I was given a copy of Davey & Marie Jank’s new book, Our Witchdoctors Are Too Weak: The rebirth of an Amazon Tribe, and tore through it. Reading it was like being taken on a tour of an Amazon village by a stand-up comic.
Davey Jank spent over ten years as a part of a missionary language team among the Wilo people before their team began to share “God’s Talk” with them. These ten years are shared via anecdotes that left me wanting more. He laughs at himself, at his expectations, at his weaknesses… but never at the Wilo people.
The Wilo call the Bible “God’s Talk.” Their language doesn’t have a word for “word.” I love words, and language, and the Janks’ musings on language in general are insightful and entertaining. The Wilo kept telling Davey their language was easy to learn, but it’s clear that learning a language from scratch– not to mention devising its written form– was a formidable task. Their team took great pains to make sure that they understood the Wilo language well enough to translate God’s Talk without planting cultural blunders within their translation.
This is not a book of theology. It is a love story– albeit told by a comedian– about God’s love for the Wilo people. Once the team finally reached the point of being able to share God’s Talk with the Wilo, Davey Jank was scared to death. He lists all the wrong assumptions the Wilo had about the Bible: that it was a rule book, a guide for good living, or a retelling of their own myths and legends. “We hadn’t attempted to correct these wrong assumptions; the Bible would speak for itself. What would the Wilo think when they realized that the Bible was about relationships, primarily between God and man?”
Yet despite living on a different continent, having had access to the written word– and Word– nearly my entire life, having as much education as I have… don’t I often work with those same assumptions? What I appreciated most about the Janks’ book is their trust in God and in God’s Talk: that it would speak for itself.