Linford Stutzman’s Sailing Acts: Following an Ancient Voyage is a book of facts as interesting as fiction. In it, the author presents specific data about the apostle Paul, his journeys, and, incidentally, some sailing techniques. There is a wealth of information in the book, all of which is important to understanding how it feels to follow in the footsteps of one of the first missionaries of the Christian faith.
Sailing Acts is arranged in chronological order from the time when Stutzman first considered this voyage to its completion years later. It records the struggles in getting time to take the trip, buying the boat, and navigating through Paul’s missions. The pace, like that of a sailboat, is slightly varied yet always interesting. It feeds the imagination as well as the logical mind with adventure and contemplation of life in another time.
Part of the charm of Sailing Acts is the personal touch Stutzman brings by telling his own story. It is not just that the apostle Paul had hard times when he took his voyages. It is not even that others after him found it difficult. It is the storyteller himself who works to make the trip a success, and he knows first hand what struggles, exertions, and blessings it takes to succeed. The reader feels as though he is there along with him, worrying about boat prices and getting through customs. The people seem real and ready for conversation. Weather in the Mediterranean takes on a whole new significance, and Paul takes on new realism. This realism and immediacy stem not so much from facts, but from the story of experiences.
As a professor of religion at Eastern Mennonite University, Stutzman has authority to speak about the facts of Paul’s life and travels. His knowledge is woven together with his impressions of the people, places, and stories he encounters to form a solid image of what it might have been like for Paul as he made these same journeys nearly two thousand years before. Passages of Scripture that used to seem dead and boring come alive when the subject is examined from a real-life perspective. – Linette Yoder, Christian Book Previews.com
Seafaring isn’t for the faint of heart. It wasn’t for the Apostle Paul in the first century A.D.—shipwrecked, imprisoned, and often a stranger in foreign lands.
And it turned out to be a heart-stopping task some two thousand years later, when a religion professor and his wife undertook a 14-month journey by sailboat! They stopped in eight countries, visiting every site where Paul stopped on his tumultuous missionary journeys.
SailingActs traces this 21st-century voyage from Volos, Greece, to Rome, Italy, by car, by foot, by motorized scooter, but mostly on a 33-foot boat, logging more than 3600 nautical miles over two sailing seasons.
“Explorers are easy to admire or despise, but very difficult to understand without going on the trip,” writes Stutzman. “To really appreciate the experiences, the drama, and development of Paul the explorer, you need to sail with him.”
So begins SailingActs, inviting readers to come on board. Stutzman draws thoughtful comparisons from his own travel mishaps and adventures to the ones Paul experienced on his journeys. This book is in the tradition of Bruce Feiler’s Walking the Bible.
Stutzman’s knowledge of the socio-political setting in the first-century Roman empire provides an informative backdrop to understanding Paul and reading his epistles in a new light.
The book includes dozens of photos, maps showing the couple’s travel routes, a list of all the repairs and replacements Stutzman made to the aging boat which he bought sight-unseen, and an itinerary of places they visited.