Book Review & Giveaway: Our Witchdoctors Are Too Weak


What if there were no books written in your language? Not a single one. What if your language had no written form at all?

Most of us, especially if we are writers, take the written word for granted. Not everyone in our country can read, of course, but there are opportunities to learn, and books are always there, waiting to share their messages. Deep in the Amazon jungle, however, the remote Wilo tribe spoke a language that had never been deciphered. They lived in fear of evil spirits and witchcraft, unaware of the freedom offered by a loving God.

*OUR WITCHDOCTORS ARE TOO WEAK: The Rebirth of an Amazon Tribe is the personal story of Davey and Marie Jank, missionaries who ventured into the jungle to the village of Pakali on the Balawa River, braved snakes, alligators, hordes of gnats, and ten years of life in a mud and thatch hut to live with the Wilos. Challenged to learn their language and create a written version, Davey first had to build a relationship with them and learn the intricacies of their culture. His goal was to be able to transcribe scripture into understandable lessons of the Christian faith.

The Janks’ biography is a series of anecdotes written with humour and humility, illustrating the complexity of a primitive lifestyle mixed with the inner strength of a people anxious to discover the mystery of “God’s Talk”… the Bible.

I admit to some skepticism about how a tribe who managed to have matches to light their fires, aluminum pots for cooking, outboard motors on their dugout canoes, and store-bought clothes to wear could have remained isolated enough to miss out on other benefits of what we think of as civilization. I wonder, too, why Davey chose to wait ten years until he could use the Wilo language to create written lessons before he began sharing basics of the faith to help dispel the fear and superstition.

But despite my questions, this account of the Janks’ experiences blazes with authenticity. They write with an easy-to-read conversational style that takes us with them on a remarkable journey — an adventure of faith, sacrifice, and determination.


I’m offering a free copy of the Janks’ OUR WITCHDOCTORS ARE TOO WEAK to someone who comments on this post between now and the end of the weekend… Sunday evening, 11:59 p.m. Pacific time. The winner will be determined by a random number draw.  So c’mon, say hello, and you might win yourself a good read!


UPDATE MAY 2, 2011

For those who have been captivated by Davey and Marie Jank’s story, here is a link to the video of their May 2nd interview on the television show 100 Huntley Street. (I’m not sure how long the video will be available.)


Others also reviewing on this blog tour:

Carol Benedict
Valerie Comer
Carol J. Garvin
Tana Adams
Sharon A. Lavy
Sue Harrison
Susan Panzica

Our Witchdoctors Are Too Weak
Davey and Marie Jank
Monarch Books (2010)

*This book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.

14 thoughts on “Book Review & Giveaway: Our Witchdoctors Are Too Weak

  1. Laura Best says:

    It sounds like an interesting book, Carol! Oh, and hello!

  2. I might be able to spend 10 months in a mud and thatch hut. But 10 years?

  3. joylene says:

    Hello! Can’t help by be impressed with their dedication and determination. Our own country began this way, Jesuits living among the First Nations, trying to learn their culture and language. I think back on how my distant relatives managed. I’m warm, my tummy’s full, and I can communicate with blogger friends all over the world. I can’t give that up. And I’m okay with that. I may not have what it takes to live in the jungle and do God’s bidding in a remote place, but I can do my part here. I hope.

    Great post, Carol. Your mind is a marvelous thing.

  4. I wonder, too, at the mystery you mention, why he waited until he had produced a written language to share his faith. One thought came to mind. We are not all gifted the same way. Perhaps this man was not good at relationship-building, yet these natives received a wonderful gift at the end of his project. This may not be the correct answer, but it’s a thought that might explain his reticence. I will buy this book soon. This is the second time I’ve heard about it. We just purchased a new Bible for my husband. His Bible has fallen apart from use. We also ordered Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyer. I borrowed it from a library a few years ago. My husband wants to read it. I’ll probably read it again. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reminding me that I intend purchase this book soon. Blessings to you, Carol…

  5. Judith Robl says:

    Hi, Carol. This sounds like a fascinating book. I’d be interested to know what the natives were thinking about the Janks as they were absorbing the native culture for those ten years. Sometimes we write a more powerful book with our actions than with our pens.

