UNUSUAL EXPERIENCES WITH ANIMALS
We are missionaries waiting to acquire land in Botswana for God’s purposes. When we were finally granted permission to cross the boarder into Botswana, closed to the public, we were overjoyed. On arrival we self isolated for 10 days meeting Covid19 regulations on Parr’s Halt farm, courtesy of the owners Cobus and Ulinda Smit. We stayed in the bush veld near the Limpopo river and were surrounded by the animal kingdom in which we delight. One morning I was singing in tongues (my heavenly language) to an ostrich who was grazing at a distance from our house. To our astonishment she came soon after to drop an ostrich egg right at our backdoor where I had sung to her minutes ago! This happened 6 times afterwards. I would sing and the ostrich would come and lay an egg right at our backdoor. Was this a co-insidence or a soul connection that I had made with the ostrich?
There are many people who have unusual experiences with animals. The most famous one is Saint Francis of Assisi. He is one of the most revered religious figures in Christianity and well known for his patronage of animals and the natural environment. Pope John Paul on 29 November 1979 declared Saint Francis the Patron Saint of Ecology.
One of the most famous accounts of Saint Frances of Assisi’s care, his unusual interaction and influence over living creatures was about the terrible wolf of Umbrian city of Gubbio. A large, ferocious and fearless wolf had set out camp outside the city and regularly feasted on the towns people’s livestock and killed several people. St Frances decided to save the situation and “talk” to the animal. Everyone tried to dissuade him fearing that he would be killed. Despite their pleas he left and they watched anxiously to see what would transpire. The fierce and hungry predator emerged from the forest and stalked Francis, circling closer and closer. St. Francis unafraid and moved by a deep love for animals made the sign of the cross and communicated with the wolf. Before long the previously terrible wolf lay down meekly at his feet. With the wolf tamed, St Frances brought him back into the city. He struck a deal with the townspeople that they would feed the wolf instead of seeking revenge. The townspeople were convinced that St Frances acted on behalf of God to make peace between the ferocious animal and the citizens of Umbrian.
Is this fiction or true? In my opinion it is true.
THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS FOR ALL CREATION
Every born again believer should realise
that we have a responsibility to protect and care for living creatures.
—by Hermien Van Den Bergh
We have been staying on a farm outside Pretoria awaiting government permission to enter Botswana (where we want to build a mission base). To my delight the owner of the farm, Anchen, has seven dogs. They range from a Great Dane called Ramen to a miniature dachshund called Ula.
Little Ula and big Ramen’s relationship is hilarious. They keep us endlessly entertained with their clumsy efforts to display affection for one another. Great Danes are a good deterrent for burglars due to their huge size, but they are gentle giants and make great companions for children.
Looking to the Bible to seek God’s heart
We see another interesting juxtaposition expressed in a relationship between God and field mice in the Bible. “Every creature in the forest is mine, the wild animals on all the mountains. I know every mountain bird by name; the scampering field mice are my friends.” – Psalm 50:10-11. In this beautiful passage of scripture God declares His ownership and intimate care and friendship with living beings in the natural world. Every born again believer should realise that we have a responsibility to protect and care for living creatures and the environment the way God wants us to. We can’t be selective in our Bible reading and care only for what appeals to us. Searching the Bible to hear God’s heart for creation is a good first step in obedience. It serves as inspiration to carry out His Will on earth as it is in Heaven.
We have a responsibility on earth
With Christmas we celebrate the Good News of the Gospel, which means salvation for humans – but it means so much more than that. The Gospel is Good News for all creation. Colossians 1:20 states,
“And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross—through Him, whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens.” So why the all destruction, cruelty, and suffering still? The Bible says that creation is eagerly waiting for us, the sons and daughters of God, to mature and
act on behalf of creation. We have a job to do. We are the hands and feet of God on earth. It is our responsibility to take care of God’s precious creation.
PLANET EARTH IS SACRED
A GIFT FROM GOD
Should we be concerned when Christian leaders ignore and even resist environmental protection? Is this not a blindspot, a fault line running across our Christian faith practise that needs reform.
Why did American historian Lynn White claim that the Bible is “the ideological basis for the arrogant and aggressive domination of nature which has led to ecological destruction?” Did Christians give her the impression that dominion theology justifies the objectification and exploitation of nature and it’s non-human inhabitants?
Where does damaging attitudes towards God’s creation come from in Christian circles?
The welfare of our planet is our responsibility
The apocalyptic warning in the Bible causes many people to believe that the welfare of our planet is irrelevant as the end is near. They may even welcome environmental destruction as a sign of the end times. What is perplexing though is the indifferent attitude towards the suffering inflicted upon living creatures and poor people who are defenceless.
