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The Man With the Bird on His Head

post written by Emma Filbrun

The Man With the Bird on His Head by John Rush and Abbe AndersonTitle: The Man With the Bird on His Head
Author: John Rush and Abbe Anderson
Major Themes: California, Cargo Cults, Missionaries, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Vanuatu, YWAM
Synopsis: When John Rush turned his life over to Jesus, he never dreamed he would be used of God in the remote Pacific Islands country of Vanuatu!

I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to read the International Adventures series again while we’re visiting my mother. I first read the books some 25 years ago when I was running a small bookstore, but hadn’t touched them since that time. These are great books about recent missionaries!

The Man With the Bird on His Head is the true account of John Rush and and the cargo cult on Vanuatu. John had been raised in a family of atheists in California and gave his life to Christ as a high school student. I found his story fascinating; in many ways, it reminded me of the way my own father came to faith in Christ! Soon after believing in Jesus, John heard a call from God to become a pastor, and within the next few years saw a picture in his mind of a white ship in the Pacific Ocean. A number of years later, John and his wife Shari learned about YWAM, and then about their Mercy Ships outreach in the Pacific, with which the organization met both physical and spiritual needs of people in remote locations.

Soon, John found himself aboard the Pacific Ruby, enroute to Pitcairn Island where the crew offered dental and eye help to the islanders and painted their church while sharing God’s love with them. Soon after this, the Rush family moved to New Zealand in preparation for working with YWAM and the Mercy Ships even more—but John had no idea what great adventure God had in store for him in Vanuatu!

Although John had never heard of the John Frum cargo cult on the island of Tanna, I remember reading an article in a 1974 National Geographic magazine about it. Sometime in the 1930s, people on this island in what was then the New Hebrides but is now known as Vanuatu began believing that someday a prophet named John From America would come and bring instant prosperity to them. They thought the American soldiers who arrived in World War II were a fulfillment of this prophecy, but when those soldiers left after the war they were confused. They began doing everything they possibly could the way the soldiers had, hoping that their marching and martial-style buildings would please John Frum and he would return. When John Rush came to their island, they wondered if this was John Frum. Reluctantly, John agreed to meet the chief and try to tell these people that what they really needed was Jesus. Suddenly, many from this group of people, who had been very resistant to the Gospel, became open to hearing it!

You will be amazed, as you read this story, to watch God working in a life open to His leading. Doing what God calls you to may seem like you are walking around with a bird on your head, feeling very foolish, but if you obey you will receive great blessings. This book would be a good family read-aloud to learn more about what God is doing in the world today. This book was especially interesting to me because John and Shari moved to my own country of New Zealand, and we have many people working in our area who are seasonal workers from Vanuatu.

No warnings!

Age Levels:

Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults


Links to buy The Man With the Bird on His Head:

Amazon: Paperback | Kindle

AbeBooks: View Choices on

Book Depository: Paperback


California, Cargo Cults, Missionaries, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Vanuatu, YWAM

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