This month, as part of our #GoGrowChange theme, the focus will be on roots—the starting blocks and foundation of WGM and how God has been there through it all. Our first roots story is of miraculous proportions and focuses on pioneer missionaries to Kenya Rev. Robert and Catharine Smith. The following story, written by Rev. Smith, was recounted in a brochure published by WGM.
One afternoon in the game-infested area of equatorial East Africa, we were traveling toward a tribe of people who had never heard the true gospel when we were suddenly detained by a tremendous storm. Despite the rain and drenched to the skin, we set up camp for we knew darkness would fall earlier than usual, and our party needed rest. My wife, a son born in America before coming to Africa, my little daughter born on the shore of Victoria Lake, a national helper, and I made up our small party.
With supper finished, we soon retired for the night, and the children were already asleep when we were disturbed by a spotted hyena. It seemed he was attempting to get into our meager food supply. Quickly, I ran out into the rain and, with a shout and the hurling of a stick, frightened him out of camp.
I hoped things would settle down, but about that time, out of the distance came the roar of a lion. We had not been in the jungle country long and were not yet acquainted with the ways of its king. Fearful that the lion was coming our way, we lay in our beds, waiting through the long intervals between roars, trying to determine if he were approaching. While we waited, we slipped off to sleep never to know which way he went that night.
As we slept, the rain ceased, and the tropical moon rose in all its glory. It is not difficult to see distinctly at long distances by moonlight. I often saw Victoria Lake at a distance of sixty miles by moonlight, and with its glow, we could read print as fine as that in our Bible.
About fifteen minutes before midnight, we were suddenly awakened by the ground and tent surging—a strange rising and lowering under and around us—accompanied in perfect rhythm by a “swish, swish” sound as though some large animal were walking through the tall, wet elephant grass. We knew the rhino, as well as elephants and lions, were numerous in the area, and I surmised that a large rhino was approaching. Knowing that it might charge through our tent, killing us all, I slipped quietly from my cot, lifted my rifle, and edged through the flaps of our tent. Seeing nothing directly in front of me, I peeked around the corner, all the time gripping the trigger and expecting to see the large brute near at hand.
But to my amazement, just twenty-three steps away stood fifteen elephants. They had been traveling single file, head to tail. Seeing our camp, they had stopped; but now, though I had been as quiet and cautious as I could be, they had undoubtedly seen me. Immediately, their trunks trumpeted as is customary before elephants stampede.
My first thought was to fire, but good judgement checked me, for I knew that even if I were to fire every shot in the magazine, there would still be enough elephants left to utterly destroy our camp. Rather, I stepped back and in doing so unintentionally bumped the table on which were stacked our tin cooking and eating utensils. To my horror, the table tipped over, spilling the pans with a loud clatter.
I thought for a moment that all was ended, but to my amazement the elephants trumpeted again, threw their trunks down, their heads back into line, and marched away in double-quick time. They were an angry herd as they retreated—pushing trees, breaking limbs, and rolling rocks down the hillside.
We continued on into the country toward the unreached tribe. One day, an ivory hunter came into our camp, and I told him our experience. He said, “Smith, you did the only known thing that will frighten away elephants. Beat on a pan or piece of tin, and they will always run. Shoot at them, and they will always charge.”
I hadn’t known that night, but God did, and He dumped all the tin in camp! Some unbelieving or unknowing person might say that it was a coincidence. But God desired this experienced to be used for His glory.
We rejoiced over this marvelous deliverance while in Africa, but God led us home to hear the better half of the story.
On one occasion shortly after our return to the homeland, I was asked by the lady who was entertaining us if we had had any unusual experiences while in Africa. We smiled for we had had several. She related an experience she had while washing windows in her home. God spoke to her and called her to prayer for us. She hesitated, as one so often does, feeling that her duties were too pressing and her work very important. But God showed her we were in desperate circumstances and in grave danger. She knelt down by the window and poured out her heart to God that He might spare our lives and deliver us from danger. God lifted her burden. It was so unusual an occurrence for her that she wrote down the date and time on her calendar, which she then brought to us. As we checked it with our own diary, taking into account nine and one-half hours difference between the time here and the time in Africa, we were amazed to find that this lady was on her knees interceding for our deliverance while the elephants stood outside our tent. She was 12,000 miles away from us but close enough to God to be used in our behalf.
Friends, God depends on us to pray conviction upon the sinner, strengthen the weak, encourage the fainthearted, and bear one another’s burdens. God uses us with our nearest neighbor or at the far ends of the globe. For Him, administration of grace does not depend upon distance. Let’s find and remain in the place where He can bless us and use us as instruments for the administration of His marvelous grace. “Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name. Ask….”