Book Review: “A Question of Yams” by Gloria Repp (1992)

“Kuri thought about Sakoso’s threats and the Head Man’s wicked plans. ‘Father is wise to trust in the mighty God,’ he told himself.” (34)

Missionary stories such as these fascinate me more than even missionary biographies. They are snapshots of the extreme changes that can take place at salvation, and they are illustrative of the same changes that will take place in any new believer’s heart, whether in Papua New Guinea or New Hampshire.

This short Christian book for kids follows Kuri, a native boy in Papua New Guinea, whose father has just trusted in Christ as his Savior through the efforts of missionary Bible translators. When Kuri’s father refuses to pray to his old spirits for a bountiful harvest of yams, the spiritual leaders learn to hate him and his God. Through the eyes of a child, the story of God’s might unfolds.

This real-life anecdote reminds me of other stories (strangely also from P.N.G.) that teach valuable lessons in evangelism, faith, and Christian growth from the front lines of missions. Don Richardson’s Peace Child is perhaps the most famous, though the Institute in Basic Life Principles also has a number of great accounts, like The Pineapple Story and The Eagle Story. The life-changes we see in books such as these teach us much about the power of Christ, both at salvation and after. On a magnified scale, as native peoples encounter the true God and His Son Jesus Christ for the first time, their worlds are flipped upside-down. Their animism, spirit-ism, and dedication to witch doctors become giant hurdles to overcome—even after they’ve turned to Christ. And as we read their stories and glimpse how they are able to finally turn their backs on the old and let their new-found, almighty Savior reign, we understand that all believers can experience the same.

Too often, we who share Christ with others view their public sins—their immorality, their conversations, their addictions, etc.—as preventative from having Christ enter their lives and save them. We expect too much of unbelievers, and sometimes we want to see them change before we get to know them, build a relationship, and share our faith. But who among us ever truly repented from sin before salvation? None, for the only way to have real victory over sin is to trust in the Victor Who has conquered it for us (see 1 Corinthians 15). Reading the challenges that native believers have faced when Jesus entered their hearts ought to help us better understand what we can expect from both unbelievers and new believers. It ought to build in us patience and love for both, and it ought to bring our own self-righteousness down a few pegs.

This review is probably longer than the book itself, but I highly recommend A Questions of Yams to children and adults alike who desire to get a fresh glimpse at what it means to give one’s life to Jesus Christ.

©2014 E.T.

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