Category Archives: May Take

African Elephants

It was in the dark of the night in an isolated village of Africa over a century ago. Village families had just completed a strenuous day of weeding the garden that would eventually feed the village for months to come. So on this one fateful night everyone had been fed, families snuggled into bed and off to sleep in a cozy, but frail grass hut. But then life changed.

One faithful husband and farmer was awakened in the middle of the night by a crunch and a crash. The sound was coming from the garden that he had worked that day. He knew exactly what was now happening, for it had happened almost every year since he could remember as a small boy. All the fathers and farmers of the village also knew what the crunch and crash meant. It meant that all the hard labor that they had put into their crops for over two to three months was now being both destroyed and stolen. The crunch and crash they heard was the monstrous feet of invading elephants going through their gardens, smashing the crops into the ground, while they dined on the succulent produce of the garden.

The gardens of every farmer in the village lost almost everything that fateful night to some merciless elephants who were trampling and feeding on their way from one village to another. This had been going on for centuries. There was no end in sight, and thus the villagers of Africa simply made the best of it, and struggled on. One thing can definitely be said about African villagers in those days, they were resilient and persistent.

I just finished reading for the second time J. A. Hunter’s book, Hunter, and W. D. M. Bell’s three volumes on his adventures as a “white hunter” in Africa. These were two of the most famous African hunters because they hunted in a different Africa than what exists today. In fact, their Africa will never exist again for there are now too many humans in Africa. Both Hunter and Bell were famous “white” hunters in Africa in the early part of the 1900s. At that time, these, and other African hunters like them, supplied most of the ivory for the world.

In the preceding books, both Hunter and Bell together recorded that they had killed thousands of elephants during their adventurous days of African hunting. In their business of ivory, they were only after the ivory that was shipped off to Europe. In view of the present status of the population of elephants in Africa, you might wonder why they killed so many elephants only for the ivory. Back then, ivory was big business. But there was a serendipity that came with their ivory business. Their hunting was good news for the villagers in Africa at the time who had been suffering from the marauding elephants for years.

When the white hunters entered the scene of the African community the latter part of the 1800s and early 1900s, elephants often rampaged from one village garden to another, destroying one crop after another, year after year. There was no mutual coexistence between elephants and humans. So when the ivory hunters showed up, things changed.

When the white hunters went on one of their one to two year safaris for ivory, it was all good news for African villagers. Once an ivory hunter came to a particular village with his safari of up to one hundred people, wives and children included, they set up camp. All they had to do then was wait.

Word went out to all the surrounding villages that an ivory hunter was in town. Subsequently, from distant villages as far as twenty to thirty miles around came messengers from villages with news of elephants that had raided village gardens. The ivory hunter, with his tracker, gun bearer, and porters would then follow the messengers to the last location of the marauding beasts. In contrast to the village hunters who had only flimsy spears, the ivory hunter had big guns that would bring down with one shot the thieving monsters who had no concern for the local village people. The elephants wanted that for which they had not labored, and thus were willing to steal it for themselves. They simply stole and consumed, leaving the poor villagers with smashed gardens, and destitute of food.

But when the big guns of the ivory hunter arrived, the day was saved. Bell recorded in his elephant hunting adventures that he brought down in one particular day nineteen bull elephants. All he wanted was the ivory tusks. But the villagers swarmed over the carcasses of the now dead thieving elephants, and stripped them to the bone of all flesh. It was a joyous occasion when villages from miles around the killing zone heard the shots of the ivory hunter’s big guns. Everyone rushed to the scene in order to feast on the fresh meat of the now dead marauding elephants.

King Solomon was one of those kings of Israel who had great integrity with all his power. After reigning over all the territory of Israel from the great River Euphrates in the north, to Beersheba and the River Egypt in the south, Solomon deemed it time to build the house of God in Jerusalem (1 Kg 5 – 8). He set out to build the temple because God had given a concession to King David to do so. But King Solomon needed wood for the building of the temple, and the wood was in another country, growing in the “garden” of another king, King Hiram of Tyre.

