A ROGUE ELEPHANT IN AN INDIAN TEA PLANTATION
BANG! BANG! The little thatched hut in which they were hiding shook as the two shots rang out one after the other. Dad’s and Papa Kier’s feet felt the earth shaking a bit on the dirt floor. But they weren’t altogether ready for the blast scream that trumpeted from the mighty animal they had just surprised in the dark. Papa Kier quickly and quietly reloaded the elephant gun. The seconds dragged on as their ears strained to hear if the rogue was going to come any closer.
This wasn’t the climax that Hoyle Case expected as he and Mom (Mildred Blackwell Case) set out in 1938 as the Church of God’s first missionaries sent to share the Good News within India’s dark recesses. They received the Acts 1:8 call “…to the ends of the earth” (NIV) i.e. India, separately and then at 25 they heeded it and decided to make a permanent union and life together. They had not expected their life of mission to be easy, but they hadn’t expected to face this peril.
Then came the loud THUMP! The animal let loose with another blood-curdling scream that threatened to cause permanent hearing loss. Dad suddenly asked himself, “Why am I here? We are soon to be dead!”
“I’ll never again get to hold my wife and little girl or preach another sermon. This was not a bright idea” thought Dad in a split second.
As they waited to hear which way the elephant was going to move next they finally heard another loud thump and a trumpeting scream from further away. They also felt the ground rumble as the large pachyderm reversed in his tracks and headed back towards the jungle out of the tea plantation.
Oh yes, the tea plantation, that was the reason they were there. Papa Kier had asked Dad to spend the night out in a small thatched windowless hut surrounded by tea plants to see if they could scare off the rogue elephant that was destroying his trees and scaring the workers.
Minutes seemed like hours there in the dark as they waited, listening to the heavy thumps and loud screams that followed. When the wounded elephant’s noise subsided, they snoozed fitfully until daybreak. As night gave way to the shadowy morning in that rustic hut they walked out to a great surprise. In the middle of the path was a gaping hole where a huge rock had sat stubbornly in the path the day before.
Evidently Papa Kier’s shots had angered the beast greatly. So in his reaction and rage he had run into the rock, not being able to see it, and took out his wrath on it, hence the loud THUMP. They followed the tracks for about a mile, looking for both the elephant and the rock, but only found the rock, about a mile away. That was one of many times that Paul’s words came to him from Philippians 1:19b …the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. (NIV)
That was the end of the problems Papa Kier had with that rogue elephant, though he did have to fill in the hole in the path which now did not veer around the rock.
As providence would have it, another elephant, and Dad would intersect once more. He and Mom landed at Kochi, Kerala, India in 1938 and lived in Muwatapura (three rivers) north Travancore, India for four years. With only the Holy Spirit to guide them and the desire to share their love of God with the largely Malayalamspeaking Hindu population, about which they knew little, they plunged in. They studied the language as they ministered through interpreters and adjusted to the stratified caste culture with hundreds of gods that were used to hold sway over the people.
Above all was the poverty both temporal and spiritual that they confronted on all sides. They ministered to the needs of thousands of people and came to occupy a special place of honor in the hearts of many neighbors. One way they tried to alleviate the misery was to feed beggars. Every day dozens of them would approach their compound with pleading eyes and outstretched hands so Dad, Mom, and the Christians at the mission, set aside a day per week to feed them and told them to return on that day.
Early that morning they would begin cooking large pots of rice and stacking it on a cleaned spot on the ground inside the compound. As the number of beggars grew, so did the size of the mound. At times it was piled taller than a man! As groups would gather to have a handful placed on a banana leaf, the missionaries shared the Good News that God loved even the poorest beggar and wanted to fill the empty spot in their hearts that was more important than the one in their growling stomachs. To say that this was no small miracle is an understatement. Most days they felt like the disciples in Mathew 14 with the five loaves and two fishes when they fed ten thousand bodies and souls.
So it was that on one important occasion the mayor asked him to share the seat of honor on the head of an elephant that led a procession of village celebration. As he considered his response he thought back to the early morning not so long before to the haunting sounds of the injured animal and hoped that his scent was not broadcast to this elephant. As the trunk wrapped itself around him he hoped it would stop before crushing the life out of him and just transport him to the enormous head. Of course all went well and with pith hat and light-colored garb he paraded through the streets. On many occasions Dad and Mom would face overwhelming circumstances (immovable boulders) and see the Holy Spirit work miracles.