Why you should read the "Jungle Doctor" series

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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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