Kissed by an elephant
From the desk of…
by Patricia Swyers, Commissioner –
It all started when I announced to our granddaughters that we were going to Africa and that I was going to ride an elephant. Of course the purpose of our visit was to conduct meetings and to visit Army programs, but many of those visits took us to remote areas of Kenya where I thought we would surely see an elephant. We did have a wonderful visit to a giraffe center but there were no elephants in sight. We concluded our Kenya visit and were on our way to South Africa where we again had great opportunities to participate in a variety of Salvation Army meetings. I continued my search for an elephant to ride. I casually mentioned to our hosts, Commissioners Tuck, about my comment to our grandchildren and was delighted to find out that there was an elephant sanctuary nearby which we could visit. At last, I could at least have a picture taken with an elephant to share with the family when we returned home.
Our tour began with our guide explaining how dangerous the elephants were and warning us to stay away from them or they could use their trunks to reach over the fence and grab us and easily break our arm or neck. Not to worry, I would keep my distance. He explained that although the elephants weighed 8 to 12 tons they could easily outrun us. I was convinced that my photo would be taken with me safely on my side of the fence.
We concluded the first segment of the tour and were led to another area of the sanctuary where we watched three elephants obediently roll over, kneel, and give a call at the command of their handlers. We were impressed! The guide then pointed to three of us, asking us to go stand by one of the elephants. Now, standing by “my” elephant, I quickly forgot the guide’s speech about how dangerous these elephants were as I obediently followed his commands for me to feel his skin, touch the pad on his foot, feel behind his ears and touch his tongue. Yes, before I knew it, I had placed my hand into the elephant’s mouth and was feeling the softness of his tongue. Commissioner Phil was snapping pictures of my elephant and me, when the guide announced to the crowd that the elephant would now kiss each of us!
Wait a minute, I am thinking, did I really want to be kissed by an elephant? And then before I knew it, I felt the trunk of the elephant on my cheek. It felt like the suction of a vacuum cleaner. I was still standing with great surprise on my face when “Grandpa” said he missed getting the picture and my guide answered, “No problem, the elephant can give another kiss.” Yes, I was kissed a second time by an elephant’s trunk and when I thought about it, I felt that the kiss was probably safer than my riding on him.
An old song states that a “kiss is just a kiss.” Well, I know better. I’ve had fun sharing this experience and the grandkids enjoyed the pictures, but how is it that after hearing how dangerous these elephants were, I bravely stood on his side of the fence and obediently followed the guide’s commands?
Scriptures warn us that there are situations that we should avoid because they are dangerous for us and we determine that we will “not cross the line.” Scriptures also tell us that we must guard our hearts with all diligence and look to our guide to protect and lead us. I know that on my own, I neither could nor would have been brave enough to stand by the 12-ton elephant. It was my trust in their handlers that gave me confidence to be obedient to their commands. It is a great reminder for me that an obedient life for Christ is only possible through the knowledge of God’s love and grace for me. Being kissed by an elephant is quite an experience, but being loved by God is the ultimate experience.