Solomon then sent a message to King Hiram of Tyre and informed him that he needed some of the trees of Lebanon to build the house of God in Jerusalem (1 Kg 5:1-12). Hiram essentially responded, “We have trees. How many do you want?”

These were honorable rulers over two great nations in those days. So Solomon said to Hiram, “I will pay you wages for your servants” to cut down your trees and sell them to me (1 Kg 5:6). “Then Hiram gave Solomon cedar and cypress logs according to all his desire” (1 Kg 5:10). Solomon then paid for the wood (1 Kg 5:11).

With his great power, Solomon could have invaded Tyre, stolen the trees of Hiram out of his “garden,” “nationalized” them, and then taken them to Jerusalem. But these were kings of nations who had great integrity. They conducted their rule with national moral principles. And thus, they coexisted with one another with honesty and in peace. They did not invade one another’s gardens and take what they wanted. They did not barge into one another’s nations like hungry elephants and ravage the livelihoods of the people. (It seems that we now live in a world today wherein there is little honor among some dictators.)

The two preceding situations seem to reveal that we are living in an “elephant” age in the behavior of some nations. Here is an example. Good investigative reporting is interesting to read and watch. This is especially true in these days when the air waves are filled with so many lies and fake news stories. Nevertheless, there are still out there some very good investigative reporters doing their job in the free world. (We must never forget that democracies cannot exist without a free press.)

We were recently watching and listening to an investigative report that was aired on BBC international TV out of London. One BBC investigative reporter was presenting the results of his most recent research in working among the wheat farmers of eastern Ukraine. In order to do this investigative report, he stationed himself in eastern Ukraine in what is now under Russian control—the reporter probably spoke Russian fluently. He then went to work on a story of theft that was being rumored, but few believed. It was the theft of wheat from Ukrainian farmers.

The report was aired more than once on BBC TV because many people would not believe that such a deplorable deed was being done by one nation against another. For security reasons, the farmer being interviewed was an actor in the shadows with a disguised voice in order to conceal the farmer’s true identity. (More on this later.)

What the BBC reporter had done was to go to the empty wheat granaries where a farmer had stored his wheat from the recent harvest. During the interview, the farmer revealed that one day Russian trucks showed up at his farm and emptied out all his wheat granaries, and also, the granaries of neighboring farmers. The wheat was loaded on Russian trucks, and then, the trucks went on their way, where to, no one knew.

But this was a smart investigative reporter. One may not know what a GPS tracker is, but it is a small electronic device about the size of a man’s hand that communicates with satellites that circle the earth, receiving and sending out the exact location of the tracker. (For pilots, this is the same device as an ELT—Emergency Locator Transmitter—in an airplane.) Once turned on, the GPS tracker will stay in constant contact with the satellites, and then relay its exact location to a receiver on the ground almost anywhere in the world.

So the BBC reporter simply went to another farm where Russian trucks were emptying out wheat granaries. He then threw a GPS tracker into one of the loads of stolen wheat in a Russian truck. The truck went on its way, while the GPS tracker, unknowingly to the truck driver, continually sent to a satellite the exact location of that truck of wheat on its entire journey, and to its final destination.

During the BBC TV interview of this farmer in the eastern region of Ukraine, the reporter pictured the exact route of the truck on our TV screen as it left an eastern Ukraine farm with stolen wheat, out of Russian controlled Ukrainian territory, through Crimea and then on into northern Russia where the wheat was off-loaded into Russian wheat granaries. It was then claimed to be “nationalized” wheat of Russia, and sold to unsuspecting buyers around the world.

We simply cannot help but think of those herds of marauding elephants invading the gardens of innocent villagers in Africa a century ago who would have no harvest for another year. But now the table has turned. Because many African countries buy their wheat for making bread from Russia, some in Africa are now possibly eating sandwiches made from stolen Ukrainian wheat. (There is an awesome irony somewhere in this story.)

