Every now and then a phrase captures my imagination and won’t let it go. That’s what happened when I received an email from my friend Steve who spent last week in Rwanda. The email was short, but his voice was full of joy. He reported they’d been “Driving through the Rift Valley with Elephants.”

Driving through the Rift Valley with Elephants.

Now I know that Steve’s been in Rwanda, but my first thought was “Is that the Mississippi valley you mean?”

You see I have been driving that valley in the American south for five years now and though I’ve not seen any safaris there yet, I can tell you there’s a whole lot of elephants. Right there in the middle of the room.

In Harvest Time we have a commitment to welcoming elephants. Elephants and money. That’s what we do. And one person, one elephant at a time, things shift.

Just today I was on a call about Mississippi. This was after I was writing about building partnerships of trust. And wouldn’t you know it that Lillie asked me a question and all of a sudden there was this elephant sitting right on my lap. Something about power. Something about being afraid people will forget who I am and see me only as the rich, white girl seizing control. Felt like an ache in my heart.

I tried to pretend it wasn’t there as fast as I could. I tried to move on with the call. “What’s next on the agenda?” I said, hoping no one had noticed.

The problem is I’ve partnered with friends who are wildlife experts and there they were in that moment inviting me to welcome the elephant.

“Rose,” Lillie said. “What were you feeling just then? What happened?”

“It was fear!” the elephant on my lap screamed inside me. “Fear we are going to slip back into the same old distrust.”

I quickly covered her mouth with duct tape and decided to take the long way around. Slowly I explored extraneous details until I was willing to come face to face with the elephant.

Driving through the rift valley with elephants. Yup, that’s what we do in Mississippi. Stand right in the midst of the rifts that have torn this country apart for centuries with all those elephants.

I think that’s how Jesus is trying to change things, not by disappearing the wildlife, but by welcoming them in.

I knew that on that call today, which is why eventually I let my friends and myself see where I am stuck.

Because I knew that befriending the elephants in the rift valleys of my heart is the key to being free.

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