Growing Up Yanomamö Today: By Faith Not by Sight

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

Growing Up Yanomamö Today: By Faith Not by Sight

Author:

Michael Dawson

Publisher:

Grace Acres Press

Publication Date:

March 30, 2020

Length:

354 pages

OVERVIEW

In 1953, missionaries Joe and Millie Dawson came to Venezuela to minister to the Yanomamö, a remote indigenous group. Their work continued through 1990, and their son Michael still ministers in the same area. Michael Dawson described his work in two previous books: Growing Up Yanomamö: Missionary Adventures in the Amazon Rainforest (Grace Acres Press, 2006) and I Can See the Shore: Growing up Yanomamö Today (2010). Here he picks up where he left off, describing the pain of losing his daughter in 2006 and the great progress he’s seen despite numerous obstacles.

Dawson gives what could have been a great collection of stories about a very unique missionary experience. He deliver some great scenes and anecdotes on what it looks like to do missions among a people just entering their second or third generation of Christians. His descriptions of the shift that happens in a pagan culture gets introduced to Christianity is fascinating, and he even works in a few anecdotes about how Venezuela’s political situation has affected the Yanomamö.

Unfortunately, Dawson doesn’t give enough context to make his stories work. He often jumps into stories without explaining who people are or how they relate to each other. For example, in the introduction he explains that one of his daughters, Mikeila, died in 2006, then starts talking about how a girl named Mia reacted to her death. He doesn’t make it clear that Mia is Mikeila’s sister (although readers assume it’s likely a family member) until three or four paragraphs his descriptions of how Mia’s adjusting to Mikeila’s death. Consequently, even though Dawson has great material and little scenes that work well, everything gets lost in the muddled writing.

At a guess, there’s probably a very simple reason why Dawson wrote this way: it’s the style many missionaries use when writing newsletters. They write a letter every six months or so describing their current ministry work, usually to churches or people who’ve supported them for some time and therefore know all about them. As a result, the missionary can start the letter with new stories about person X, Y or Z without explaining who those people are. The result is entertaining and heartfelt if you know the missionary, but doesn’t give enough context for anyone else to get it. In Dawson’s case, he’s written a whole book of these kind of stories, without adding the necessary explanations to make them work in book format. They might make sense if you know Dawson or have read his previous books; read them as an outsider and you’ll simply be confused.

A sprawling collection of interesting stories that could have worked as a book with more organization.

ASSESSMENT

Rating (1 to 5 stars)

2 out of 5 stars

Suggested Audience

Readers seeking true stories about missionary work among remote indigenous people groups, especially in South America.

Christian Impact

Dawson delivers some incredible pictures of what happens when a culture built on anger and revenge discover forgiveness and healing.

One Response to “Growing Up Yanomamö Today: By Faith Not by Sight”

  1. Hi there,
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