Review: Bruchko

Bruchko by Bruce Olson

From Minnesota to the Jungles of Columbia

This book has been on my radar for awhile. It is frequently recommended on lists of books on “missions,” and now I know why!

It tells the story of Bruce Olson: how a white boy from Minnesota ended up in the jungles of South America. It starts with the story of how he came to Christ from a Lutheran background. His testimony is heartwarming, and I can especially relate with the details, being from Wisconsin, and having a Lutheran background myself. He started attending an evangelical church, and then heard a missionary preach at a missions conference. He wrestled through whether he was “called” to the mission field, and finally decided to fly to Venezuela, planning to meet up with a missionary there.

Once there, things did not go the way he planned, and before long he was without friends, money, or direction, but God kept directing him. Seeing God’s providence and care for him in this time is wonderful, and stirs up faith in a good and faithful God who takes care of His children.

Bruce hears of the Motilone tribe and decides to try to contact them – no one else had done so. He plunges into the jungle, and the rest of the book is taken up detailing his adventures in meeting and assimilating with different tribes, learning their languages, earning their trust and eventually their love, and preaching the gospel to them. The story of his relationship with Bobby is moving and inspiring. Many parts read quickly, like an adventure or a mystery. I found the book very hard to put down, and would often keep reading several more chapters just to finish a certain segment of the story.

There is much to stir theological thought as well, particularly in the area of how to communicate the gospel cross-culturally, without just communicating your own cultural ideas. If God intends to be known and worshiped by every people group, what is the essence of what we communicate, and what is the American trappings of the way we currently understand it? These are the types of questions this book raised for me. The way Bruchko finally explained the gospel to the Motilones using stories and images from their own culture is very thought-provoking. Some of his methods would be considered controversial, I’m sure, nevertheless the effect they had was remarkable.

I loved this book. It is in the same vein as Shadow of the AlmightyThrough Gates of SplendorReckless Abandon, and Peace Child. I need books like this to inspire me, to remind me that the mission is not yet finished, and to bring real stories of real people directly to my mind. I forget so easily, about the billions of real souls that will not hear the gospel unless someone goes to them. I highly recommend this book as a means to stirring up your soul toward that end.

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