A Leopard Tamed by Vandevort

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I’ve never read a mission story quite like this one. Missions stories make some of the most challenging reading to bolster faith, so I’ve read several such titles over the years. While it’s clear the Lord was at work in this mission story just like I expect in such tales, the frank honesty of the difficulties makes this volume by Eleanor Vandevort unique. The author didn’t even hide the hard questions she had for God in this book. When the back cover says that this book “was too honest for many in 1968”, you can see that this statement is not mere marketing hype once you read the book for yourself. Whoever suggested rereleasing this volume in the 50th-anniversary edition did a favor for us all.

You will do well to read all the preliminaries. Both the Forward by Trudy Summers and the introduction to the 50th-anniversary edition by Valerie Elliott Sheppard as well as the introduction to the original edition by Elizabeth Elliott give the kind of background and perspective that makes the reading of the book more meaningful. Plus, if you’re like me you had not heard of the author, but at least had heard of Elizabeth Elliott. Since I respect Mrs. Elliott, and since she has deep confidence in the author of this book, I began reading this book with complete confidence about the character of an author I’d never heard of.

The author comes out of the gate in riveting fashion when she describes going to watch the rite of passage that young men in Sudan face that entails six horizontal lines being cut in parallel rows on their forehead. I loved how she confessed her original feelings of repulsion for what appeared to be a dark, hedonistic act. It was in this first chapter that she makes us aware of her ability to probe deeply into the meaning other cultures find in certain acts. She was able to separate our faith that we receive from God and should take to the world for our culture that we sometimes confuse with it. That accomplishment alone makes this a book worth reading. Even better, she doesn’t preach at us for confusing our culture with the gospel but just explains the wrestlings in her own soul. Her journey was instructive.

There are all kinds of other thrills. Yes, there’s a scary snake story but as is the case with this author, she looks deeper at their overall view of death and how the young boy would miss out on his markings that proclaimed to the world he was a man. It was a loss the whole family would feel, yet a different sort of loss that we would feel in our culture.

You don’t get very far into the book before you meet Kuac Nyoat, a young man who came to Christ and was trained for the pastorate in the ministry where the author worked. Without a doubt, Miss Vandevort loved, admired, and respected this young pastor. It was through his life that she told her story and tried to separate culture from the gospel. In no way did she sugarcoat his struggles or even his failures. What she was able to do, however, is get to the end of the book with me respecting him just as she did.

This book has the requisite excitement but forces you to do a lot of important thinking too. You will likely enjoy the story so much that you won’t even mind. It’s a beautiful paperback edition and is written so that anyone from a teenager to a seasoned Christian would consider reading it time well spent. It’s a winner that I highly recommend!

I received this book free from the publisher. 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. 

Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures by Georges and Baker

This book is profound on many levels. For me personally, I can’t remember when I last read a book that made me feel like I didn’t know a thing about the subject before I read it as was the case here. It’s not that I hadn’t traveled or been in mission work in other cultures, but that I didn’t know specifically why those other cultures even seemed to think differently than my own. My culture, as is so well described in this volume, is based on guilt whereas many other cultures think more with an honor-shame mindset. Even more surprising, my Western culture is by far in the minority in our world.

The authors, Jayson Georges and Mark Baker, are well qualified to write on this subject and I particularly appreciated how they shared their own trial and error while serving in other parts of the world to gain some of their knowledge the hard way. 

Though they tackled three distinct areas–deep analysis of what the honor-shame culture is, a careful explanation of how it fits in with biblical theology, and how to take this understanding and practically minister to those who view the world through an honor-shame lens–they amazingly prove themselves adept in all three disciplines.

In the first area they really helped you get into the mind of someone who thinks in terms of honor-shame and see why it makes as much sense to them as our more legal outlook does to us. In the second, while there is a forgiveness/legal/guilt outlook in Scripture, there is clear honor/shame outlooks as well. We may have been overlooking key theology here. Finally, the practical side is amazing. The chapter on evangelism is worth the price of the whole book.

This book should be required reading for every missionary or persons working with different cultures. It might make the difference in effectiveness more than you realize. For that matter, every Christian should read it both for its theology and ministry training. This book is home run all the way!

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

Christian Mission In The Modern World by Stott and Wright


This Stott classic has been ably updated and expanded by Christopher J. H. Wright. In fact, this volume is double the size of the old edition as Wright follows each Stott chapter with one of his own. Not only were Stott and Wright colleagues and friends, but Stott was something of a mentor to Wright. They share many specialities including the subject of this book. Stott is known as the master expositor, and Wright follows him in that way too with several fine, medium-length commentaries if his own. 

