This book is not like many missionary stories you may have heard. The message of this book is hard for some people to accept. In order to show you what I mean, I will have to spoil some of the surprises, so be warned. Elliot’s writing is full of Ecuadorian color and personal elements which make this story really come alive. I do, however, want to point out that this book is fiction. It is not Elisabeth Elliot’s life.
Margaret Sparhawk, a young missionary, has finally arrived in Indi Urcu, Ecuador, to minister to the Quichua Mountain Indians. In Indi Urcu, the Indians were looked down upon. They were the outcasts. The white people in the village viewed them as animals and savages, so when they found out that Margaret had come simply to know the Indians, many did not understand her. She wasn’t exactly sure how to start her ministry, but there was another couple who would be coming to work with her by starting a school for the Indians. However, they were delayed because of medical reasons. So Margaret simply began going to the local market, to get to know the people there. One day when she was buying a chair for her new house, she met a man who helped her carry it home. His name was Pedro Chimbu. While they walked back to Margaret’s home, she talked with Pedro and asked him about his life, which quite surprised Pedro, since most people did not associate with the Indians. She later met Pedro’s family, but since she did not speak Quichua, she could not communicate with them.
At one point in the book, a representative from the U.S. came to take a report from his observations of Margaret’s “work” back to the supporting churches. He is a great example of our ignorance and expectations of missionary life. He tried to give the Quichua-speaking Indians a Spanish tract, and Margaret could only imagine the misguided report that would be given back at the churches.
She later found out that her future partners were denied access to Ecuador, so she was not sure how she was going to associate with the Indians, since they would not have the school. So, she started helping the Indians with basic medical needs as a way to “break the ice” with the Indians. When Lynn Anderson, a fellow missionary that Margaret met at a Missionary Conference in Ecuador, came to hold a medical clinic, Margaret learned many valuable medical facts. At the clinic, Margaret also learned that Pedro had an infected wound on his leg which had never completely healed. Pedro was very concerned that he would not be able to work in the market as a carrier anymore because of his leg. Instead, Margaret offered to pay him to help her learn Quichua. So their language studies began. She was eventually able to communicate clearly with the Indians, allowing her to tell them Bible stories, and to share the gospel with them. Pedro even expressed his belief that the Bible was God’s Word, and he worked with Margaret on translating the Bible into Quichua, which was one of Margaret’s original goals.
One of the things that I do not agree with is the fact that Margaret assumed that Pedro was saved because he believed what God’s Word says is true. In the Bible it says that even the “demons believe, and tremble.” Pedro never really did accept God’s gift of salvation.
But then, one day, something so tragic and accidental happened that changed Margaret’s whole view of missionary work. Pedro came back one day with a great pain in his leg, where it had been wounded and infected. Margaret gave him medicine, but his body caused him to react destructively. It turned out to be fatal. After that, Margaret felt as if she had not done anything worth while. The first person, who had accepted the gospel from her efforts, was now destroyed by her efforts.
Like I said, many people may not like this book because it really doesn’t have a happy ending, but that’s the way it is meant to be. Life is not always full of victories. God’s ways are not our ways, and we should not fit God’s plan inside of ours. We may not understand it, but it’s not meant for us to understand. This book is a great example of many missionaries’ lives, their victories and their failures. And it is a great reminder that we need to be willing to serve God, and know that His plan is perfect, whether we see it at the moment or not. Highly Recommended!
Published on 8 January, 2010. Last updated on