The Ukrainian farmer who was interviewed by the BBC reporter made the statement,

“The people who stole our wheat, also stole or destroyed our harvesting equipment. But I wonder if countries that are now buying ‘Russian wheat’ realize that they are actually eating sandwiches made from stolen [Ukrainian] wheat?”

An added irony to the story is that two weeks before the BBC reporter aired his report on international television, two representatives of the African Union went to meet with Putin in Russia in order to negotiate the continued sending of “Russian” wheat to Africa. Their trip was successful, and thus, the “nationalized” Russian wheat is subsequently being sent to many African countries, some receiving up to fifty percent of their supply of wheat from Russia.

As long as the elephants steal from the garden of some other neighbor, can we now conclude that we can eat the stolen crops without violating any moral principles? Maybe the world is closer to the judgment of Genesis 6:5 than we think.

(BREAKING NEWS: Of the estimated 800 thousand tons of Ukrainian wheat that was stolen from Ukrainian farms, the nation of Turkey recently seized a transport ship in the Black Sea loaded with “Russian Wheat” that was headed for sale to some nation in the southern hemisphere. This saga will continue.)

This might be the time to read again the biblical account of the wicked actions of a king in reference to stealing someone’s garden and crops (See 1 Kg 21 — Naboth’s vineyard.)

Pandemics & Persecutions

It is true that there never in the history of the world has been a pandemic as the one that the world is now experiencing. We read in history that the Black Plague (Bubonic Plague) of the early 1300s took away, in some places of Europe, about one third of the population. But that plague did not extend globally into every population group of the world. It was not a pandemic as the present Covid pandemic that is now cursing humanity worldwide.

And then there was the “Spanish” flu (Influenza) pandemic of the early 1900s that possibly took the lives of at least fifty million people worldwide. The world at that time was connected globally with travel only on ships that moved slowly around the world. But the Influenza pandemic also, as the Black Plague, was limited, both geographically and in the devastation of humanity.

The impact of the Covid virus, on the other hand, is global. Not one nation of the world is escaping its carnage. The reason for this is quite simple. We live in a travel-oriented world that is connected by passenger airliners. Added to this is the fact that there are more people living today than when earlier pandemics swept across the face of the earth. And unfortunately, the majority of the population of the world today lives in clusters of people in large cities. People are clumped up in cities as opposed to the more rural population of the world until modern times.

Therefore, we are living in apprehensive times, that on the part of governments, assumes some decisive action. However, it is in times like these that autocratic leaders often arise among us, and subsequently slip in their mandates that often infringe upon the freedom of the individual citizens. Nevertheless, in times of war, society must have decisive leadership. For example, it is often in many countries of the world today as it is with President Museveni, who has been president of Uganda since 1986. In reference to the present pandemic, he stated to the people of Uganda:

“We are today in a war against this [Covid] virus. And in a war you have no human rights. Therefore, when the vaccination is available in your area, line up and take the jab.”

And certainly in a global war in which we are now engaged against the Covid virus, the President’s words are indicative of those who would use the occasion for their own autocratic adventures in democratic societies. Nevertheless, in times of “war,” leaders must make mandates to protect the people. Without the approval of a legislative congress, Museveni took action as an autocratic leader, though he had his people foremost in his mind.

When the Covid pandemic began the first of 2020, Uganda shut down all their schools throughout the country. When they recently reopened after being closed for two years, an interviewed teacher on international news said, “Don’t worry, we will be back to our normal educational level in three years.”

To the Ugandans, the sacrifice of two years of avoiding contact spreading of the Covid virus in schools was worth the lives of thousands of parents and grandparents throughout the nation. And when these students grow into adulthood, they will be thankful that class was dismissed for two years for the sake of their parents and grandparents. (Fortunately, these children do not live as Western children. During the two-year school closure, there were gardens to keep and livestock to herd.)

In times of social crisis (war and pandemics), politicians of necessity sometimes become dictators by ignoring legislative control over a people. When politicians ignore, or bypass, an elected congress, it is then that democracy is threatened, if not terminated, as with Nazi Germany of the past. Democracy is threatened because autocratic dictators often change the rules in order to keep their power. True democratic leaders, on the other hand, allow the people to change them when they go wrong.