Stott does not give us another how-to-do-missions books, but looks deeply as what missions even is, what it entails, and what qualifies as God’s idea of missions. He wrestles with what part social work has in missions, but balances with a critique of the picture of a traditional missionary. There is exceptional exposition in places–like on page 60ff where he unwraps the meaning of evangelism (“euangelizomai”). I loved how he explained it is never defined in terms of results.

This book also clears up a false accusation against Stott that I remember hearing. He was charged with capitulating to pluralism. That is most certainly not the case. See page 178 where Wright clarifies that Stott believed that salvation was exclusively in Christ. What Stott said that some twisted is that who can say about people who respond to God with the light they were given. That does not mean, say, they can respond to Mohammad and get to a God. His discussion makes sense to me.

This is top flight title on Christian Mission and I recommend it. 

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

The Korean Pentecost by Blair and Hunt

Here is a volume coming back into print where I had heard rumors of its being outstanding. By missionaries William Blair and Bruce Hunt, this book covers the first 60 years of the Gospel coming into Korea. The title “The Korean Pentecost And The Sufferings Which Followed” gives a hint of what you will discover here. It is hard to comprehend so much happening in 60 years and that the ministries of two missionaries went through it all. What the reader gets through it all is a strengthening of faith, the amazement of seeing God’s hand at work, and the inspiration of others serving our Lord through tribulation and even death.

The authors well tell a story of the preparation for the Gospel in Korea before Mr. Blair arrived. The story of the seed sown by Robert Thomas in 1865 in chapter 3 is one you will never forget once you read it. It moved me in a way nothing has in a long time.

Then the work is described until in 1907 the Lord graciously sent revival.  It is so compelling to read of real revival, what it looks like, and what transpired. Negatives as are present in any revival were not hidden, but they were few. As you read you will catch yourself praying: “Lord, send such a revival today.”

The second half of the book tells of the sufferings that came next over several decades, first at the hands of the Japanese, then from the Communists. Amazingly, the work of the Lord continued to grow though sufferings reached horrific levels. The book was never about gratuitous violence, but just enough to explain what happened. What says more in the reader’s mind is the calm, pure dedication to Christ of those who suffered. When we have no idea of what we may face, it is good to read of what can be true in Christ in the worst of times.

The authors were humble and made the stories about the Korean Christians, yet I believe I discovered two more Christian heroes in them. This is the kind of story that needs to be in every home. More than merely biography or history, it is a gripping portrait of what Christianity should be.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.


The Daring Heart of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt

What do you really know about David Livingstone? Would you love a volume that in giving wonderful biographical narrative emphasized one of Livingstone’s greatest, yet seldom-discussed accomplishments? How about if the volume was gripping to the point it you did not want to put down? You should, then, check out the new release The Daring Heart of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt and published by Thomas Nelson.

The subtitle “Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt That Saved Millions” clues you in his angle. I must confess that at first I was a little skeptical about that angle. Livingstone was a missionary, not a political crusader, right?

Fortunately, the book was not obsessed with its angle, but only developed it naturally as it went along. What you had instead was the famous story marvelously condensed and thrilling as ever. All the big events were there woven seamlessly into the story of the man and the author’s conclusions. Mr. Milbrandt can tell a story well.

The author showed Mr. Livingstone warts and all, yet you never lost your great respect for him. He had his struggles and he felt a failure on several occasions. Results were unpleasant actually at times too. Yet, Livingstone never failed to keep pressing on.

What the author demonstrated well was that Livingstone, though he died without knowing it, was one of the main reasons the slave trade in Africa stopped. He proved too that became ever more a goal for Livingstone. He was horrified at the tragic events he witnessed in the abuse, enslavement, and,even, slaughter of Africans.

The irony of so much of Livingstone’s goals being accomplished without him knowing it, and his lonely, humble life in Africa as he became a worldwide celebrity, is a most compelling story. In my view, it is a story of God at work in our world as well.

My only complaint is the missionary work of Livingstone was rarely discussed and portrayed as a minor thing. For the man who died praying by his bed in Africa, the evidence easily proves he was a servant of the Lord.

This book is a home run, and short enough for those readers who shy away from biographies that are a little too thick. You will enjoy this book!

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.


Missionary Adventure (and Our Children)

It is hard to overestimate the value of a missions trip. I count my missions trips as some of the greatest experiences of my life. They so put the world and God’s plan in perspective. They almost always come with their unique set of adventures.

What many never think of is what these trips could mean to our children. It seems what is valuable to us would be valuable to our children as well, perhaps only more so, since the earlier in our lives we learn this the better. Two years ago I took my oldest daughter Briley with me to Honduras. What happened is hard to put in words–to her person, to her character, and even to our relationship. She had more terror than she wanted, but she will never be the same person!

To get a feel of it, I will share an email I wrote to our family at home when we came out of the remote mountains to the city with its Internet access again. We were cut off from the world in those mountains as there wasn’t even any electricity there. It was like another world! We had adventures that Briley still absolutely loves to talk about!