Our dominion is over all the earth
The belief that the heartbeat for God is souls and only souls, narrows our responsibility on earth. Influential evangelist Dwight Moody said this, ”I look upon this world as a sinking ship, and the Lord has given me a lifeboat, and told me: ‘Moody, save all you can.” What he said was right, but it can easily give the wrong impression – that only human lives matter to God. It reduces the scope of our covenantal responsibility and flies in the face of biblical truth. Such a Titanic approach contrasts with Noah’s ark and the Noahic covenant which included humans and animals. (Genesis 9:8-10)
This world is God’s masterpiece
Negative attitudes towards the environment may stem from a fear of neo-pagan worship. It also occurs when self interest and financial growth is preferred at the expense of the environment. The climate change discord further obscure and delay the urgent need to deal with environmental concerns, and apathy and indifference plays a detrimental role.
Planet earth is sacred, a gift from God. The astronauts who saw the earth for the first time hanging in space on nothing, described it as a “brilliant jewel in the black velvet sky.” They were awe struck by the earth’s beauty, and fragility and were profoundly changed.
We need to care for God’s planet
Christian custodians need reform in our collective attitude towards the planet, and all non human inhabitants. Our love for God should constrain us to lay all indifference, and differences aside. We should pray, unite and collaborate in safeguarding creation for God, ourselves, and posterity.
SPEAK UP TO PROTECT GOD’S PRECIOUS ANIMALS
My son Dawid and I have moved to Het Slot, a game ranch near Steenbokpan during the months of September. For 2 more weeks this bushveld adventure will hold us captive and we cannot help but exclaim that God is good! On arrival I fed a tame nyala and briefly held a bushbaby monkey, the cutest little animal imaginable. Right now outside my window several springbuck are grazing peacefully amongst magnificent Baobab and Marulla trees.
Whilst drinking in the beauty of God’s nature, Proverbs 31:8 came to mind. It says; “Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all who are left defenseless.” This verse made me ponder the plight of animals that can’t speak.
In Genesis 3:1 the devil misused an animal to talk to, and deceive Eve. Is it possible then that animals lost their voice as part of the curse that came on the earth? In Numbers 22:22-31 we read that God on a special occasion opened the mouth of a donkey to talk to Balaam. The donkey rebuked Balaam for being a cruel and ungrateful master to her!
A sad reality is animals cannot speak, they cannot make their case known, or defend themselves against a ruthless human. This must be the most fearsome experience for any living creature to be so powerless. Just this week I saw a heartbreaking picture of pigs living in steel cages the size of their bodies to be fed for the slaughter. How cruel is that. Pigs are amazing animals. They are intelligent, playful and feel pain, frustration and emotion like humans do. It makes me wonder why some people are psychopathic when it comes to the welfare of animals.
Hopefully the covid 19 lockdown will give humans a lasting memory of what it feels like to have your freedom taken away, and to be intimidated by impending danger. I cringe when I see God’s living creatures held in cages for the amusement of people, and zoos for one should be permanently scrapped from the face of the earth.
How wonderful for those whose masters have compassion and who wisely choose to manage with love, power and wisdom God’s living creatures entrusted to them.
For anyone interested in following our journey as travelling missionaries visit lofunlimited.org Donate to cheerful giver ( on the right ) and help us educate people to treat animals better.
A SIGN OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY – Taking Care of God’s Animals
2020 Will always be remembered as the year of coronavirus, and our modus operandi as travelling missionaries has changed drastically. On the day of Pentecost, instead of being in Malawi on a mission, I delivered an online sermon from the banks of the Limpopo river to a global audience. Preparing for the sermon I looked for a message within the mess that the world is facing now. It struck me that the word ‘corona’ means crown, which in this case refers to a thorny crown. It reminded me of the attitude with which humanity at large is ruling our planet, which causes untold damage and suffering to creation. And the virus, like sin, is evil, invisible, contagious, and lethal – affecting everything.
The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:19-22 that animals are groaning in pain, waiting earnestly for the children of God to act on their behalf. The groaning of creation is everywhere, and according to Jeremiah 12:4 it results from the wickedness of man.
On the Cross, Jesus reconciled not only humanity to Himself, but all of creation. The crown of thorns that He wore was in exchange for a royal crown, fitting for God’s children to reign as kings over all His creation. This privilege comes with freedom and great responsibility (Romans 5:17 Colossians 1:2). Romans 8:19 says; “For creation waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship.” The verse indicates that a sign of spiritual maturity is when royal sons and daughters hearken to the cry of animal suffering on earth.
God’s heart is for His animals too
God cares deeply about His creation. As much as He knows when a human hair falls to the ground, He knows when a little bird falls to the ground too. Nothing escapes His notice. Some people may think that they can get away
with careless and cruel behaviour towards animals, but they won’t. There
are consequences for actions based on the law of sowing and reaping. We need to learn to balance our thinking and care for God’s creation beyond our selfish needs. Let us intentionally stop animal suffering, which is a fitting gesture for a mature son and daughter of the King!
May we never lose our wonder and care for God’s creation
“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel” Prov. 12:10
Early one morning, my son and I went on a prayer walk along the banks of the Limpopo river. At one point I saw Dawid on his knees with his arms lifted high. He was thanking God for something unusual that we had just seen. It was a squirrel, perched on a tree branch, whipping his bushy tail side to side to the exact rhythm of the song of a nearby bird. He was not missing a beat. The tail moved much like a conductor would use his stick to direct a symphony orchestra. This was something so small to see, but for us it was a huge little miracle to inspire and amuse us. God is so good.
