Unbound: Thoughts on The Power of Written Words to Speak over Time

Have you ever come across something in a book written years ago and connected with it? I recently experienced this when I skimmed through The Journals of Jim Elliot. On page 364, Jim wrote,

“Overnight on the hook off San José, Guatemala…If I ever travel here I must make sure to see Antigua, the third largest city, thrice destroyed by the volcán ‘fire and water.’ It is Spanish colonial….” [1]

That paragraph caught my eye because I know that place. While, I think Jim Elliot never did get to Antigua, Guatemala, knowing that he was so close and wanted to go there gave me a connection to the man who wrote these words more than half a century ago.

That’s the beauty of books, isn’t it? They – especially the great ones – are unbound by the shackles of time. Long after mouths are voiceless, words written may still touch the lives of thousands or hundreds of thousands or even millions. 

On the one hand, that’s a huge blessing. We can reap such encouragement from reading the wise words of those who have gone before us, who faced what we face, who learned the lessons and are willing to help us escape needless pain, who recorded the faithfulness of God and so remind us that He was and is still working. Much of The Journals of Jim Elliot could be described by those statements.

On the other hand, the reality of this power of written words could give us pause before we pen our thoughts. Of course, it’s fine to ink ideas that are not meant to be shared, but what if your journal were unbound to the reading world like Jim’s? What would the words you – or I – wrote in our reflections say? If someone read them, to what (or whom) would they say you or I was most connected? And to what/whom are we linking our readers? 

[1] The Journals of Jim Elliotedited by Elisabeth Elliot, (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1978), 364. 

Come with Me on Safari!

There they were. Giraffes, just feet from the bus windows! How elegant they looked! The bilingual guide explained that each giraffe has its own unique spot pattern. No two are exactly alike. As we continued down the dusty road under the sun, elephants soon appeared. They lifted their trunks to give themselves dust baths and flapped their ears. I settled back in my seat. What an awesome God made each of these creatures! I was on safari, and I was loving it!


Unknown-1UnknownLooking back on my safari experience, I remember a couple of books that came into my hands years ago. Jungle Doctor’s Africa and Jungle Doctor on Safari share stories told by Paul White, an Australian missionary doctor who lived in Tanzania (then Tanganyika) from 1938-41. Even though these books are in the middle of the Jungle Doctor series, I  think they are a great starting point and can be read without the first several books.

Both volumes are based on Paul White’s experiences in Africa and are told from his perspective. Jungle Doctor’s Africa takes place mostly at the Mvumi Hospital while Jungle Doctor on Safari follows the Jungle Doctor (Paul White) as he visits mission stations. While they are considered children’s books, I enjoyed them beyond childhood. The adventures are laugh-out-loud funny at times, intriguing at others because of the African backdrop, and often sobering and edifying as the realities of life and death are faced in light of Scripture.

Paul White’s writing style adds to the charm. I love his descriptions. “An apology for a road” or “bone-jolting” trip come to mind. Some parts remind me of life in Guatemala. I definitely feel that he could write so well because he had lived it and what the Lord was doing in Africa was dear to his heart.  Another interesting aspect of the writing style is the foreign words sprinkled throughout. Both Swahili and Chigogo (or Gogo) words pop up often. A glossary in the front makes them easy to understand, though, and I like the fun way the words sound in my head! Most of all, I love how “Bwana” (Dr. White) uses little opportunities to share the Gospel with memorable illustrations or word pictures.

Overall, the back of Jungle Doctor’s Africa sums it up well:

“It’s just that very often in Africa each new day brings joy and sadness, love and loss – but with the love of Jesus Christ there is always hope.”

Yes that’s another reason to love these books. They have a hope-filled perspective that can nourish the soul.

So there I was on my own safari, delighted that God had orchestrated for me this sweetIMG_7457 opportunity. Was I in Paul White’s Tanzania? Well, no. I actually went on safari in Mexico. That’s right! Mexico. Sorry if that’s a disappointment to you, but I wasn’t disappointed in the least by my experience at Africam Safari. I hope you’ll go if you ever get the opportunity. And if you love the giraffes and elephants as much as I did, you might just need something like these little guys to bring home in your suitcase.