Lives Less Ordinary
A story of fearless faith in an extraordinary God
Fisherman Press, 2020 (ISBN: 978-1-164136559-8, 193pp, £7.50)
Telling others in great detail about one’s own family history is normally a quick recipe for losing friends and alienating people. Not so for Roy Summers. The pastor of Manor Park Evangelical Church in Worcester was blessed with two extraordinary missionary parents, Marlin and Barbara. His account of their rearing (in Minnesota and Southampton/Canada respectively), their vocations to foreign mission, their work in south Asia, and latter labours in the English West Midlands is absorbing and vivifying.
Missionary biographies are among the first rank of non-scriptural reading materials at any time, as the Christian faith is learned to a great extent by imitation. The angle of pioneering adventurism in an exotic field can be beguiling, but it is the seal of undertaking such work in the name of Christ and the readiness to endure hardships not for fame but for winning souls that affords the true lustre. India certainly is the sort of distant land whose culture tantalises the western imagination, but it was the spiritual lostness of the vast majority of her people which drew the Summers to it.
The book takes an unusual turn for a missionary biography at the point when the Summers were forced to move their work among south Asians from the subcontinent itself to the decidedly more prosaic environment of Wolverhampton. The concept of serving cross-cultural mission by reaching out to migrants at home may be familiar to us now but was far less so in the early 1970s. This new type of pioneering work bore wonderful fruit in the founding of the Asian Christian Fellowship.
Summer comments on the distinctly undenominational nature of his upbringing (the book occasionally, inevitably, veering into autobiography, but not unenjoyably so). Indeed, his father’s spiritual roots seem to have derived from Canadian Presbyterianism and Keswick Holiness, whilst his mother’s church was Congregational and both seemed happy in Baptist contexts. Further comment in this regard on some of the formational environments mentioned would not have gone amiss.
Also mentioned is the abundance of source material on which the book is based. Though an exhaustive description of these and series of references thereto is not required in a book of this type, some light work in that direction would be helpful, both to confirm the objectivity of the account and to emphasise the historicity and reliability of the work of real people in God’s world.
Readers of any persuasion will not fail but to be left with a deep impression of the power of God at work through the Summers. Their long-suffering, faith, endurance, dedication, enterprise, love, and humility are heartening, challenging and, as the title suggests, ‘less than ordinary’ – in the best possible way.
Edward Keene, Little Shelford