TMW Book Reviews

A Bunk Bed, a Banana Tree and a Dog by Mary-Ellen Stroup

A Bunk Bed, a Banana Tree and a Dog is the historical, personal, and profoundly emotional record of author Mary-Ellen Stroup as a missionary for God’s purposes, created through a collection of letters written and sent between the years 1979 and 1996.

They describe the author’s life with her husband Bill and children Billy, Janna, David and Laura.

The couple received the divine call to give themselves in devotion and vocation to missionary work when they were very young – kids, even.

The certainty that Jesus was our savior and faith and obedience in the gospel ended up taking Mary-Ellen and Bill on a mission of teaching and helping the people of then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Kenya, and Rwanda.

Their records bring the practically unaltered details of the days and weeks on the African continent, which was the active stage of much pain, tragedy, and war.

The limitations imposed by a constant situation of poverty, almost non-existent infrastructure – such as water and electricity – and inner-tribal political oppression made life more challenging. Still, the joy of serving God and spreading His Word made it all worthwhile. After all, the people Mary-Ellen and Bill would meet also became missionaries on their own, presenting a whole new worldview to both of them. By reading the letters, we also follow Stroup’s current reflection on the events that took place, the perceptions of the world, and how the author herself developed as a humble missionary of God for all those years. The difference in mindset from the moment she first set foot on Zaire soil to when she left the continent to return to the United States is vast. It demonstrates spiritual and human growth through hardships – perhaps the toughest of them, in particular, involving their son David and his struggle with addiction.

Readers can take A Bunk Bed, a Banana Tree and a Dog under two different scopes: either as a remarkable history of the family and the time in which they were inserted or as the testimony of their faith and obedience and to how God has always been with them as their Lord and Savior. Either way, the book is a valuable read for us all, mirroring our own struggles with life and faith while telling a story that spans decades.

– The Moving Words Review

Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 2, 2023


About the Author

Wife, mother and grandmother, Mary-Ellen loves each place and the people where the Lord led her and her husband. Whether it was the business world, pastoral ministry in three states from the Midwest to New England, or being a French teacher or the international missionary life of 20 years, God has taught her that his plans and purposes are treasures beyond value, blessings to anticipate and surprises to enjoy.

Not retired but “refired” you will find her welcoming guests, facilitating Bible study, playing violin, volunteering in state prisons, serving on mission trips, loving seven grandchildren, and happy on beach walks with husband, Bill.