May 31, 2020

The Indomitable Gertrude Green

A missionary nurse who spent most of her career in China.

Max W. Hammonds

The Indomitable Gertrude Green, by Max W. Hammonds, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2010, 701 pages. Softcover, US$24.99 (Kindle $9.99). Reviewed by Stephen Chavez, Adventist Review.

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Days and weeks of self-isolation have provided an environment conducive to becoming reacquainted with one’s collections of books.

One book that I came across recently is the biography of Gertrude Green, a missionary nurse who spent most of her career in China before, during, and after World War II. The Indomitable Gertrude Green was written by Max W. Hammonds, who served with Green in mission service in Thailand.

Although the book was published 10 years ago, its story is timeless. It’s the story of a woman who offered her life in service and faithfully followed God’s lead as she was guided in ways she never could have imagined. And because the author had access to Green’s diaries and letters, it’s a comprehensive telling.

Gertrude Green grew up nurturing the dream of becoming a professional ballerina. That dream was interrupted when her mother began attending Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic meetings. Gertrude was soon attending an Adventist elementary school, which led her to Union Springs Academy.

The rest of the story is predictable insofar as readers know that it’s going to lead to mission service. But the details of that journey are as fascinating and unpredictable as any work of fiction. Part of that is because much of the story takes place in China. Before World War II, the country was ripe for medical missionary work. But the war and its aftermath provide several twists and plot changes to the story as military forces vied for power.

The book is wonderful, telling of those events by someone who had a front-row seat. The author uses Green’s letters to her mother, friends, and mission and church leaders to move the narrative. The author’s style is powerful and dynamic, something unusual for this kind of book. Reading a 700-page book might seem daunting, but the narrative is written in a style that makes it a real page-turner.

The Indomitable Gertrude Green provides a portrait of mission service that is no longer a reality. With today’s mission fields accessible by a few hours of air travel and nearly instantaneous communication with digital media, this book reminds us of the sacrifice of those who left homes and families for years. Thanks to the letters exchanged between home and mission field, we can get a taste of a bygone era and wonder whether what we think of as sacrifice even comes close.

I had to go no further than my bookshelf to be reacquainted with The Indomitable Gertrude Green. Others may have to go to the library, used bookstore, or Internet bookseller. It will be worth the trip.