The Shadow of the Cross

herringBy Richard Herring

Editor’s Note: On November 4, 2009, Asia Pacific Regional Director Richard Herring and Mongolia Field Director Pieter Theron were seriously injured in a freak elephant attack. The following is an excerpt from Richard’s April 29, 2010, chapel message at the U.S. C&MA National Office. Read about God’s faithfulness in the midst of this ordeal.

This morning I’d like to tell you about what happened nearly six months ago in Bangkok, Thailand. It’s a story of the enemy’s vicious attack yet also a testimony of God’s wonderful, sovereign grace.

We had gathered together as a regional leadership team the first week of November. After going through our normal agenda, we were feeling tired and decided to go on an afternoon outing to an elephant farm, which featured a crocodile show followed by an elephant performance.

During the crocodile show, the handlers would stick their heads into the crocodile’s mouth. After the show, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “Why don’t you stay and witness to those two crocodile guys?” Everyone left, and I had a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel with those men and another trainer. That was just before the elephant show.

After the elephant performance, about 15 of the creatures lined up against a rail fence to greet the tourists, who would pose for pictures with the elephants and feed them. The elephant that attacked us was the biggest one, with probably four or five feet long tusks and was very powerful. Pieter had no intention of approaching the elephant to have his picture taken that day and neither did I, and he actually doesn’t even remember doing so. But he went up and his wife, Haniki, took a picture. Pieter didn’t want to be there by himself, so he called me up to stand next to him.

Tossed and Thrown

What happened next is hard to explain humanly, because there was no rational explanation for what the elephant did. He looked to the right quickly, and then he snapped back to the left, hitting both of us at the same time with his left tusk and tossing us like rag dolls about 12 or 13 feet up into the air. We landed hard on the brick-cement pavement about 15 feet distant from where we were hit.

Pieter fell on his head, and his skull was fractured down across his eye and his nose. Both of his shoulders were broken, his wrist was broken, some of his teeth were chipped, several of his vertebrae eventually needed to be fused, and he needed two discs replaced. He was in terrible condition, lying in a pool of blood and not moving. We thought we might lose him, and we were praying desperately for God’s intervention in that critical situation.

We didn’t know it at the time, but it was by the grace of God that when Pieter hit his head, his skull fractured across his nose, and all the blood came out of his nose. That relieved the pressure in his head and was really the Lord’s mercy.

My first recollection was intense pain, having landed so hard on the pavement. The second thing I remember was crying out for somebody to give me something to put underneath my head to relieve the pain. Our field leader from Cambodia, David Strong, looked around and there was nothing, so he ripped his shirt off and made a pillow out of it. His son Matthew, who is about eight years old, was there that day. When he saw Dad do that, he pulled his shirt off as well-he wanted to be just like Dad. That was really touching, and I thank God for the pillow made out of David’s shirt because it relieved my pain so much.

The Power of God

Pieter was in the hospital for about three weeks, and I was hospitalized for a little over six weeks. Of course, the Alliance family was praying for both of us the whole time, and we thank God that neither of us suffered internal injuries-which was really remarkable.

The socket of my left hip was completely shattered, and my pelvis was also broken. But I was never operated on, for which I thank God. The doctors just said, “You have to lie still.”

I truly stand here this morning in the power of God-because my hip socket was so broken up, so shattered, yet no surgeon touched it; it was just the invisible hand of our Divine Healer that made it possible for me to walk again. I was told, “Don’t put any weight on your left leg, or you’ll be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.” That was a little intimidating. But there were no rods, no pins, nothing in there—God healed my hip and put it all back together again. I’m just so thankful.

Lessons Learned

I’d like to share a couple of lessons I learned through this ordeal. As soon as we were hit, I knew it was an attack of the enemy. I remember flying through the air and having this deep, clear sense that this was evil. There was no question—I knew it. And yet, God was wonderfully sovereign in all of this, and I thank the Lord for His greater truth—that He controls my destiny.

And God continues to work good out of this. I thank God for the many lost sheep He sent into my life as a result of this incident—people I never would have met, never would have seen—who came and talked and spent time with me in the hospital. And they got the whole nine yards!

During my hospital stay, I was reminded of Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” The emphasis was more on “Know that I am God through all of this.”

A Daughter’s Testimony

Our daughter Tamara is a student at Simpson University, and she was in the States when all of this happened. And the Lord ministered to her in a wonderful way. She was inspired to paint a picture of an elephant with someone riding on it. The elephant is under the shadow of a cloud in the shape of a cross over the top of the elephant. She came home at Christmastime, and this painting was my Christmas present. On the back of the picture she had pasted the words of the song “Shadows,” by David Crowder.

She wrote a note with the painting, saying, “The painting was inspired by this song, especially the line, ‘When we’re thrown and we’re tossed,’ because it reminded me that you were in the shadow of the cross that day when you were thrown by the elephant . . . God definitely protected you, Dad, and I’m so thankful for His protection and rest when we are in the shadow of the cross.”

Please Pray . . .

Pray for complete relief from pain that lingers in Pieter’s head, his shoulders, and neck and that all the dizziness would subside . . . that he would be completely healed.

Pray for me, that I will regain full use of my left leg, for strengthening of the thigh muscles (which had completely atrophied), and for relief of stiffness.

Finally, pray for protection for all of us in The Alliance who are pushing back the darkness. When I shared the gospel with those two crocodile guys just before the elephant hit us, I had such a strong sense of joy in being able to do that, and I almost left that witnessing situation feeling like I was on cloud nine—and right after that, I got slammed.

As we push back the darkness, I see a direct connection that day. We can expect [to be] pushed back from the darkness in reaction and response. So pray for protection for all of us who are pushing back the darkness and that all praise goes to King Jesus.

What You Can Do

Donations to Alliance Great Commission Ministries ensure that our workers are able to continue pushing back the darkness in Asia Pacific and around the world.


Get Involved...


We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »


Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »


Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »