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Monday, August 25, 2014

Non-Fiction Book Review: Don't Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees

Photo by: Apolonia

Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees by Thomas Hale is about the ministry of medical doctors Thomas Hale and his wife Cynthia in Nepal. Their mission purpose is to “communicate the love of God to the Nepali people through our service and through our lives. We have come because God has given us a love for the people, especially for those suffering in body and spirit. This love does not arise from ourselves—it is a gift purely from God. Out of that love has grown a desire to introduce others to the person who has meant more to us than any other: Jesus Christ.”

The book chronicles Thomas’ journey to faith and then to Nepal. It is not an easy read in the sense that it tells things as they are and were. The travel was long, wet, and uphill. The hospital supplies were scarce. Triage was difficult emotionally and practically. The workers at the hospital were either excellent or terrible. There were often mutinies, outbreaks of disease, shortages of medicines, and serious problems. There were riots and dangers and the difficulties of living and working on top of a mountain with no road in or out.

Dr. Hale says, “Our years in Nepal have been the best of our lives, richly rewarding personally, professionally, and spiritually. We are content to be here; we have seen no greener grass. Adjusting to a foreign culture is as entertaining as it is enlightening, and the difficulties have made growth possible. . . . The medical work is a daily adventure in unusual problems and unorthodox solutions, and the opportunity to alleviate suffering in even a small measure brings its own reward. Therefore our predominant reaction is thankfulness to God, who has made these last twelve years possible.”

I liked this quote as well: “By far the most crucial prayer you can offer for any missionary is that he or she remain obedient and submitted to God, filled with His Spirit. When this prayer is fulfilled in the life of a missionary (or anyone else) it is not a cliché to say that ‘God is working out His purpose.’”

I can’t say I enjoyed this book, but I was definitely challenged by it. I know Dr. Hale didn’t write it so that others would think highly of him, but I do. I can’t imagine making the decisions he had to make, doing the work, managing the staff, and trudging up and down the mountains.

I did differ with him on some points and maybe would have made different decisions. But, God gave him that responsibility, and not me!

Near the end of the book, Dr. Hale makes some statements that first reminded me of what my grandmother used to say, “Eat all of your food. Remember all the starving children.” I always wondered how my eating my food would help them. This is what he says, and I believe it’s certainly something to think about: “I believe that once we Western Christians understand that our long-taken-for-granted eating habits are ultimately depriving others of food and sending us to early graves, we will change those habits. And need we dwell on the billions of dollars spent each year to feed American pets? . . . Some of us can start by reducing our consumption of meat, giving up pets, and relinquishing our “right” to a large family. . . . We need to be willing to weigh our cherished stained-glass windows and church music programs in the balance against the demands of an effective witness to a watching world.” Are we willing to sacrifice for others? (I’m not saying I agree with all he’s saying, here.)

I personally missed anything about a local church. I would imagine they had something of a church with the believers there, but we didn’t learn about it in the book. I also missed how they shared Christ with the Nepali patients and staff, though it’s obvious that they did. I would love to have heard some personal stories of witnessing to the patients and how they came to trust the Lord. There are some indications of this in the book, but not the details. I am wondering how they accomplished evangelism.

All in all, this is a very interesting read, and I would recommend it for a realistic understanding of medical missions and native mentalities in a third-world setting.


  1. Interesting. I think I'd want to hear about how they evangelized, what obstacles the people had to come to faith, etc., as well as how local church worked in that culture.

    1. He definitely presents the obstacles and some of the cultural norms that complicate their turning to Christ, but he doesn't detail the church or his evangelization methods. It was a very interesting read, though I found his task almost overwhelming. But God . . . . Thank you, Barbara, for your comment. God bless!


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