(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).
Let’s face it, most of us will never go on a long-term missionary trip.
Thus, we will never fully understand the extent of spiritual darkness many people live in throughout the world.
I think that most people, especially in the United States, take their standard of living for granted. And most of us have no idea how rich we truly are.
“Venturing with God in Congo” was written by Darrell Champlain. It was published in 2017 but is based on mostly first hand accounts of the Champlins’ experiences in Nkole, Nkema, Congo during the mid-1950s to early 1960s. During this period, Congo was governed by Belgium.
One of the major things I got out of this book was the simplistic way the natives lived.
The inhabitants of the area lived in mud and stick huts with thatched roofs. And so did the Champlins for many years. When I say mud and stick hut, I mean:
“The house was built of poles cut in the forest, sharpened on one end and driven into the ground forming the outline of the floor plan. Reeds were then tied on both sides of the poles with the tough outer skin of a jungle vine called nkodi. The house was literally tied together with vines. Chunks of mud were then stuffed between the reeds, filling the pole frame from top to bottom.
“Long poles across the top secured the walls in place. The pole rafters were constructed on top of the walls, and wide raffia palm leaf thatch was tied to the frame, again with “jungle nails,” the nkodi vine.
“Rough-sawn hardwood boards were nailed into place as window and door frames. The house was plastered with the same mud which had filled the walls, and clay was tamped into place. A clay veranda was filled in between a row of stakes driven into the ground and the outer walls of the house to form a walkway under the overhang of the thick thatch roof. Voila, our dwelling…”
“Inside, reed mats woven by local women covered the clay floor and served as a roof for the millions of termites that protested against our walking on their ceiling by knocking their heads against the mats….the house had free standing closets for our clothing, but we had to be careful not to let anything touch the mud walls, or the next morning the termites would have eaten a sleeve off a shirt or some such damage.” (pp 33-34)
No Windows or Doors to Shut Them Out
The following direct quote from the book provides a shocking account of what living in the houses was like:
“Since the house had no windows or doors that could be shut, just holes in the wall, it was possible for anything to be in the house at any time. In fact, two snakes came and went regularly. We looked them over pretty well and decided they were non-poisonous and more dangerous to the mice, rats, cockroaches, centipedes, tarantulas, and scorpions that frequented the house than they were to us, so we let them live.” (page 35)
I agree with the author when he said, “Unimaginable by American standards.”
There are many incredible stories in this book. One of the stories that I found the most interesting, if not a bit disturbing, was the one about the “Rogue Elephant.” This elephant had been injured by a gun and was rejected by its herd. As a result he wrecked havoc on the village where the Champlins were living.
I never realized that elephants were so smart OR so devious!
As a result of the danger the elephant posed to the villagers, Darrell and a couple other men from the village decided they had to take him down. Once they succeeded (and this is a fascinating story in and of itself), the elephant was used for food. (The villagers ate anything they caught; leopards, monkeys, elephant, hippo, YOU NAME IT. They ate it)!
And the way that Darrell Champlin described the process the men went through once the elephant was killed as well as how they gathered the meat from the animal was shocking. For example, the men literally walked inside the rib cage of the dead elephant, like they would have walked inside a small hut, and gathered the meat. (pp 57-66)
Another thing I found shocking was that the natives never took a bath! Now sit back and imagine that for a minute! That’s right, even after they butchered an elephant or a leopard or a monkey. Even after they smeared themselves with whatever dung they used so that the animal they were hunting didn’t smell them. They still didn’t take a bath! Seriously!!!
There are many other amazing (and shocking) stories to read in this enthralling book. However, I don’t want to ruin it for you. You will just have to read it yourself!
I will say one thing though. I am amazed at what the Champlins endured and for how long they endured it.
But it was obviously the eternal value of what these missionaries did and that God was providing graciously for their needs that kept them going.
For example, “Lulu Bekanga, Miracle of a Murderer.” When Champlin first came to the village to preach the gospel (there were many villages in the area), the man Lulu, who was a witch doctor, warned the people,
“The first person in this village who believes in this Jesus, I personally will bury.”
Lulu meant every word. And he had a reputation which told others he would do it.
However, the first person to trust in Jesus was his nephew and tradition forbade him to kill a relative. Lulu was the second person and HE WAS NEVER THE SAME AGAIN. (pp 47-50) To read more, you will have to get the book!
Another example is the amazing transformation of one village, named Ongo.
Ongo went from completely rejecting the gospel (pp 103-106) to wholeheartedly accepting it. This is the fruit of a faithful missionary family, “who didn’t give up despite being spurned, cursed, and treated like dogs.” (pp 107-110)
The above examples are just a few samples of the sorts of adventures you will come across while reading this book. Everyone is individual in their ideas of what younger members of the family are ready for. Thus, I would suggest, if you have children under 13, reading through the book first before reading it out loud.
I read a few of the chapters to my son, who is 14, this morning. I was surprised to realize he didn’t think they were real stories. So, I emphasized the point that these are real people, and that these are real experiences.
As far as my overall impression of the book?
I think that, “Venturing with God in Congo” is practically perfect.
For example, it was easy to read, easy to follow, and interesting right from the beginning.
There’s only one thing that would have improved “Venturing with God in Congo” for me. I would love to see a large print edition, because I found the words to be a bit small for my aging eyes. My eyesight has gotten really bad over the last few years. Thus, I struggled a bit while reading. So, I think that having a large print edition available would be awesome and would allow for more people to be able to read it.
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