This week has been full of rain, cold and blistering winds. It has been anything but my mental picture of Africa. But the experiences are uniquely African here at Amathunzi.
There are several dazzles (herds) of Zebra roaming the game reserve. One group comes to the farm house every afternoon. There is a small baby with its mother and two other adults. They walk leisurely in front of us but keep a close eye on our movements or gestures. A turn of the head can prompt a quick turn into the grass away from the fence. They are skittish to be touched but confident in their ability to handle a situation.
Standing only a few feet away one turned and looked at me as it chewed the grass in its mouth. All of a sudden he turned to my right and chased the tiny pet dog a few feet up the road. Stomping his hooves on the ground the little dog squealed and wiggled through a small hole in the fence. He knew the Zebra meant to kill him. As I felt the ground shudder under the zebra’s hooves slapping at the dog I realized the power and speed of the Zebra to protect itself. Wow I thought. I was taken back a little.
One day I saw the dazzle was coming to the barn looking for hay so I walked over to the gate. I opened it and stepped in as they took note and trotted the final steps over to the gate. I picked up hay and they backed from the gate as I lifted it to their heads. They took bites and pulled them away. All three adults took some and stepped back one step to eat in comfort. Here I am in Africa feeding Zebra!
The largest antelope in the world, Eland, came to the fence. The massive animal was over six feet tall. Its horns were another two feet above its head. His calm nature caused me to think back to my childhood and my grandfather’s farm in Walnut Grove, Mississippi. As a child I had a pet cow that would come to me and I would feed him. I called him brownie. That cow would follow me around the barnyard seeking more. It was an early friendship for me that left an impression. This antelope renewed that childhood memory as I stepped closer to the fence and placed a pear on my hand. He sniffed slowly and then reached further to take the fruit from my hand. I patted his forehead and he lowered his horns to my hand. I rubbed the horns and pushed gently on this head. He closed his eyes and seemed to love the special touch and attention.
Freddie, as he has become known to me, came on a regular basis to the farmhouse. I carefully walked outside the fence and he greeted me in a tender way. I couldn’t believe it. We brought some hay and he began to feed. He took it right out of my hand. He and I became friends. From that point on the one ton antelope noticed my presence and would seek to be near me. He puts his head down and invited my grabbing and pushing on his horns. At one point I walked toward the front gate of the house and he followed me the whole way. Amazing!
A grey Reebok, Bambi is an orphan rescue from a local farm. She lays restfully in the front yard chewing her cud. Rain stands on her fur and she shakes it off like a dog. Her natural enemy, the leopard, lives in the hills close by. Fencing and the human house protect her from becoming an easy meal for the big cat.
She walks slowly into the door. Standing and peering into the home. She hears the talking inside. Her ears turn every direction discerning the situation. Then she takes the step inside and begins across the floor toward the kitchen. Bambi ambles her way into the house with complete comfort. Chewing her cud she stopped next to my chair. Only inches from my left hand Her big black eyes watched me as her ears turned to and fro. When I reached out my hand to greet her she stepped away.
It takes her several minutes of careful stepping until she reached the kitchen. From that point it is a straight dash for the bag of dog food. She knows where the bag of dog food is located in the far corner of the kitchen. She sticks her head in and eats when she feels the need. The rustle of the bag gives her presence away. I walk over to her and pet her coat. Her dense woolly coat of fur feels thick, soft and somehow rough. When you lay a hand on her she shakes her skin as if you are just another insect touching her. Otherwise she is in the front lawn laying in the grass under the large gum tree.
The dogs walk by her unconcerned about her presence. In fact the little dog Lulu plays chase with her. Completely accepted by the humans she roams the house with tender touches of her tiny hoofs. This is a small snapshot of heaven. Animals have no fear of humans and cohabitation is safe and inviting.
Cathy and I connected with missionary families. We found that they need the same safe feeling exhibited by the animals above. They want focused attention and a taste of something good. But they also have many questions about ministry, the spiritual life and the Bible. For the last two days I met with nine volunteers who are working in Cape Town. They come from Germany, Ireland and Argentina. We spent around six hours addressing key scriptures and looking at prophecy of the future. What a joy it is to open God’s Word and observe what is really there. When we parted yesterday I was touched by the warmth of their thankfulness and desire to know more.
We are so thankful you have sent us here. So many ministry leaders want a drop of water to cool their hearts and refresh their vision. Today I have flown to Magaliesburg for the YFC Staff Conference that will begin tomorrow evening. I am leading devotions and opening the Bible. Cathy joins me on Thursday before we leave for Mpumalanga. Keep praying as God leads our experience.
Four decade veteran of youth ministry in churches, Youth For Christ and now is the Founder and Executive Director of Deeper Still Missions. Danny and his wife Cathy spend most of their time mentoring missionaries in Africa, Europe, Central America and North America. Future opportunities include South America and the Asia Pacific area.