act of grace from God. God provided Hattaway with a soulmate along the way in spite of the many oppositions they faced. In order to pull through, we learn that faith is not about individual grit or brute-force projects. It is dependence and patience to see God providing the way out in the stickiest situation. The way God provided for his air-ticket home is a case in point. Finally, we read once again the excitement over the gospel in the Asian region, which is a far cry from the lukewarm and stone cold climate in the West. Many Asian churches, especially those at the rural villages are still in great need of spiritual resources. Even in a technological age, the need for spiritual food and personal connection will always be there.

If you have read the Heavenly Man, you would want to pick up this book. If Brother Yun is called the Heavenly Man, perhaps we can call Paul Hattaway the Heavenly Storyteller.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Kregel Publishers without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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