Missionary Diary: Dog evangelism in South Africa

Bridget is a missionary with SIM, serving in South Africa, her home country. She studied at SMBC (2010-2012) in Sydney, Australia, before returning home. She serves as a women’s worker at Holy Trinity, Gardens, Cape Town. 

“I am a sculptor and an atheist,” she said, her hair flicking a bit wildly in the cool evening air, our dogs sniffing around our feet.

That was my first proper meeting with Tammy. My husband had exchanged pleasantries with her a few times before. It was a Sunday evening after “work”, and she had somehow asked me what I had been doing that day. After a day of being around people I had one of those moments – do I have the energy to explain what I do? She asked and I told her: “I work for a church. I read the Bible with people, with people who are enquiring about Christianity.” That’s when I got her first reply.

She continued, “I am an animal lover and I don’t like the way Christians treat animals.” I mumbled some reply, at the same time darting a look at my dog Ruby. Do I love her enough, I thought? But the doubt was dismissed as quickly as it came. My heart enlarges to bursting when I think about Ruby.

Suddenly she says, “Please pray” …

She proceeded to tell me about a neighbour across the road who has a pit bull puppy in his backyard. He never lets the puppy out and never talks to it, and she is trying to get the SPCA to come and take the puppy away. She is visibly distressed. Suddenly she says, “Please pray. Please pray that the dog can get away from him (the owner).” I listened and ended up giving her my number so that we could exchange news if I heard any cries from the dog. I told her I would pray.

A few days later, I went past the pit bull owner’s solid wood gate. Peeping through the crack, Ruby and I called to the dog, only to see the owner standing next to the puppy. We leopard-crawled away as only a daschund and a human can do.

Almost two weeks later, we again met Tammy in the park opposite our home and again she regaled me with stories and asked me to pray. So I said, “Well, let’s pray now,” and I prayed with her there and then in the park. She proceeded to tell me how her family had put her off Christianity – she gave a fixed smile and explained (in better words than I am using) that they were always sickeningly happy but that she could somehow not relate to this.

The next day I came along the path to see her standing talking to a man and his pit bulldog. She introduced me and I shook his hand (or elbowed him). We made small talk, he seemed congenial.

Later, I got a voice note from her saying how lovely it was that I had bumped into them and perhaps it was just the education the guy needed on how to raise a puppy. “Please continue to pray,” she said to “soften his heart” and thanked me for the prayer. Somewhere she had heard the lingo.

Pray that the Lord continues to work through Ruby in ways like these.

I sent a message back. “Hey, Tammy, it’s the Lord who hears our prayers. He is mighty! And loves his creation and sees right into the backyard where the dog is. I am reading through the book of Mark with a friend on Zoom if you would like to join us. It’s once a week for about 40 minutes and is very low-key. Mark begins by saying, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the son of God.” The rest of Mark explores who Jesus and what he came to do. It is an exciting read.”

My husband read my message and softly snorted. I kind of agreed – would someone even reply to a message like that?

But God had other things in mind. Tammy wrote back that it sounded interesting and asked if we could discuss it when we next met.

We bumped into each other again and discussed it – as well as laughing at the idea of using my husband’s kayak to white-water raft down the man-made canal near our home. It had been raining so much and was flooding down. The idea rather thrilled her. Laughing, she agreed to meet on Zoom.

We met once before I went on leave and read Mark 1: 1-8. “What do you think this book is going to be about?” I asked. She said, “Well, it’s clearly a metaphor for a wilderness experience.” I read the first verse again. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the son of God.” “That’s quite a hectic claim,” I said. “It’s going to be about Jesus,” she said.

Pray that the Lord continues to work through Ruby in ways like these.