One doesn’t often think of something as large as an African elephant opening a door unless he crashes through it, but in the case of this particular elephant God opened the door to a special relationship in a most unusual way.
Cathy and I have had the privilege through the years of knowing and having fellowship with some of the most wonderful people serving the Lord in other countries. One of the couples who impacted us early in our Christian experience were Gordon and Jeanette Jones who lived and served with their children in Zambia.
Dr. Gordon Jones was a general surgeon from El Dorado who was several years older than me, and I didn’t know him in his younger years. His younger brother Delmas was in my sister Marilyn’s graduating high school class, and I knew about his skill in playing high school football. Gordon’s younger sister Carolyn was married to James Thomas, a friend from Boys Club baseball days, and the two of them opened and operated a downtown restaurant called Union Station where our family dined on many Sundays at noon. Through James and Carolyn we became acquainted with the Gordon Jones’s and were introduced to them in the early 1980’s when they were home for a 6 month furlough.
When Gordon and I discovered we both trained in general surgery several years apart at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, our professional bond grew closer. Gordon began coming to the hospitals in El Dorado and operating with me when home on furlough. I was able to pay him an assistant fee which helped with their finances, but more importantly we had the opportunity to spend hours talking about his work and ministry in Zambia. Gordon and I developed a close friendship during those years, and I learned a great deal about life as a medical missionary in general and Zambia in particular. I have written two posts regarding our friendship; Dr. Jones and the Spitting Cobra and A Divine Appointment in South Africa.
On one of their furloughs during the Christmas holiday season they brought us some unique gifts from Zambia which we really appreciated. One was a special drawing (painting) of an African elephant done by a person who lived in central Kenya and was on the staff of the Rift Valley Academy. All we knew of the artist’s name was Lasz which was in the lower left corner The academy is well-known as an excellent boarding school for missionary kids throughout all of Africa, and all the Jones’ kids attended there. The drawing, although beautiful didn’t find a special place in our home because about the time they gave it to us, we were in the process of moving. We moved the drawing along with all of our other household items.
Fast forward 10 years when Cathy and I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas from Clearwater, Florida we noted among our paintings and drawings this one of the elephant. It was about this time our son-in-law John Luther, who is an avid hunter was moving into his new office as the Director of Emergency Management for Washington County, Arkansas. Cathy found a very nice frame and we gave the drawing to John to hang in his office.
John took one look at the signature ” Lasz” on the drawing and said his friend Phil Lasse was the artist of the drawing. I said, “John, do you really know this man who lives in Kenya?” He responded, “Phil and his wife Shirley moved from Kenya to Fayetteville several years ago and are very active members of our church. Yes I know him.” I thought to myself, “What a small world!”
At the time I was co-teaching a Sunday school class at University Baptist Church with Dr. Don Herring, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Arkansas. He said he would like for me to join him visiting a close friend who was dealing with far advanced cancer, and he believed we could encourage him and could pray with him. “Who is the friend?” I asked Don. He said it was Phil Lasse. I said it would be an honor to meet him and pray with him. On three separate occasions over the next month we went to Phil and Shirley’s home and were able to encourage and be encouraged by them. During the first visit I told Phil the story of the elephant drawing and how I came to be in possession of it. He did not personally know the Gordon Jones family, but remembered there were 3 missionary kids in the Rift Academy from Zambia.
I am still learning in God’s economy of time and events there are no chance occurrences. It was not a coincidence Gordon and Jeanette happened to choose the drawing of an African elephant as a gift for us, because He knew in His sovereignty years later a door of opportunity would be opened by the drawing. As I reflect on these events it causes me to look more closely for God’s mighty hand in everything and especially something as large as an elephant!