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Why you should read the "Jungle Doctor" series

I recognize the arrogance of placing an imperative in the title of this post about something relatively subjective. But I chose to keep it in because: 1. I can, at times, tend towards a smidge of arrogance; and 2. I’ve become such a fan of these books, it seemed the best way to communicate my tremendous appreciation of them.

Our family loves books. Each of us in some way, shape, or form, has a book in our hands at least once a day. Even the littlest one enjoys holding a book, and should you offer the time, she would be eager to sit in your lap and allow you to read as many books as you can before having to use the facilities – and should you leave to do so, prepare yourself for a loud protest until you return to the activity at hand.

As a part of nightly pattern, after the littlest one is in bed, and after the boys have been hosed off, teeth scrubbed, and jammies applied, I read to them. Usually a chapter, sometimes more. We plowed through all seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia series, plus other individual books along the way. My dad (thank you Bubba!) generously gave the boys the Jungle Doctor series from Vision Forum for Christmas. To be fair, after ending Narnia, there was a little bit of hesitancy about starting a series of books about a missionary doctor in Tanzania – no speaking animals, no magic, no bizarre terrain to traverse. But, after the second chapter of the first book, it became a hit, to the point where the oldest will ask each night, as a way of plotting his nighttime strategy, as to whether there is enough time to read Jungle Doctor. If I’m really honest, the is answer is almost always yes, not entirely out of a desire to honor the commitment I’ve made to read to them each night (though that does play a significant role in my decision to say yes) but also because I’m just as hooked as they are. So, we are at the midway point of the 12 book series we were sent (that would be #6 for those of you who struggle with math), Jungle Doctor in Slippery Places.

The Jungle Doctor series is written by Paul White, an Australian medical missionary, who recounts tales from his work at Mvumi Hospital in Tanzania.

Here then are the reasons I say you should read the Jungle Doctor series:

  1. Because your children like it when you read to them.
  2. Because books are waaaaayyy better than anything TV has to offer. (*Yes, I know those are not specific to the Jungle Doctor series, but I thought it worthwhile to bring it up anyway).   
  3. To teach your children about the efforts and sacrifices and joy of being a missionary sent out to share the gospel
  4. To help your children learn a new language – throughout the Jungle   Doctor series, Swahili words and phrases are used (and defined). My boys are developing, at ages 6 and 4, a new lexicon. Feel free to ask them what fanya kazi, lulu baha! means.
  5. To teach your children the gospel and the truths of Scripture. Each book contains a presentation of the gospel and clearly points to Christ as being our only hope.
  6. To expose your children to people groups and cultures far different from their own. Paul White’s descriptions of the Chigogo people, their customs, their villages, and their general way of living has been very instructive to my boys (and me too).
  7. To give your children a vision of how they might be used of God to reach the nations with the gospel. Whether as a pastor, foreign missionary, businessman, or author (the oldest recently proposed a series of books he would like to write) these books are helping to awake my boys to the possibilities available to them to serve the King.
  8. To help your children have a broken heart for people who do not have access to the gospel. Granted, Tanzania today is far better off  spiritually than they were when Paul White first arrived. But what about the other thousands of people groups who have not heard the glorious gospel? These books are giving my boys a window into what it would be like to share the gospel with those who have never heard.
  9. To teach your children geography. Because of these books, and my boys’ deep interest in them, they are able to successfully locate Tanzania on a map, its relation to other African countries they know about (specifically, Ethiopia and Niger) and its relative distance from our home.
  10. Because of the tremendous conversations that develop with my boys as a result of reading. How do injections work? What is a hut and why do they live in them? Why does the witch doctor not believe in Jesus? Do leopards really attack people? Are the villagers evil people? Those questions and many (seriously, many) more are just some of the ones I get to field each night and have discussions about. Having that kind of dialogue with my boys is what I hope to continue to cultivate, and I presume that as long as I’m reading to them, they will keep coming.

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What I'm for

36 years and a few days ago, at 1:24pm (I’ve always been a bit of a later riser) I made my presence known to the world, and have been graciously afforded the opportunity to live this long.

