Book review of: “BRUCHKO”,
Published by Charisma House, 1995
First printing 1973 under title “For this cross I’ll kill you”, 1978, second printing, revised andupdated edition.
Storyline: The true story of a 19 year old American-his capture by the Motilone Indians and his adventures in Christianizing the Stone Age tribe
Going from the comfort of convenient stores and paved streets, to snake
infested dirt paths and unsavory diets in the heart of the Jungle, we find
young Bruce Olsen, he embarks on anevent filled missionary Journey, to introduce Jesus to the Motilone Indians
In his book entitled “BRUCHKO”,Olsen invites the reader to experience the challenge of scripture, to evangelize the entire world. Far from just reading scripture and viewing church
in a sort of western framework, he brings the reader into a different environment, having only the word and dependence on the word being true, and God’s guidance being available. The book starts off with Olsen residing in a Guerilla Prison camp, located on the border, somewhere between Columbia and Venezuela. He is not far from being executed and so, begins to remember how his journey had brought him, from Chicago, to this jungle filled with fear and misunderstanding.
The book starts off recapturing his initial quest for God at the age of fourteen, as he asked God who he was andstarted looking at the different religious people and their churches, trying to find out about religion and so forth. He recites the experience of going to an
inter-denominational church and having the opportunity to hear a visiting
missionary from New Guinea, who sort of helped him steer his course and desire towards the mission field.He provides a blistering account of his preparation for languages, going
through Penne state and the University of Minnesota and finally, being able
to go into South America, for his initial attempt to enter the Jungle, where the Indians were reportedly sighted. His opening reception was not all that good. He explains being in Columbia, waiting and researching for one who could take him to where the Indians were. He spends time with people he eventually developed friendships with, who were university students in Colombia. He sees their protest filled lives and the idea of communism and its doctrine, as he waits for someone to bring him into the forests.
It finally happens, yet he is met with many obstacles. Inclusive are the terrifying reception from the Indians, because of the lack of respect Caucasian people
from the past had for their land, resources and rights of the people. His breakthrough
is finally realized, when he is be-friended by an Indian named Bobarishhora,
who he nicknames bobby. Bobby in turns names him bruchko, and they both venture
on an epic sort of tail which was actually true, discovering who they were and
what they could accomplish, in bringing the Gospel to Bobby’s people. Olsen
recounts days and nights spent in the wild, along with close encounters with
death, facilitated for by other Hostile tribes, not to mention the difficulty
in trying to translate scripture to the Indians who had no written
language. He highlights the difficulties involved in adjusting to the diet of the Indians and floating in and out of the Jungle, to constantly get resources, evading death and hostile groups, as well as trying to keep track with the Indians. In a mighty way, he shows Gods
providence in the situation. .finally, we see a picture of how the Indians
became self-sufficient and changed their life and deeds, because of Olsen
pursuing their spiritual needs.
Olsen is a masterful story-teller, able to place his readers within the
settings he describes and gain an appreciation for certain feelings he faced in
different situations. The book has a “Faith” theme which Olsen expounds upon,
through the lens of Experience. He introduces the idea of individuals seeking
definition of their lives ,from a Spiritual standpoint and the Journey of the
individual, as he makes his way through finding Religious(Spiritual)
meaning through the Experience of the demand of Christianity : Find Christ and introduce others to him. He spends no time really exploring Biblical content and doctrine, but seeks to address the idea of belief, as it takes the individual to the sacrifice of self and worldly
things, to be a true Christian, having Love for a lost world. So fittingly, his
story is based largely in the Jungles of South America.
The high regard he has for “Believing” is seen in his description of God and the relationship he has with him. That relationship, would, in his thoughts, take care of one who really
seeks to do his will and follow him. And so, there are many situations in which
Olsen finds himself, which scream for having Faith and trusting in God ,to see
you through, though matter what the physical obstacles might be. The way he
outlays the content is very brilliant. He spends no real time on elaborating to
a tedious extent and his transitions from plot to plot seem to surface just at
the right time.
Through this exploration of faith, belief and what they mean, He includes other subtleties’ such as some politics, as he observed power struggles and class differences, being in and out of the Jungle and even in the poor cities. It is a reminder of people struggling to
gain certain rights physically, as he points out his mission of spiritual
awareness. This ties in very well, as the Indians he tries to rescue, are later
involved in one way or another, with regard to the system of things in a
Country they knew little about, beside their close-knit communal life. With
this awareness, he hoped that their medical situation as well as their national
rights to certain land would improve and be honored.
However, in describing Faith and the places it takes us in liberating people of the world, Olsen neglects to give serious consideration to certain aspects of Doctrine. His view of God
working in the lives of others is both dynamic and a bit overstated. For instance, his idea of salvation takes only praying into consideration. The religious world would be some large plate on which anyone is welcome to participate, as long as they believe in God and they ask him to make them his, they would be saved. This also plays out in the Jungle, as he relates Christ to them, in a very powerful way. After all the hard work of translating words were
done and time spent within their culture, a reader who holds Gods word to be
true, is let down, because all the Indians here about is belief and Faith,
without the advent of water baptism. Sad to say, this was the only shortcoming
of the book. From a theological standpoint, it lacks the credibility of
establishing certain truths.
A great Job done in telling the story of faith and seeing it triumph so mightily, however the absence of scriptural soberness leaves one disappointed and pensive in wonderment.