The Elephant Herd

When we were invited to a mentoring event at Dunwoody United Methodist Church recently, an elephant herd stole the show! Under the leadership of Pat Morgan, a lay leader at DUMC, their 7 male mentors have now mentored 115 men with more groups underway. But their women’s Titus2 program has also been thriving. In fact, when their mentor got up to say a few words, her girls dashed to the front, locked arms and announced themselves as the “elephant herd.” They got the name from this Facebook post by Jen Hatmaker . . .

A few months ago, my girl Nichole Nordeman sent me a picture and a story. 

It’s about female elephants. You know, as all good stories begin. See, in the wild, when a mama elephant is giving birth, all the other female elephants in the herd back around her in formation. They close ranks so that the delivering mama cannot even be seen in the middle. They stomp and kick up dirt and soil to throw attackers off the scent and basically act like a pack of badasses.

They surround the mama and incoming baby in protection, sending a clear signal to predators that if they want to attack their friend while she is vulnerable, they’ll have to get through 40 tons of female aggression first. 

When the baby elephant is delivered, the sister elephants do two things: they kick sand or dirt over the newborn to protect its fragile skin from the sun, and then they all start trumpeting, a female celebration of new life, of sisterhood, of something beautiful being born in a harsh, wild world despite enemies and attackers and predators and odds.

Scientists tell us this: They normally take this formation in only two cases – under attack by predators like lions, or during the birth of a new elephant.

This is what we do, girls. When our sisters are vulnerable, when they are giving birth to new life, new ideas, new ministries, new spaces, when they are under attack, when they need their people to surround them so they can create, deliver, heal, recover . . . we get in formation. We close ranks and literally have each others’ backs. You want to mess with our sis? Come through us first. Good luck. 

And when delivery comes, when new life makes its entrance, when healing finally begins, when the night has passed and our sister is ready to rise back up, we sound our trumpets because we saw it through together. We celebrate! We cheer! We raise our glasses and give thanks.

I have this picture saved in three different places and in a frame. (I also have an elephant ring given to me and my girlfriends from Tara Porter Livesay – it tells me: never alone.) Maybe you need this too. If you are closing ranks around a vulnerable sister, or if your girls have you surrounded while you are tender, this is how we do it.

There is no community like a community of women. 

Photo Cred: David Yarrow Photography

Men, we can learn a thing or two from our female cohorts. Instead of leaving a brother alone when he’s going through something, maybe we should gather around and protect him until he gets his wheels back under him. Instead of ignoring him or running from him, maybe we should wake up and run to him. Instead of talking behind his back, maybe we should have his back.

Scripture: One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

Mentor Tip: Do all you can to create a ‘band of brothers’ during your mentoring season. When your group is over, your guys will lead as they are led. Send them out with a clear vision of guys living in community with one another as friends closer than brothers.

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Photo cred: David Yarrow Photography

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