I do remember reading this book and I do remember the title but that is basically it. Unfortunately I am unable to actually locate a copy of it on the internet so I am only able to throw a few things about it when I created it on Goodreads, but because there are a few things that I wished to say about this book I decided to create an entry anyway. Mind you there are other books that I have read that I can't even remember the title, such as the one written by the missionary that was working in Albania during the collapse of the government (he even carried a Kalishnakov).
This is a missionary book, namely it is a book written by a missionary about the work of missionaries in some god-forsaken part of the world. I guess the reason that missionaries go to these places is because they are described as god-forsaken and they actually go there in an attempt to change that. A part of me wonders whether there are missionaries in Somalia or in the Congo, though I do know that missionaries do go into Burma, though the situation in Burma is changing now (and missionaries do go into places like Afghanistan despite the troop withdraw and the fact that it is slipping back into the hands of the Taliban).
The story starts in China after the communist revolution which resulted in all foreign missionaries being kicked out, so the missionaries decided to go somewhere else where the people had not heard the message of the gospel, and the place that they chose (or one could say was chosen for them by God) was the island of Mindanao in the Phillipines. This was back in the fifties mind you so the story that is being told is being told when much of the island had not experienced development, nor had Islam or Christianity penetrated the island to any degree, and the inhabitants still practised their tribal religions (and some had never even encountered a White person).
There is some debate though about the work of missionaries in these areas because many people see this as a form of European imperialism and what they are doing is going in there and destroying their culture. However the other argument is that the lives these people are living are not necessarily all that wonderful. We do get caught up with the idea of the noble savage, and in a sense we believe that the tribal life led by people who have not encountered Western culture is a pure life. Me, I think that that is a lie, particularly since most of the people that suggest that have probably never been to one of these tribes and seen how they live. In another sense Christians see these people as being enslaved to demonic forces and are seeking to free them from that bondage.
Christianity is a choice though, and true missionaries go out to the places to give these people the option of learning about Christianity and becoming Christians. Even when the natives decide to become Christians they are not necessarily welcomed back by the tribe, and in a lot of cases suffer ostracism. Also many of these missionaries bring other skills along with them as well. The modern missionary isn't some priest that goes into the village and lives off the hard work of the villagers and only preaching the world of God. No, many of them are doctors and engineers that actually provide some practical assistance. Furthermore they are not trying to destroy this tribal life, but rather adding another dimension to it.
What destroys the tribal life is the arrival of the developers, which is what happens in this book. One of the struggles that they faced is that when the developers move in the tribal people are pushed off of their land and are forced into much worse situations than they were in previously. Once the developers have turned the land into farmland, the former tribal people are no longer able to sustain themselves they way they originally did. However it is interesting that with the modern missionary movement, there were always the missionaries that went in first, and then the army, and finally the developers, and when the developers move in the inhabitants are forced into poverty.