A Leopard Tamed by Eleanor Vandevort | Book Review
“Great mysteries can lead to great certainties — not certainties of outcomes, but certainties about the character of God.” — Trudy Summers
After having finished two really great books, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas and The Journals of Jim Elliot, I was ready for another book that would challenge my faith. You can definitely say I found it in Vandevort’s book.
The Story of an African Pastor, His People and His Problems
It’s hard to know what to say about a book when the introductions say it all. The book that I bought was the 50th anniversary edition containing 3 introductions, the original by Elisabeth Elliot, another by Elliot’s daughter, Valerie Shepard, and the latest by Trudy Summers, all of which knew Vandevort personally at some time in their life.
Vandevort was a simple farm girl from Pennsylvania with a heart for God. She tells of her first expectations, the hopes she had to teach a pagan people the truth that would make their life better. She holds nothing back however in describing to her readers the dilemmas she encountered in trying to do this. She found the people completely indifferent to what she considered their greatest need. But she wanted to know the people and learn about them, what they thought and how they lived.
The accounts she gives in the book are a great many things — honest, at times amusing, and at other times brutal and repulsive to our civilized minds. Vandevort’s frankness in each of these situations is what makes the book so compelling. She doesn’t cover anything up or hide the difficulties she had or that the people had.
A Leopard Tamed follows the story of one of the African people, a Nuer man called Kuac, who became her first real connection to this particular tribe of Africans. He was schooled at the mission there in Nasir and went on to bible college where he became the first Nuer pastor. Vandevort gives us a clear picture of the ways the influence of the “white man” affected Kuac, for both good and bad. Like Vandevort’s own struggles with trying to bring the gospel message to a tribe that seemed to have no need for it, Kuac struggled with the demands and expectations of the white man while remaining true to the expectations and ways of his own people.
What Interested Me
I knew nothing about this book before seeing it at the Christian Book Store. I found a good number at that time that I wanted to read, so when I finished the two I mentioned above I had decided to do something different and stretch the budget to afford these books I knew I would never get a chance to read otherwise. I call it a good investment.
There were two things in particular that drew me to this book. One, I greatly enjoy missionary stories, and two, the books synopsis said that Vandevort was unafraid to ask hard questions, many of which were prompted by her experiences among the African people. I too was asking some hard questions at the time and I wanted desperately to know what conclusion she came to.
At the very end Vandevort talks about how she and the entire mission were ousted from Sudan because of political changes. She asked God questions like, why would He have her began a work that wouldn’t be finished?
“Would the Lord spurn forever and never again be favorable?”
“Had His steadfast love forever ceased? Were His promises at an end for all time?”
“Had the Lord forgotten to be gracious?”
The answers God gives her regarding these questions are priceless. And applicable to all of us asking the same questions. Elisabeth Elliot says in her introduction, “This book, however, may help us to see a great deal, some of it nearly unendurable, and if we can look courageously we may perhaps be enabled to believe in the God who has taken to Himself the whole responsibility for the ultimate answers.”
Is this book for you?
Whether you are interested in Africa or not, missions or not, if you have questions like this, this book is for you. As Trudy Summers says in her introduction, this book is for those who “have come up against life and are looking for a way through it.” It’s a “story that reveals a path of faith in the midst of paradox and mystery.”
What do you think? Have you read A Leopard Tamed? What did you think of it?