Date read: 12.11.2017. How strongly I recommend it: 10/10.
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In this classic missionary biography, the author, Bruce Olson (the stone age tribe he sought to reach with the gospel called him Bruchko), revisits the defining moments of his missionary career. The narrative begins humbly enough with a “slender boyish-faced” young American man with a dream to take the Gospel to uncharted territory. The author recalls, “It would have made sense to forget about the Motilones. But I couldn’t. A gnawing, troubling curiosity grabbed me. And it wouldn’t go away, no matter how good the arguments I used against it.” This and many other portions of the book compile a stirring missionary story that reveals whom God chooses to use for His glory. The reader comes to realize that he or she can be made of use in the missionary venture through simple obedience. No high calling is needed. The command of Jesus has already been made. He simply awaits joyful compliance. “I couldn’t fight it. God made no demands. He didn’t force me. But I found myself irresistibly interested in other countries and in other cultures.” And in his willingness to be a vessel in the hands of God, the author is led from one intriguing adventure to another and thus the glory of God is revealed in remarkable ways. This classic missionary biography is a must-read for the modern-day Christian.
“There’s an old gospel song that says, ‘If you can’t bear the cross, then you can’t wear the crown.’ I realized I didn’t want the cross. I wanted the crown, with all its jewels, without ever carrying the cross.” The author’s admittance is strikingly honest. Still, after he is captured by a stone-age tribe, nearly beat to death, his leg pierced by arrows, and on the verge of starvation (when which a tapeworm crawls up his throat for hunger and he passes the squishy thing orally!), the author comes to experience the cross in brutally tangible ways. Crowns may someday be his for the taking, I presume. Simply stated: his radical obedience to the call of Jesus for the unreached is admirable. Though most Western Christians will never experience hardship such as this, the reader can somehow relate to a man who wanted nothing more than the glory of God. He seems to pass over his physical trials as par for the course. But his difficulties were not for naught. The effects of his missionary service resulted in the salvation of unreached peoples, as revealed by this text: “At present, the Motilones have thirty missionary teams among nonevangelized tribes in Northeast Colombia.” The author admits, “Part of me wanted to pack up and go where cars, planes, and streetcars ruled instead of panthers and wild boars. At the same time, I was strangely pleased with myself. It was as though I had a secret that the world did not know, a secret place that no one else had been allowed to enter.” This secret was one of the motivations of his diehard cross-cultural service, the ultimate of which was God’s glory made known in forgotten parts of the earth.
Constantly on the search for treasure, Bruce Olson went where there was no path and blazed new trails in the jungles he traversed. The treasure that he sought was not gold and silver, but rather hidden tribes without the knowledge of a Savior. The message of this book is clearly stated in the author’s following words: “My experience with the Motilone Indians has taught me how to deal with other cultures and how to promote positive change without tearing social structures apart at the seams. I try to share these things. But the most important thing that I can say to those who want to help primitive people is this: they will not be helped very much unless they find purpose in life through Jesus Christ.” Yes, medical aid was a noble aspiration. The “social gospel” in all its altruistic nature was praiseworthy but incomplete. The truth about the tormenting spirits that dealt daily blows to the lives of those trapped in darkness must be told. But the greatest message articulated in its entirety was that Jesus, the Son of the Living God, was the God of the Motilone Indians as He is for the Western world and for the missionary man himself. This clear-stated message is retold in many forms throughout the pages of this book.
The first printing of this book was titled “For This Cross I’ll Kill You” after the icy threat made by an outlaw settler named Humberto Abril. The book begins with this encounter after years of the author’s missionary service among the Motilone Indians, weaves through his riveting timeline, and returns at last to the day when those fateful words were spoken. From chapter one to twenty-four, the reader learns of a stone age tribe tucked deep in a forgotten jungle landscape and comes to cheer for their salvation with holy jealousy. The hero we have at hand as the tribe’s lifeline is, however, an unassuming American man stocked with little besides stick-necked spunk and obstinate audacity. I find the juxtaposition of these necessities (the need for the tribe’s salvation and the one man who has been willed by God to proclaim His message) both an outlandish selection and a creative concoction of God’s providence.
Though I might have desired the occasional pause of a spiritual lesson or philosophical anecdote between the fast-moving narrative, this book flowed seamlessly from one chapter to the next. The reader is left with no choice but to continue flipping the pages to find out what happens next. I did not highlight as many texts as I generally do in my reading because of the scarcity of such quote-worthy one-liners, but that is not enough to fault the author’s style. Instead, this story read like a typical biography ought: fast, clean, and unpretentious. Had this book been penned by an objective third party author instead of the missionary himself it might have read in a more pensive manner—who can say? I may have enjoyed that kind of book by a marginal degree. But what we have here is the story, plain and simple, of an unreached tribe coming to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And that, more than anything else, is my cup of tea!
If my memory serves me correctly, I recall my father first reading this book as our family gathered on the living room couch nearly 30 years ago. I, a child at the time, was stirred by the adventure of it all and the book instilled in me an inspired missionary zeal. I have referred back to this book in many a conversation over the years—the incredulous tapeworm episode generally the predominant element of the narrative! But more than that, this book has encouraged in me a passion for souls and a longing for the glory of God to be revealed in the nations. My recent revisit to this classic missionary biography was a welcome inspiration. I confidently presume that this book will be the same for you.
10 POINT RATING
I give Bruchko a 10/10.