Ann and I often receive letters from children and Sunday schools asking about 'animals in Africa'.
"Why don't you mention animals in your letters?"
"Are you ever in danger because of wild animals?"
"It must be cool to live in a place with elephants, lions and rhinos!"
If the truth be told...there are very few ‘wild animals' in our part of Africa.In fact we aremore likely to see a lion, giraffe or elephant while on vacation in the United States (in a zoo) than during our ten-year tenure in Central Africa.
The reason is that most of the animals in our part of the world have been hunted for food. In a country where many people eat just once a day and malnutrition is a leading cause of death...anything non-human that moves, wiggles, or squirms is likely to be eaten!
You would not be surprised that 'caterpillars' cooked in a stew until plump are a delicacy in this country...and 'locusts' roasted over a coal fire are a special treat to many children.Similarly, small animals like squirrels, rodents, and even domestic pets when captured, are eaten. (which is why most missionaries leave their pets at home!)
Once in a great while we come across an animal bigger than a breadbox.The other day we received a callfrom friends. During a recent hunt in lower Congo, villagers found and killed an antelope, a rare find.It turns out that the antelope had a one-month-oldfawnthat was still suckling.Rather than let the baby antelope die; someone had the idea that "a missionary might take it"(or a missionary kid would force her father to take it in). To make a long story short, we brought the fawn home and added it to the other pets in our fenced yard...protected from the elements of nature and the appetites of men.
Despite our fondness for animals and commitment to find a home for this young deer...we are reminded that God called us to Africa to care for all creation especially mankind. In the book of Acts, Peter in a trance saw a sheet lowered down from heaven with all varieties of strange foods (doubtfully not caterpillars or locusts) and was told ‘to eat'.He refused saying that he would ‘never eat anything unclean'.God repeated this command three times until Peter finally got it.
I believe what God told Peter is the same that he tells you and me. Nothing God created is unclean...especially mankind.We may have different customs and habits and diets...but we are all His children and are created in His image.
When we recognizethis…we are more compelled to associate with those different than us; to go into their homes, to share their food, their lives...and during that process, share with them the best thing we have to offer…the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because of Him,
Bill and Ann Clemmer
Democratic Republic of Congo