You would be amazed at the random items that end up on my desk. Some I’ve placed there intentionally for a conversation piece. Some are left by my kids. Either way, they almost always have an interesting (or semi-interesting) back story. Every once in a while I’ll scan my desk and if something interesting is spotted, well then you’ll get a blog post.
This odd looking, legless hand carved hippo was a gift by a good missionary friend of my family’s when I was a kid. Being a PK (Pastor’s Kid) has its upside. You get to meet all kinds of interesting people, some of whom are missionaries that have literally traveled the world. One of my favorite missionaries as a kid was Russ Tatro. He and his wife Wendy founded Living Word Missions in Monrovia, West Africa. Because of war in the early 90’s, they relocated their ministry headquarters to Sierra Leone. They helped to begin two Bible Schools with the purpose to lead, train, and educate new believers to follow God’s plan. Through their faithfulness, there are now over 500 Bible schools world wide with over 100,000 graduates.
I remember that Russ had an extremely cool office. From all of his travels, he had collected some of the most interesting items I’d ever seen. I’m talking about unique swords, knives, African drums, tribal wall art, all from different tribes and people from all over Africa. To me, seeing an authentic African sword was right up there with Hulk Hogan. My eyes caught something odd looking on his desk. I noticed this little wooden hippo that was missing its legs. Russ picked it up and handed it to me. He told me the story of a little boy in Africa who would carve these and sell them on the street. While Russ was ministering at a nearby Bible School, he was approached and haggled by this persistent little boy. Russ knowing that for most of these kids, selling these crafts was their main source of income to buy food, bought it. When I asked him why it was missing it’s legs, he said “It’s a hippo in water.” I of course responded with “How cool is that!?” Russ fighting a huge smile looked at me and said, “it’s yours.” I’ve kept this little hippo as a permanent part on my desk since.
Sadly, Russ passed away in 2006, but his wife Wendy continues the wonderful mission work that they began together over 25 years ago. This “hippo in water” is not only a tribute, but also a reminder. It reminds me every day to pray for the many missionaries who have dedicated their lives to taking the Gospel to places where most aren’t willing to go. Missionaries like Russ.