Elephant Orphanage

. . .even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23 WEB)

Tarzan was my hero. At least he was when I was young. I didn’t miss an opportunity to watch Johnny Weissmuller, along with others, swing through the trees, shout “ahh-ee-ahh,” then save the jungle people or rescue the damsel in distress with the help of his animal friends. “Me Tarzan, you Jane,” was one of my earlier sentences.

When I was old enough to enjoy the forest around our home I was a Tarzan wanna be. At first I searched the trees around our house for vines to swing my way through the foliage. All I found were vine wanna bes cluttering up the undergrowth. I guess forests in Ohio just don’t have the necessary vines for jungle rescues.

Once, I tied a rope to a high branch to practice my swing and jungle yell. With nowhere to swing to it was short lived excitement. I just couldn’t figure out this jungle transportation mode. Then I remembered the elephants. When there were no vines Tarzan resorted to the lumbering elephant’s sturdy service.

In the jungle there were no jeeps, no taxi cabs or buses, only beautiful, big, gray, trumpeting elephants. These lumbering beasts fascinated me. When a colleague suggested we visit an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka I jumped at the opportunity. I practiced shouting, “umgawa!”

The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is one of a kind. As the only elephant orphanage in the world and they are proud of the ministrations and love they provide to these gargantuan beasts.

Most of the residents are young and many require bottle feeding. They’d take a three gallon jug, add a nozzle and pour it down the youngster’s throat. Bath time was a daily ritual. Herded to the local stream each elephant was carefully scrubbed, using a car brush on a long stick, to insure good skin and freedom from pesky bugs.

As they grew they were prepared for work on the island. On Sri Lanka, as well as in other parts of the world, the elephant continues to serve an important role. A good working elephant is a prized possession, especially by farmers.

The handlers, nurses and caretakers insured each orphan was properly cared for and loved. Occasionally they would ride atop the older elephants and demonstrate their abilities to tourists like myself. There were no Tarzan imitators attempting to save the world from the invading safaris or treasure hunters. There were only elephant caretakers who watched out for the welfare of the lost and forgotten.

Without the love and care of the Pinnawela staff these gentle creatures would soon perish in the wild. Their parents were lost or dead. Each elephant was named, brought into the household and nurtured for a productive life.

I’ve never been an orphan, at least not in this world. I was born into a loving and wonderful family with mother, father and brothers. However, in the eternal, spiritual world, I was born an orphan. No father, no mother, no relatives just lost and alone in human wisdom, without a purpose.

Without the love and care of God I would have remained an eternal spiritual orphan. However, God has adopted me. John reminds us, “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12 13 WEB)

Not only am I one of God’s children but I’ve been given a name! I’m an overcomer in God’s family and will receive a special name, from God’s heart to me, a name for me alone (Revelation 2:17). I’m no longer a spiritual orphan but a child with a new name in an eternal household! What more could I want?

I look forward to eternity. I look forward to hearing my special name from God. I look forward to swinging from cloud to cloud shouting, “ahh-ee-ahh,” knowing everything is in order in God’s kingdom.


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