What kind of person does God call to the mission field? Is mission work reserved for the super-spiritual, people who effortlessly forsake the luxuries of “civilization,” choosing to embrace instead an existence dominated by parasites, hostile natives and the absence of indoor plumbing? In her new book, WILD INDIANS… AND OTHER COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS: A Real Life on the Mission Field, author Carol Martin recounts the true story of her life as a missionary to the Guayabero, a tribe native to the Colombian jungle. The joys, hardships, hilarious moments and tragedies her family experienced give a genuine impression of what happens when regular people answer God’s call to “go into all the world and make disciples.”
When Jack Keels married Carol, he knew she was not a Christian, and he breathed a sigh of relief. For several years he had been evading a call to the mission field, rationalizing that he would send money instead --- unless God gave him a wife who also felt called to missions. But God had great plans for Carol’s life. Only one day after becoming a believer in Jesus Christ, Carol announced to her husband, “I’m going to be a missionary. I hope you’ll come.”
The Keels decided to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. With their two young daughters still in diapers, they packed up their few remaining belongings and headed for the jungle. The couple had big plans for the conversion of the tribe. “I had the common misconception that missionaries were the happiest people on earth, and that once we became missionaries, we would live happily ever after,” Carol remembers. “And God’s timeline is not always one that we would choose.”
Jack and Carol served the Lord gladly, braving the illnesses and adjusting to the primitive living conditions, the isolation and the constant mockery of the Guayaberos, who turned out to be not-so-wild, after all. Carol gave birth to two more daughters in Colombia, and the family developed a deep love for and trust with the Guayaberos. Yet it was four long years before anyone in the tribe came forward to help the couple learn the language.
Carol’s vivid memories of life in Colombia run the gamut from the comical (Carol’s first encounter with a bat) to the tragic (the deaths of three Guayabero children in four weeks). She answers some of the most common questions about the lives of missionaries, describing her family’s living arrangements and medical issues, the missionary kid experience and the acceptance of the possibility of martyrdom. With unaffected sincerity, she holds nothing back, even describing Jack’s deep depression after their 17-year ministry came to an abrupt end --- an affliction that culminated in Jack’s taking of his own life.
Carol’s engaging and transparent narration makes a lasting impression, particularly as she debunks the common myths about missionary life. “I hope my experiences will eliminate for the reader any misconceptions of the mission field that might be holding them back from answering the call themselves,” she says. “Truly, the harvest is plentiful and the workers few, and most Indians are in fact very friendly.”
WILD INDIANS... AND OTHER COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS: A Real Life on the Mission Field © Copyright 2011 by Carol Martin. Reprinted with permission by VMI Publishers. All rights reserved.