In times of war we need decisive leaders. But when the war is over, it is often difficult for decisive leaders to relinquish the power that they exercised in order to win the war. This is the reason why leaders of rebellions have a very difficult time being the heads of state in a new democracy after the war has been won. What usually happens in the transition from a dictatorial state to a sought-after democratic state, is when the revolution is won, the rebel leaders simply become the new dictators. It is almost impossible for a personality that leads on the streets to be challenged and changed by the votes of the people they led in the streets.

We can see this happening around the world in reference to the present pandemic. We see in the pandemic, not so much the human toll on the population of the world, but the fact that the pandemic has become the opportunity for some elected officials in democratic systems of government to morph into autocratic leadership. If you question this, check out a book–download–on the Russian Revolution of 1917/18, as well as Hitler’s rise to power during the early 1930s.

Nevertheless, and regardless of the potential rise of dictators among us, we do not have to die as in the days of the Black Plague pandemic, and the Spanish or Asian flu pandemics. When it comes to winning this war, who cares who makes money off the vaccines that we are offered to use to arm ourselves against an enemy we cannot see. After all, we won the war against smallpox by choosing to arm ourselves with a vaccine of which some pharmaceutical company produced and made money. We were vaccinated, and the smallpox war was won.

Some people need to reflect on their inconsistent arguments on this matter. We inject our children with the smallpox and measles vaccine to “protect them.” But hang on for a moment. “Protect them” against what and who? The “what” is easy to answer. We seek to protect our children against the smallpox virus. But who carries around in their bodies the smallpox virus? The unvaccinated! The virus is spread through sneezing and coughing droplets of the virus in the air by “other” people who have not been vaccinated. It is carried about by infected individuals who infect others.

We protect our children and ourselves, therefore, from others who have not been vaccinated against smallpox. In like manner, we choose to be jabbed with the Covid vaccine in order to “protect ourselves” from others who have Covid, or may be asymptomatic carriers as ourselves, and thus unknowingly infecting others. In other words, if we are concerned about other children, then we will have our own children vaccinated against the smallpox virus. If other parents have little concern for the health of their own children, and possibly allowing their children to be carriers of the virus, they will not have their children vaccinated against smallpox.

Keep in mind that the smallpox virus has been eradicated from the world because of the smallpox vaccine, and the choice of parents to have their children vaccinated. However, the virus can still make its way come back into society if people stop vaccinating their children.

So recently one of the members of our four-teamed evangelistic group here in Cape Town received a call that there was an America missionary family, with the parents of the wife visiting from America. They were passing through our area and wanted to meet with us. We wanted to meet with them. We did not want to be known as the “isolated church.” Unfortunately, in order to meet we could meet with them for only a few hours, we could meet only in an unventilated restaurant.

Unfortunately, we are not the most healthy group of evangelists. Three of us have two heart stints each; one has asthma; one struggles with high blood pressure; one’s heart is pumping blood at only 80% efficiency, having a damaged heart value that is waiting to be replaced; one has already had a heart attack; one had recently had emergency surgery to correct an internal organ dysfunction. All four of us were in the age group of 60 to 74. Would you say that we four have extenuating health conditions, and should be rightly concerned about the Covid virus? Fortunately at the time, all of us had been vaccinated against the Covid virus, but that was about five months before the meeting. Our residence to Covid at the time was down to about 20% to 30%. (All of us have since received the booster injection to get our resistance back up to 80% to 90%.

Nevertheless, we agreed to meet with the foreign visitors who had flown into South Africa a week before and were touring throughout the country. And since they would be in Cape Town, they wanted to meet with us. However, after the meeting, and after the visitors left for Johannesburg a day later, we received an urgent call from Johannesburg two days later that three of their group of five tested positive for Covid, and thus were confined to quarantine. They wanted to warn us about their Covid infection in order that we be on the guard since they were Covid carriers at the time of our meeting.

