The 1960s were an era of counter-cultural rebellion—young people renouncing their parents' striving for affluence in the suburbs and choosing instead the simple lifestyle. For many of my generation that meant a commune with free love and drugs, no bras or baths. For some of us touched by the Kingdom of God, it meant committing to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, no matter the cost. I always pictured myself in a thatched hut in the jungle, befriending the ‘natives,’ wrestling with the puzzle of an unwritten language, creating an alphabet and translating the Scriptures.
In this dream I was single, probably because I didn’t know any guys who shared my vision. I looked forward to the adventure of it all. When they gave the call at our church’s missions conference for those who were willing to go to come forward, my struggle was always to be willing to stay. I couldn’t imagine a more boring life than suburbia.
Then I met my husband. We have lived in six countries on four continents, some of them in the middle of civil wars or political crisis. But he’s a city guy. No thatched huts or dugout canoes for him. (Well, once. The canoe tipped and dumped him into a Mozambican river. Everyone jumped in to save the ‘poor missionary’ [who used to be a life-saving instructor.] He had to walk the rest of the way to the village with squishy shoes. He was just glad he didn’t find out about the crocodiles until later.)
As I was saying, my husband is a networker, committed to leadership training, which mostly happens in cities with electricity, telephones and (now-a-days) Internet. After six years in the Mozambican capital of Maputo with broken glass, crumbling concrete, sporadic electricity, and running water until 9 AM (most days), we were able to visit Nauela, the town in the north where we would have lived if the country had not descended into civil war about the time we arrived. It didn’t have electricity or running water, but it was a beautiful town overlooking a fertile valley with mountains on the horizon. Again I had to struggle with the Lord. “You mean my kids could have grown up here?”
So it was with memories of romantic teenage dreams of adventure in the name of the Jesus that I read Our Witchdoctors are too Weak; the Rebirth of an Amazon Tribe by Davey and Marie Jank. I laughed out loud. Davey Jank has a delightful ability to laugh at himself, his mistakes and his misunderstandings. It was easy to see my own cultural ignorance reflected in those mistakes and laugh at myself as well. He includes just enough of the puzzle of linguistics to remind me of my teenage fascination with the subject. For example: this is a culture with no word for ‘no.’ So early on, Davey goes pig-hunting for the simple reason that he can’t figure out how to say he would rather not!
Our Witchdoctors are too Weak is told in short, three to five page chapters—quick reads for family worship around the dinner table. I am considering leaving my copy in the guest bathroom along side Readers Digest and The Bathroom Book.
This book gave me lots of laughs. I would have liked to have more spiritual insights along with those laughs. What can I learn about myself or about God by laughing at these experiences? There was some of that, but not a lot. The missionaries made the deliberate decision not to try to teach the gospel until they were fluent enough in the language to be sure that what they thought they were saying was actually communicated. They had seen enough strange religious ideas gleaned from misunderstandings of Spanish to make it a serious concern. It is not until the last few pages that the missionaries begin to teach the gospel. When they do, a significant number turn to Christ, and a culture of fear comes to an end. It will be interesting to see how the church among the Wilo people matures with their own Bible and this base of understanding.
I highly recommend this book for your church library, especially if your church supports missionaries or sends teams anywhere in the world. The principles of being flexible and laughing at your mistakes will take any missionary a long way.
(So was it a mistake to neglect to tell us what country we are in or a deliberate choice? The Amazon lies mainly in Brazil, but the lingua franca here is Spanish not Portuguese. Hmm.)
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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