Book Review: “An Ordinary Man—A Great God” by Joy Mielke (2011)

“The Life of Missionary Knute Hjalmar Ekblad to North China”

For obvious reasons, someone recommended this book to me a while ago, and I am sure glad they did. Missionary biographies have always attracted me, specifically those set in Asian contexts (in fact, although I do not recall too many things from my childhood that could have predicted God’s ultimate calling on my life, I do recall loving one particular Gladys Aylward biography called These are My People). And so this book, set in the early part of the 20th century and about a man whose name I still cannot pronounce, fit right in with one of my many favorite, unique genres.

Joy Mielke is the granddaughter of this very Swedish-American missionary to China, and she produced this book by listening to and putting down into print the reel-to-reel recordings by Knute Hjamlar Ekblad of his life from Sweden to the States to China and back. In the course of this semi-autobiography, the reader comes to understand the passion it took for any believer at the turn of the century to sacrifice what little they had to cross the ocean and reach a people who had never heard the Truth. The reader follows Ekblad through his years of ministry in China and furloughs in the U.S., as through the loss of several children and several wives as he plugged on for the Lord in a land that was and is still hard, both physically and spiritually. Ekblad speaks candidly of his trials overseas, of his feelings of ineptitude, but always of the sovereignty of God and the strength He gives His children when they submit to His will and take up their cross to follow Him.

This book is an encouraging testament to the faithfulness of God who sees beyond this life and who will soon reward openly those who today sacrifice everything in the ruts of obscurity for the sake of taking the Good News of Jesus Christ to the lost throughout the world. Knute Hjalmar Ekblad may have been an ordinary man, but he certainly did serve a Great God.

©2011 E.T.

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4 Responses to Book Review: “An Ordinary Man—A Great God” by Joy Mielke (2011)

  1. Joy Mielke says:

    Sixteen and a half years ago I wrote to Elizabeth Elliot telling her how much her life and the life of her husband Jim Elliot meant to me, and because of that testimony, my husband and I named our newborn son after her husband. His name is James Elliot Mielke. Missionary biographies are fabulous sources of inspiration to other believers to become sold out for Christ. Thank you to the Elliots for their testimony via books, and that is why I decided to write down my grandfather’s story of how God could use just an ordinary man for such great and eternal purposes. To God be the glory!!! If readers desire to hear Missionary’s actual voice, they can go to and her him tell in person some of his adventures.

  2. Thank you, Joy, for posting that extra info! As one desiring to go to the same country as your grandfather, I loved reading his story, hearing his hardships, and taking confidence in all the victories the Lord gave him.
    I like to think of my own name as a sobriquet based off the Elliots. What a couple they were! I think Elizabeth’s -Through Gates of Splendor- which I read in college was one factor in guiding me finally toward the missions field.
    I totally agree with you about missionary biographies as well. I am currently working on a research paper about J. Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission. Where are these missionaries today: willing to jump a boat amidst a civil war, debt-free but broke, against the better advice of their friends and family, determined to self-teach a language, willing to even buck their missions society’s suggestions and head into the interior where the Gospel is needed most? I suppose in a hundred years we’ll know where they are today, but until then, praise God for the unknown missionaries going out from our midst!

  3. You can purchase, “An Ordinary Man – A Great God” at Right now it is on sale for $10.99. Hope you enjoy and our blessed.

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