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ss triple helix - spring 2003,  Tales from the Congo Forest (Book Review)

Tales from the Congo Forest (Book Review)

Tales from the Congo Forest - Peggy Burton - King's Highway Books 2002 - £ 6.99 Pb 163pp - ISBN 0 9541015 2 9

At a recent whole day meeting on 'Surgery in the Tropics' at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, several speakers regretted that little had changed in tropical Africa. Indeed, thirty years after some had spent time working there, conditions appear to have regressed economically and medically. This collection of stories by Peggy Burton, a nurse who worked with her doctorhusband in the Belgian Congo fifty years ago, remains a useful and challenging source of information about conditions likely to be met there.

How does one manage to make diagnoses and treat desperately ill patients when there is no X-ray machine, pathology laboratory or blood bank? Has any reader had to stuff a burst tyre with grass in order to get home? Without proper tools, how do you deal with an impossibly large tree trunk lying across the road? This book is a valuable source of lateral thinking and improvisation. Over and over again, Peggy and her husband James Burton describe how God answered their prayers in difficult medical and life situations.

Fascinating chapter headings such as 'A Weighty Problem and a Goat', 'River Boat Riots' and, 'Pythons and People Power', provide an insight into the culture and lifestyle of the village dwelling Congolese. The chapters are short and the whole volume is light reading, although there is a heavy ending. The Burtons returned home for health reasons shortly before the ghastly events of the Simba rebellion following the granting of independence from Belgium in 1960. Many of their missionary and African Christian friends were appallingly treated at this time and several lost their lives.

This book is a companion to their autobiography 'Born to Serve', which also tells how God used these seeming disasters in their lives to prepare them for other fields of service. It is a challenge to any young Christian of an adventurous character and would make an excellent Christmas or birthday gift.

Reviewed by
Arthur Wyatt

formerly a Consultant Surgeon in Greenwich and latterly has made many shortterm overseas working visits

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