  6. Thanks for stopping in say hello and get into the conversation.

    Hi, Laura. Yes, it really is a fascinating read. It boggles my mind what he endured in those ten years, all because of his obedience to God’s call and a desire to help the people.

    Davey’s first task was relationship-building, Carol Ann, and he was well received by the Wilos. The peculiarities of their language made learning it difficult, so I do understand that it took time to gain enough knowledge to converse well enough. But later conversations suggested simple explanations about a “good spirit” should have been possible. It would be a good question for a book club interview.

    Unfortunately, Judith, we’ll probably never know what the tribal people thought, although Davey gives us a good picture of many of their reactions.

    I know I couldn’t do the ten months, Sandra, and certainly not the grubs, either!

    Joylene, we do like our creature comforts, don’t we? Pioneers everywhere have endured hardships, some just to survive, others to expand their horizons. We owe them a lot.

  7. Many indigenous peoples have no written language. I can’t imagine how that must be.

  8. Sue Harrison says:

    I’m with Carol Kilgore. How do you survive – mentally and spiritually – without a written language? Careann, (I know that you know) I reviewed this book on my blog as well, so please don’t include me in the book give-away, but to whomever wins a book from this blog, it’s a delight to read!

  9. I’ve read this book, too, and know I wouldn’t be up to the challenge of doing what the Janks did. It’s clear that God calls people to do different things, and reassuring to know He also provides what we need to accomplish His work.

    (Don’t enter me in the drawing as I already own the book.)

  10. Carol K., I’m sure you must be right, which emphasizes we really do take our written words for granted, don’t we?

    Sue, I’ve added links to those people I know of who have been a part of this blog tour. The Janks will appreciate whatever publicity we can generate for the book.

    Carol B., I wouldn’t be up to the challenge either! I like camping, but I can’t imagine coping with such a primitive lifestyle, bugs and all, for a decade.

  11. Susan says:

    Hi Careann,
    Thanks for stopping by my Eternity Cafe. You have a lovely blog here. I shall be a frequent visitor.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book though I agree with the valid questions you raise. There were many things left out of this book, I’m sure, but he gave us an honest look at missionary life in such an interesting and lively way. I did laugh out loud at times ;D


  12. Anon says:

    Looks like a great read!

  13. B. Wright says:

    I received this book for free as a preview for review from

    This was an interesting book about on-going mission work in the Amazon. It was an easy read because the authors broke the story into very small chapter bites. This, however, also had the effect of making the chronology hard to follow (there were also very few dates to help). The two most interesting things in this book were the effect of technology on missions & the brief explanations of the details of translation work.

    The author was very excited about a primitive form of e-mail, because the normal at least two week round trip for mail was very long. This struck me, because all the missionary biographies I’ve read before are from the 19th century or earlier – where it could take a year to get from the US to the mission field. I thought it was great that the advance of technology has allowed the Word to go farther, faster & missions can be supported by the very devoted pilots (good chapter on them in this book) bringing supplies & providing medical relief when needed.

    Other missionary biographies have discussed translation work, but the author of this book was skilled at making the reader understand the huge cultural and linguistic challenges faced by those trying to learn & then commit to writing a new language. I was very intrigued by the intricate details that were certainly issues for earlier missions as well – ie. how to tell a story well in the new language, how to correctly translate family relationships into a culture that has a very different concept of family than we do.

    I hope there is follow-up to this book, as I’d be interested in the learning of the progress of the gospel to the Wilo people in 40 years. In a sense, this book could be a great foundation – from which some details could be trimmed and the story of the Wilo people expanded in many years as the authors near the end of their lives and work with the people. So often, mission biographies inspire & I found this book inspiring and one that motivates toward mission work or at least support & I hope it will do so for many.

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