We need to be aware of what is happening
It is tragic that there are so many atrocities happening to animals around the world. I think back on the farm area in South Africa where I grew up. It was customary and considered ‘great fun’ to hunt rabbits at night. I did not think it was wrong when I was a child, but growing up I became horrified by this practice. I sensed the sheer terror of these rabbits when chased by the reckless youth at night. Boys – and sometimes girls too – would hop in off-road vehicles, shine their spotlights, scream and shout in delight, and take their dogs for the chase. For the rabbits, being chased and often killed is sheer terror. And for what reason? To satisfy the careless lust for fun at the expense of another living creature? How weird to think that humans can enjoy this? And don’t tell me that ‘boys will be boys’. Parents should educate their children to have real and harmless fun.
Our response as Christians
Our world is in such a state of turmoil and every person needs to take stock of their behaviour. As Christians, we should wholeheartedly stop the reign of cruelty on animals. We have to dig deep into the wells of God’s wisdom and compassion and learn how to treat and preserve creation in a way that is lasting and pleasing to Him.
Written by: Hermien Van Den Bergh
Article source: JOY! Magazine
Animals are worthy of our respect and proper care
“A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” Prov. 12:10
Our missionary travels came to an abrupt halt during lockdown. Abundant wildlife became our neighbourhood on the banks of the Limpopo river. My son, Dawid, and myself wake up every morning to the tranquillity of nature, far removed from the frenetic pace of urban living. We cannot help but be reminded how incredibly sacred the gift of nature is to mankind.
Suffering at the hand of man
Unfortunately, I am also reminded of the malpractice that happens far too often in the commercialisation of animals. It causes untold hardship and damage to the animal kingdom. Many people are painfully aware of the suffering of animals at the hand of man. It is sometimes too hard to watch when scenes of horrible animal abuse float through social media. This is not right. Animals are worthy of our respect and proper care.
Reformation includes our attitude towards animals
As Christians, we have to reform our ways towards animals. We cannot simply leave it in the hands of those who many people call the “greenies.” Each one of us is responsible for the welfare of animals. We have been given a dominion mandate from heaven to rule this earth with love, power, and wisdom. Given to us are natural and spiritual laws to operate in, with consequences when laws are violated. In Leviticus 18, God warns us that the earth will vomit humans out if we abuse the land. It is clear that unrestrained consumerism is wrecking the natural world and we are already paying the price. New ways to go forward have to be found.
The effect of the Coronavirus
The arrival of Covid-19 has turned our world upside down, and with an ironic twist. Previously fearful and frustrated animals were locked up and people looked in. Now it has happened the other way around. This begs the question, why did Covid-19 happen, and can we learn from this experience?
Stressed animals become virus factories
According to a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists agree that the virus was the result of a Zoonotic Spillover, crossing from animals to humans. This spillover is exacerbated by human-caused stress that mammals face, and the virus was transferred from animals to humans through inappropriate interaction. How many more animal-borne viruses must we fall victim to before we change? Let the children of God make our voices heard for those who have no voice. Animals need our help.
God Loves Animals
I am a travelling missionary and I am always shocked and saddened to see the scant or no regard – in fact outright cruelty – that certain people and cultures display towards animals. Many people have been brought up to believe that an animal is just a ‘thing’ to be used that has no emotional or physical feelings or needs.
It happens all around the world
Animal cruelty is something that unfortunately happens all around the world. I recently saw a Cape Town family leaving their miniature dachshund outside during the freezing cold of winter, all by itself, never to enter the house to share the warmth of a heater or the love of the family. In Manenberg, I saw a dog that was so malnourished it was just skin and bones. He was tied to a short leash with no company, no freedom, and minimal scraps of food thrown to him just so that he could sustain himself to bark if strangers came onto the property. In Malawi, where we do missions every year, it is not an uncommon sight to see a whole pig or goat very uncomfortably fastened on a bicycle on its way to be slaughtered. In Botswana, I have been very saddened to see poor donkeys regularly maltreated at the hands of their human masters. Too often in South African townships we hear about scrawny dogs that are viciously kicked and beaten for no reason at all.
Why are people so cruel?
The harsh reality is that these aren’t just secular or uneducated people who are committing these cruel acts. Even some Christians behave like that. You have to wonder, “Don’t they read their Bibles?” What is it with the human race that they lack compassion and have no value for the great gifts God has given us? Is it because they have never been taught and properly introduced to the love and joy of an animal? Anyone who has been a loving pet owner will know that animals intensely feel emotions like pain, joy, and sadness, and that they display character traits like love, tenderness, loyalty, bravery, and kindness.
Our Christian mandate
As a child, I was brought up to experience the fun and love of pets.
I have instilled the same values in my son, Dawid. He is now my ministry partner and travels the world with me, sharing the Gospel. Animals are a great source of pleasure to us wherever we go. My question is, should each one of us who cares about the welfare of animals not be more intentional about relieving their plight through various interventions and educate those around us who have no idea about the value of animals? It is our Christian mandate to care for God’s creation.
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