About the book and author:
Who is Andrew Murray, you may be wondering? Many Christians know him as a prolific author of over 240 Christ-centered books which have become classic reading material for those who love God the world over. You may find that many pastors’ libraries have several of his volumes in their collection. Most of these works were written in the latter half of the 19th century.
Andrew Murray was the second eldest child of Andrew Murray Senior, a Dutch Reformed Church missionary sent from Scotland to South Africa. His mother’s background was of French Huguenots and German Lutheran descent. He was born and reared in the Cape area of South Africa. When they were 10 and 12, Andrew and his brother John were sent back to Scotland to continue their education until they received their Master’s degrees. They then went to the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands where they studied theology. Both young men became ordained ministers and returned to South Africa to serve in the many churches there. Andrew was eventually an important part of a revival there in the 1860’s.
The author of this book, Olea Nel, was also born in South Africa. She studied to be a teacher and then relocated in Australia to further her studies. She eventually became a senior librarian at the National Library of Australia. She has always had a passion for research, especially in the area of church history and biography. She is eager to share this research with other Christians. With that end in mind, she is writing a novelization of Andrew Murray’s life. Since his life was filled with important historical events, her project has become a trilogy of books. The author’s website on Andrew Murray
Andrew Murray: Destined to Serve is the first book in the series. Ms. Nel writes it in the first person, giving a personal voice to Murray’s memories of his return to South Africa after being away so many years. This volume covers his first year back, at the age of 20, and all the adventures he had, especially once he became 21 and was inducted as pastor of a local church. While some of the minute details are fictionalized, he was a prolific letter writer from the beginning, so there are many resources from which to gain insight into his feelings, impressions, adventures, speculations, and spiritual state. The context around his activities includes some history of the Dutch settlements in the Cape area, conflicts with local tribes, the expansion north into grasslands where pioneers settled in colonies for English speaking and Dutch speaking people, the Boer wars, the eventual switch from the Dutch government to the English government of the colonies, which implies the politics of the day and the role of the church in keeping the peace. Above all is the intense desire of the church groups to reach out to the neighboring tribes and settlers on the frontier with the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
The prologue and the epilogue set the premise of the tale. In Andrew Murray’s twilight years he was approached by a biographer who desired to write the aging pastor’s life story. So Andrew set out to give his friend Johan the details as he remembered them in several sessions. The body of the story is the telling of his memories beginning with his arrival back in South Africa with his brother John. It’s implied that he told the details of this book in one sitting. I could picture them sitting on the veranda overlooking the beautiful countryside while Johan is frantically taking notes, interrupting and asking questions.
I love the novel approach to a biography of one whom I consider a hero of the faith. Since it is written in the first person, I could see the events unfold through this young man’s eyes, gaining insight into his impressions and feelings at the time. The author weaves in the background and events together skillfully. I learned quite a bit about the Dutch colonization that way. Her writing definitely filled in some of the gaps in my deplorable knowledge of South African history. It enabled me to see a bigger picture than just the life of one man.
Another reason I appreciate the first person approach in this novel is how it allowed me as the reader to get to know Andrew’s large family, the friends he made on his journeys, and experience the demands placed on him by the many different church leaders whose intentions were good but manipulative all the same. When he turned 21, he received his first pastorate, but instead of remaining in the church to preach and mature through the experience, he was pulled in many directions, including a trip into what would be the African equivalent of the American prairies. He essentially had to minister to a congregation of about 20,000 widely dispersed people. Traveling from one “church place” to another by horse-drawn wagon or ox cart took time and sapped his energy. He also encountered a few dangers along the way such as predatory prides of lions and wolves. The book is not dull by any means!
More than just being a series of events, this book focuses on Andrew Murray’s spiritual journey. The author gives us a glimpse into his mind by allowing him to be open and transparent about the temptations he faced, his failures, and lack of maturity to meet a crisis with wisdom. His first year shouldering so much responsibility was a severe taskmaster. The book allows us to experience his frustrations and feelings first hand. Much of what he learned at the age of 21 is still relevant for young adults today. What he gleaned from his early years is the basic foundation for many of the books and devotional readings he penned years later, once he had time to reflect back on this milestone year. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the second and third books in this series.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the Story Cartel on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”