Now you can imagine the apprehension of the four of us as we waited out the five-day incubation period of the Covid virus. All four of us had been vaccinated, but still this is not a 100% protection against the Covid virus. You can understand that among ourselves as a fellowship of disciples, we lean on one another to be vaccinated in order to protect one another. This is our choice. So we freely choose to vaccinate ourselves in order to protect ourselves as a group from one another, and thus continue to meet together in order to execute the work of the Lord.

Nevertheless, in view of what we experienced, we must not become victims of autocratic leaders who would use our present despair in a time of a pandemic in order to leverage their thirst for power over us. We seek a choice concerning “protecting” ourselves in order that we do not become subjects of a totalitarian state. We are not establishing the “vaccinated church,” as opposed to the “unvaccinated church.” Nevertheless, we choose to be vaccinated against Covid in order to protect others. We look out for the interest of the brotherhood of believers through self-protection against an unseen enemy (See Ph 4:3,4).

Churches do not have the authority to make mandates outside clear Bible teaching on any particular subject. Church leaders can only use Bible principles to love one another as the foundation to establish behavior upon which they as a group can make the best decisions possible. However, we are vaccinated in order to protect one another to the best of our ability. It is first a matter of our mutual concern for one another as fellow citizens of the state, not primarily in obedience to a state mandate that would work against our freedom as citizens of the state. We are free to choose. But our love for one another has moved us to chose to vaccinate in order to protect one another.

We have the freedom not to be vaccinated in times of a pandemic. The church has no authority to bind medical practices on the church. But notice what we have just stated. “We” have the freedom. Individually, there is some self-centeredness in the statement. If we bring ourselves into close fellowship with one another in a confined space, whether seated in a small building, or passing by one another in the confinement of a foyer, then are we not infringing on one another’s freedoms in order to conduct a safe assembly? At least this is something about which to think as we tout our antivaccination rights in view of the following thought:

In South Africa it has been quite revealing to watch the Covid infection statistics every week. Since the incubation period of the Covid virus is about five days, you can guess when and where most people initially contacted the virus. On Thursdays and Fridays, the positive tests for the Covid-19 virus, specifically the Omicron variant, is almost three times for these two days than the rest of the days of the week. Count back five says (the incubation period), and thus, most people became infected on the weekends. On the weekends we have all our Sunday assemblies, political meetings, funerals, memorials, family fellowships, etc. Covid seems to be invited to each one of these occasions, but does not make itself known until Thursday or Friday.

Testing positive with the virus is the result of social events, whereas the rise in the number of deaths that follows the end-of-the week infections, is a measure of the severity of the virus.

So consider that in the heat of a pandemic some churches have called up their elders (usually those about 60 and older), and asked them not to be present in the traditional assembly, but rather electronically Zoom the assembly in the safety of their own homes. If we do this, then something may have gone wrong in our behavior and thinking.

But when there are no electronic options, as well as no vaccines in one’s village, town or city, then the leadership of the church must make sure that everyone at least wears a mask. At least this reveals that we are concerned for one another in the heart of a pandemic. Otherwise, we must ride out the curse of a cursed world until our Lord comes or we come to the Lord in death.

When the Romans were breathing death down upon the first century Christians, did the early Christians resort to Zoom assemblies and Zoom preaching, just to be “safe” during the “Roman pandemic,” which “pandemic” lasted for at least 150 years?

In the city of Rome, the first Christians simply went underground during times of persecution. They hid in the caves that were under the city of Rome. When they were being sought in order to add another attraction for a barbaric audience in the Coliseum by being fed to lions, they went into hiding in inconspicuous groups of two or three, and sometimes just alone in a forest. We wonder what most of those today, who have been bred and sustained in their faith on a concert every Sunday morning, would do in such a social environment? Would even a pandemic detour their craving for a large assembly?

Persecutions, as well as pandemics, have a way of revealing those who have a true faith in God, regardless of being hindered in assembly with one another.