Many of the churches we work in are located in villages on the outskirts of a national forest. In Ohio where I grew up (Go Buckeyes!) we often see deer crossing signs, but here in northwestern Thailand we have elephant crossing signs. As we make our way up into the hills on a winding country road we see this sign.
According to the villagers, there are four wild elephants roaming around in the area. They trample the crops and anything that gets in their way, so people are annoyed and not a little afraid of them. One Sunday morning we arrived at church to find that an elephant had been there the previous night. He put a big dent in the sidewalk, broke a window, and smeared mud on the walls, leaving trunk prints. Hmm, I wonder if trunk prints can be used to identify the culprit?
This is what happens when an elephant steps onto the sidewalk.
A broken window and trunk prints.
More trunk prints way up high on the wall
The next week the elephant came back and wandered around the middle of the village leaving foot prints in the mud.
On Christmas Day we personally encountered this guy or perhaps one of his buddies as we were on our way to a Christmas celebration in one of the villages. As were driving along that country road, a couple of guys on a motorbike frantically waved us down and told us to back up. Sure enough there was an elephant ambling slowly down the road in front of us. Eventually, a car driving fast coming from the opposite direction scared him and he ambled off into the forest.
You notice he’s coming TOWARD US.
Whew. He got off the road. See his back near the bottom of the photo?
No, no, he never got that close. Thank you, whoever invented the zoom lens. We slowly backed up, stayed in the car and took these photos through the windshield. At least for once the windshield was clean.
Elephants have been in the news lately here in Thailand for their run-ins with tourists in a national park on the other side of the country. Check out these articles in the Bangkok Post, here and here.
Our little encounter wasn’t very dramatic, but we were reminded of what a magnificent creature the elephant is: powerful, awe-inspiring, and unfortunately, endangered. We are so privileged to have these unexpected opportunities to observe God’s creation as we travel along our chosen path.