One of the things I enjoyed most about camping in Arkansas as a kid was the prospect of encountering wild animals… in the wild. It’s always great to see them at the zoo, but it’s just not the same. In the wild there is always the potential for seeing a deer or chipmunk eat your brother. Or, who knows, maybe the vulture circling overhead is doing so because he wants to go home with you as your pet.
Truth is animals in the wild are often elusive. They just are not nearly as interested in you as you are in them. More often than not if you approach an animal in the wild it will run from you. Unless it’s a honey badger… they don’t care.
I learned as a kid that there are methods you can use to attract animals that would normally not be attracted to you. For example, some hunters, to attract deer, put deer urine on themselves. This raises many questions that you can discuss among yourselves.
Another more sanitary way of attracting wild animals is to “call” them. I have personally tried speaking to wild animals in English but it seems that even the most refined squirrel at our local park and the raccoon I recently trapped (unharmed) in my backyard either don’t understand any human language or are just plain rude. “Calling” an animal consists of “learning” their language. Basically you listen to them and practice repeating back the sounds they make (I would use caution doing this in bear country during mating season). In reality isn’t this how we all learned to speak?
I remember sitting around the campfire on top of a mountain at our favorite camping spot, Bard Springs, when Granddaddy decided to call up some “hoot owls” and coyotes. I really wish he had warned us first. No one camped at Bard Springs except us. It was isolated and quiet. There was no electricity… so no lights. The trees were tall and blocked most of the stars and all the moon. It was very dark away from the campfire. As my two brothers and I were hypnotized by the dancing, crackling flames and our little minds were a thousand miles away, Granddaddy cupped his hands to his mouth like a hillbilly megaphone, took a deep breath and let loose with what sounded like a banshee screaming in Morse code. Not cool.
After regaining our composure and Granddaddy regaining his, he let us know that is what a hoot owl sounds like. We all thought for sure he was joking… until after a few minutes of Granddaddy’s calling then waiting then calling again, off in the distant dark, near the far end of the campground, we heard what sounded like an echo of Granddaddy’s less than graceful hooting. He’d done it! Granddaddy had spoken to the owl and the owl spoke back! (I’m still grateful the coyotes never spoke back.)
I’ve learned an invaluable lesson about the Gospel from Granddaddy’s speaking to owls and coyotes. There is a whole world out there that doesn’t understand or speak the language of Christ’s followers. Yet the church continually tries to speak to these folks and share the love of Jesus in a way they just don’t get. I’m not necessarily talking about the words we say, though there are lots of big words in church language I still don’t get. It’s our actions and behavior toward those we’re trying to attract. The language of our world is action. When I show someone I love them, that God loves them, they will “hear” me. When we, the church, learn to communicate the Gospel message in the language of those we’re trying to reach… then, like the hoot owl in the distant dark, they’ll hear and understand.
Read what Paul the Apostle says about “talking to owls and coyotes” in his letter to the church at Corinth. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23