So here goes:

It all began Thursday moring as we drove an hour or so on nice roads. Briley begged me to let her ride in the back instead of the front. I gave in. Later the road got much worse. I wasn´t so scared as Bro. Delarca is a great driver and and I have been on jeep roads in the Smokies before. All seemed fine, but one scary moment. Bro. Delarca let the motor die and had trouble taking off and the back end started going sideways. A precarious dropoff was there that would have looked much worse from the truck bed. I knew my little girl was becoming terrified. I started praying for her. A little later Mike (Pastor friend Mike Montegomery) tapped on the window and said Briley was sick. I jumped out and took her 20 feet or so away from the truck and hugged and reassured her. She said she was blacking out from fear and cried only softly. I put Elijah (young preacher Elijah Grimm) in the front and practically held her the rest of the way. I wouldn´t let her look at the dropoffs and keep telling her this next spot wasn´t bad. We finally arrived and she held up so good while so scared. For the rest of the time she and I had often prayed that we could go back the easier way which required the river be down. She often asked about it and it was a fear she had to carry.

Our quarters and bathroom were primitive. She really handled it well. She got into mean ants twice and has several bug bites. The amazing thing was how she would bouce back from every terror so well and be her pleasant self. I took care of her and never allowed myself to be out of her sight for a moment.

We learned once when it was raining that Briley was not very scared at all in the truck cab, so I saw to it that she never was in the back of the truck again. From here on I was in the back instead. We went to a nearby village for church, about 20 minutes away over rough roads, but no dropoffs! Hondurans have a few peciliar features like knowing it´s going to rain and not leaving quickly to avoid it. We left with a truck full of people hanging on for dear life to go back to our village. It came a terrible cold mountain rain. I was soaked and cold and miserable. Briley was in the front where I saw to it she would be. Just before we left, a man opened Briley´s door and handed her a baby about 6 months old or so. I was panicked! How could Briley hold that baby with the truck jostleing around so. When we arrived, I learned that Briley had paid no attention to the mud or rain or driving but held that baby so well she put her to sleep! I was strutting like a rooster. That was my girl!

The preacher lived about a mile away from the church where we stayed and one hill with deep ruts had to be gone over each time. Usually it wasn´t bad but the first evening it rained as we went and this was the first day before Briley started riding in the front. Actually this was the straw that broke the camel’s back that required that Briley ride in the front from then on. I was standing holding the rail when a rock about 2 feet wide rolled in the gully and caused us to stop. It was hard to get over it and so Bro. Delarca had to gun the motor! I was thrown down hard and my thigh hit the tirewell. It hurt terribly and I was afraid I had bone damage. I couldn´t let Briley know as that scared her to death for me. I had trouble with it for 2 days and then it got better.

There´s more things for me but it got better for Briley. My mat went flat, we went and cut wood for the preachers, and I had to ride high on top of the wood on the truck. Briley was fine then.

She and I prayed together every morning and evening and anytime she was scared. Mike has told me repeatedly that he was so impressed with Briley. She rode much with Bro. Delarca (an outstanding veteran missionary)and he said he would remember her the rest of his life.

Briley talks much about the river. She doesn’t exaggerate. We first thrilled that God had answered the prayer to spare Briley going back the scary way. Don´t think we had a perfect road though as it is relative. We had lumber, about 10 bags of beans, and 10 other people in the back. It wasn´t a comfortable ride! At the river we saw it was crossable but Bro. Delarca got too far down and got the truck hung up on a rock. I jumped off to push with the men but we couldn´t budge it. We realized we couldn´t move and would have to get to shore. I got around to Briley who had water up to her waist but was not in danger of drowning as we were stationary. (I later learned she thought she might). Another man already had her door open as they are faster in the water than me. I grabbed her and walked her to shore.

Fortunately the current was much worse at the rear of the truck than where she had to walk. I explained that we were safe and in no danger now. She was recovered after about 10 minutes but every time we men were called back in to push the truck she was afraid I would die. I am touched about her concern for me. We were there for hours and had to be hauled home in another truck. She found a little side creek fully in my view. I told her that I knew what she was doing and she said she was finding something good in something bad. The ride home was much worse for me than her. I secured her a seat in the front and we all rode in the back under a piece of plastic like a can of sardines. It was a smaller truck and was a 2 and 1-2 hour drive. One of the Honuran ladies vomited several times, so it could have been worse. We had services on the river as we waited for help to come. Mike and I both preached. BTW, the Lord especially helped me preach at that time. We finally got back in Yoro.

The rest of the trip was much calmer, but we had such enjoyable services with several congregations.

Missions trips are life changing, for you and your children, so why you start planning one now.