“Why Didn’t You Come Sooner?” is a collection of short stories taken from the memoirs of Richard Varberg – a long-time missionary to the Philippians with Converge Worldwide (BGC). Varberg served with distinction as an entrepreneurial missionary in the island nation of the Philippines. He and his wife headed off in 1958 with their infant son and raised a family in challenging circumstances. They left a significant legacy of a growing network of churches and second and third generation missionary family members.
It is difficult to imagine or appreciate the depth of the obstacles and challenges that they faced. Operating in a fair level of isolation it seems that they frequently had to improvise and figure things out for themselves. There certainly were no training manuals to cover the variety of situations they encountered. Drawing from his experience growing up on an Iowa farm, Varberg functioned as a mechanic, architect, and construction foreman. They were skills that served him well.
If there is one point of critique that I would raise it is the frequency in this volume of stories of conflict with Roman Catholic missionaries and priests. At times the stories seem uncomfortably reminiscent of a time when evangelical christians and catholics often found themselves at odds. There is no doubt that there was unecessary conflict and resistance exercised by catholic leaders in the establishment of a community cemetery (pp. 61-83). Even legal action was threatened and carried out against Varberg. While significant theological differences still exist today, followers of Christ can be found in both camps and many evangelicals and catholics often work together in areas where agreement exists. These stories could have been even more powerful in their impact without the distraction of an anti-catholic theme running through many of them.
“Why Didn’t You Come Sooner?” is a historical snapshot of mission work in the Philippines in the 1950’s through 1990’s. It is filled with fascinating stories of God’s grace and faithfulness in difficult – and even life-threatening – circumstances. We should be grateful to the Varberg’s and hundreds of others who served (and are serving) so faithfully to bring the Gospel to communities around the world.
“Why Didn’t You Come Sooner?” is published by the William Carey Library and is available at Amazon.