Birthdays have never been a huge deal to me. I mean, I do celebrate, and I like being able to say that I’ve been around for as long as I have. Saturday, I was able to build some raised beds with my boys, was treated to a feast prepared by my beautiful bride, and received some wonderful gifts from generous family and friends. But, I don’t really need a whole lot of hoopla; I don’t find myself being either annoyingly effervescent about it, but I don’t find myself being forlorn over having grown another year older. Lord willing, I’m living to be 118, so I’m not even close to halfway, thus no reason to get to wound up. I don’t find myself in a deep contemplative mood on most birthdays (what does age mean, where am I going, what do I have left to accomplish, when am I going to die, etc) but this one, for some unknown reason, is a smidge different.

Perhaps it goes to back to a conversation I had with a local pastor (of a church I do not attend). I won’t bore you with all of the details, but the short version is that I was speaking with him about the dangers of age segregation in the church. He was not a fan, made that fact known in no uncertain terms, was on just barely this side of being caustic over it, then asked (in not so friendly, “I would like to hear your thoughts” terms) “what then are you for?” That was a helpful question, despite some of the antagonism. For those of you who may be concerned, we left the conversation peaceably and enjoying one another, but unable to see eye to eye on this issue.

Anywho, that question in its various forms has echoed through the halls and bedrooms of our home, in our vehicles, on walks, etc. The beautiful bride has been particularly helpful in repeating that question, and though there are definitely things we are against, we’d rather choose to identify ourselves with those things that we are FOR. I’ve thought about writing this post for a while, but couldn’t figure out a time to actually write it. I suppose my birthday (or at least near my birthday) is as good a time as any to lay this out.

Here we go, the things that we are FOR:

  • The gospel – that Jesus Christ bore my sins and died in my place that I might have assurance of eternal life.
  • The proclamation of the gospel – that we are charged by Scripture to make the gospel known and call men to repentance.
  • The sufficiency of Scripture – that Scripture is infallible and inerrant, and gives us all we need for life and godliness.
  • A literal 6 day creation – because if you can’t trust what Scripture says from its opening chapters, how much confidence can you have in the rest of its contents?
  • The sanctity of human life – every life, from the unborn to the aged, is a beautiful creation and all measures should be taken to protect life.
  • The local church – that God has ordained individual gatherings of believers for the purpose of glorifying Him and making Him known.
  • Keeping families together during the public services of the church. We want our children to be with us, that we might worship alongside them, and they with us; that they can see the spectrum of sizes, ages, colors of those who would worship the King.
  • Fathers have both the responsibility and privilege of leading their homes – shepherding their families and discipling them.
  • Having lots of children. Children are gifts and blessings, and we will be glad to receive however many God will permit us to have, and if we end up not being able to produce any more of our own, we will adopt as many as we can as the Lord provides the means to do so.
  • Home educating our children – and not just the academic side of it, but training them in skills, identifying their passions and talents, and equipping them to be disciple-making individuals.
  • Books. Lots and lots of books. We like books.
  • Eating in a sensible way that nourishes our bodies and appeals to our appetites. Lots of organic, natural food, and eating foods with ingredients my 6 year old can pronounce.
  • Using food as medicine, and medicine as food. If we can find a home remedy or herbal/natural option, we’re probably going to use that first.
  • Hospitality – gladly welcoming people into our home, sharing a meal with them, learning from them, praying for them, challenging them, encouraging them.
  • Growing our own food as much as God would permit, supporting local farmers to fill in the gaps, and having our family be on a first name basis with cows they get their milk from (raise a glass to Saucy, Cinnbad, and Jessie!)
  • Small government, lower taxes, and common sense leadership that would encourage people to fully live out all that is afforded to them in the Constitution.
  • Trusting God in all things, for all things. When circumstances would seem to dictate fear, we will choose trust and joy and contentment.
I’m sure there is more I could/should add to the list (perhaps another post another day) but this should be sufficient for now. So, this is what we are for, this is where our energy is going, this helps to direct how our family operates. There are certainly things we can and should stand up against, and we are unafraid to do so. But, our objective is to be known as family who is for something, and not identified solely as people who are opposed to this, that, or the other thing. Just being against something is not nearly as attractive or compelling as being for something. Use this as a warning or an encouragement, and perhaps take the time to consider what it is that you are for.