Saturday, August 4th, 2012
Habari? (What news?)
I heard that Swahili greeting & response numerous times in the Jungle Doctor & the Whirlwind from christianaudio.com. At first I thought, “That’s not so different than a typical quick, polite, superficial greeting here.” But there is a difference. The American greeting goes “How are you?” . . . “Fine.” And that’s it. But the Swahili greeting often doesn’t end with Nzuri.
It might go something like this: “What’s the news?” . . . “Good. . . . But in our village many people are dying.”
That’s one of the reasons I appreciate books about other cultures: I learn about my own.
I’ve visited hospitals in Africa and I’ve written about medical missionary Helen Roseveare in Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God. So I could imagine pretty easily the rugged, challenging setting of Dr. Paul White‘s stories from Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in the late 1930s when he was there.
Officially this book is for ages 10 and up. As I listened I realized, Yes it’s good for preteens and early teens, but it’s definitely not too young for me. I kept thinking of different sorts of people who’d get drawn into Jungle Doctor and the Whirlwind, of the Jungle Doctor Series (also available in paperback).
If you’re a medical worker, imagine preparing for and fighting a deadly dysentery epidemic in a hospital where some nurses are on strike, where there are few beds, no electricity, no rubber gloves, and where water is hauled from an hour away. Just imagine that that “hospital, limited as it was, was the only spot where some quarter of a million people could hope for medicine that worked and facilities that put them back on their feet.”
If you’re the mechanical type, picture the hospital’s truck/ambulance, “the grandmother of machines,” that was dubbed Sukuma (push) because that was the only way to get her started. “She is old. She limps like I do.” When a mechanic happens onto the scene, he diagnoses “the sickness of the spark plugs and points.”
If you love stories of answered prayer and if you find truth is refreshed for you when you hear it in new words from unfamiliar contexts, you’ll find that sort of stories throughout the book:
We prayed to God for the strength to do what seemed impossible. . . . “How badly we need at least 2 more trained people. . . . I’m afraid the legs of my faith are not strong. But it’s not me that matters. It’s God. . . .”
Mboga . . . picked up a stick with a knob on the end—a powerful weapon. . . . “Once I hit a hyena with one of these. He was after my goat. Yo-o-o, I thumped him. He howled and ran. . . . His rod and his staff they comfort. They protect. It’s his arm that does it. . . . The little goat could do nothing by himself.’’ . . .
“Three people come toward the hospital. . . . Is it not Bibi [Australian nurse] and with her Sala, who is a trained nurse? And that is her husband Yana, the one who sings.” . . .
Mboga said, “Rod and staff.”
If music speaks to you, you won’t be surprised at this insight:
I suddenly realized how we could help even the sickest of our patients to understand about God. Music finds its way into the minds even of those barely conscious and plants itself in the memory. Yana seemed to sense what I was thinking. Softly he started to sing, ‘So I’ll not stop my song, the words of which carry life along. On the cross he died that I might be forgiven.”. . . That’s the medicine.
If you’re concerned about conservation of resources and if you’re the make-do-with-what-you-have sort, here’s just one taste from the book:
Water is our great need, and we have little of it. . . . The handwashing basin is now on the veranda with 2 kerosene tins—one full, one empty. There is also a jam tin beside the full one. . . . Those that wash fill this small tin, pour it into the basin, wash their hands, and then empty the water they have used into the empty kerosene tin. Not a drop is wasted. This water can be used to wash floors, and if we are very short, to wash people.
I’m sorry if I’ve misspelled names. That’s one small disadvantage of reading with my ears instead of my eyes–especially when each name gets pronounced in 3 different accents through the story–American, Australian, Tanzanian.
Paul Michael narrates the story in American English, speaks for Paul White in Australian English and uses an African accent for many others. To my American ear Michael’s characterizations gave personality to the actors in the drama. He has wide experience narrating audiobooks and it shows.
I hope you won’t be as superficial as I have been all these years, letting the cover art put me off reading or listening to a good story. I guess I forgot what they say about judging a book by its cover.
My thanks to christianaudio.com for providing the review download. They also carry audio editions of many other books by Paul White.
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