Venturing with God in the Congo Review

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I had never heard of "missionary stories" as a book genre until Venturing with God in the Congo arrived from Conjurske Publications. A sturdily-bound book, I was impressed just by the physical durability of the publication. The book is the perfect size, pages are thick and high quality, and the binding is secure enough to withstand it getting dropped multiple times by my children with no issues!

I didn't know exactly what to expect when I opened the book, and was pleasantly surprised by the author's conversational tone. Stories are taken from Darrell Champlin's sermons after his missionary work in the Congo, and are engaging and brief. I think this would work as a family read-aloud for some families, or as a good book for older children or teens to narrate from.

Champlin's wife grew up in a missionary family in the Belgian Congo, so she brought a fair amount of practical experience to the table during their time as missionaries. Each short chapter gives an anecdote about the Champlins' time in Congo, relating stories about the local wildlife, difficult villagers, conversion experiences, witch doctors, and regional cuisine that the Champlins sampled, including snake!

I assumed my children weren't quite ready for an adult book like this, but when I told them about some of the exciting stories, including hunting wild elephants (not for sport, but because they were attacking villagers) and huge snakes, I found both my 9-year-old and 10-year-old curled up in a chair with the book shortly afterwards! They lost interest quickly, but I think that if I picked and chose a few stories for them to read, they would be interested in reading more. The beginning is definitely slow, particularly for children reading the introduction before the Champlins even reach Africa.

Reading about the houses in the village and the living conditions made me greatly appreciate our modern conveniences! The descriptions of termites constantly gnawing away at the foundation of the houses until they had to be burned down and rebuilt every five years made me greatly appreciate our cold winters and cement foundations. For those who are squeamish and fearful of snakes, this is probably a book you want to skip, as they make an appearance in quite a few stories.

I was concerned that I might find theological issues with which I disagreed in this book, considering it's from the point of view of a Baptist missionary. I only really took issue with one chapter, which described Kangala, a village "influenced by a Roman Catholic presence" in which "their animistic ways and superstitions had been well mixed with Catholic dogma." Having no experience with religion in Africa, this seemed worrisome to me... Especially when later on he said that the priest in the town had instructed village men to throw sticks and stones at his car! I wonder how much of this is truth, and how much was simply misunderstanding, but when one is being physically attacked there isn't always time to talk through any misunderstandings.

There are quite a few photos towards the middle of the book that provide evidence for what, at times, seem to be quite lofty claims from Champlin (particularly concerning his wild game trophies!), and it was fascinating to see the elephant and python, especially.

Overall this was an entertaining book, and certainly not one I would have picked up on my own!

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