Book Review: Canoes, Crocodiles and Christ

The story of Haru Hariva, one of the early indigenous missionaries in Papua New Guinea, is extraordinary history that should not be lost.

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Canoes, Crocodiles and Christ: The Story of Haru Hariva
David McClintock

One of the diabolical aspects of successful cross-cultural missionary endeavour is that eventually it does itself out of business. In the South Pacific Division, where Papua New Guinea has responded tremendously to the missionary efforts of yesteryear, there are fewer cross-cultural missionaries than ever before. As the last of the early Australian and New Zealand missionaries pass to their rest, the risk is that our younger generation may never know the amazing stories of God’s miraculous workings here in our own backyard.

This is why Dr David McClintock’s new book, Canoes, Crocodiles and Christ is such an important book. The story of Haru Hariva, one of the early indigenous missionaries in Papua New Guinea, is extraordinary history that should not be lost. Younger readers will find themselves enthralled by stories of adventure and courage, and of a God who shows up in miraculous ways to speed the gospel on its way. Whether it is being lost at sea, crocodile attacks, snake bites, dreams that foretell the future, or encounters with hungry cannibals, young readers will be left with a compelling conviction that God was and is at work. As they journey with Haru through the loss of his parents, the tragedy of a boat explosion, and the loss of a child, they will be confronted with Haru’s unwavering persistence, integrity and singlemindedness.

Perhaps one of most poignant stories in Canoes, Crocodiles and Christ is of 10-year-old Zita leading out in a funeral service when her parents could not. Older readers will also enjoy hearing more about some of the early missionary families that have become legendary in the South Pacific. Appealing to both young and old, and with questions in the back of the book that lend themselves to great discussions, this book makes for a great worship experience for families who want to read and reflect on the stories together.

Canoes, Crocodiles and Christ captures beautifully the desire that resides in every heart, regardless of culture, for hope and meaning. Most importantly it captures God’s love and the extraordinary lengths He goes to win the hearts and minds of those caught in primitive religions. More than ever, we need to be reminded that God is active in this world, and that He partners with us when we partner with Him. Like Haru, we may never know until heaven the results of being faithful to the call God places on the human heart.

Canoes, Crocodiles and Christ: The Story of Haru Hariva by David McClintock is available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, or online at <https://adventistbookcentre.com.au/canoes-crocodiles-and-christ.html>.


Lea-Anne Smith is the manager of Better Books and Foods, Cooranbong