This is an amazing true story from Mombasa in Kenya about a hippo and a tortoise.
A hippo (hippopotamus) is a big African animal with no hair on its body, which lives in and near rivers. It can be aggressive, especially if it thinks its babies are going to be attacked. Young hippos like to stay with their mothers for four years.
A tortoise, even the biggest one is much smaller than a fully grown hippo. It has a hard shell to keep it safe from enemies. When a tortoise thinks it is going to be attacked, it puts its legs and head inside the shell. Some tortoises can live for over 100 years.
Pushed down the river
It all began on 26 December 2004, when the tsunami waves hit the coast of Kenya. A hippo, now given the name Owen, was pushed by the water down the Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean. He was a baby hippo, weighing just 300 kilograms. First he was pushed out to sea, then the big waves took him back again to the shore. He had lost his mother and was suddenly all alone.
Some wildlife rangers rescued him. They took him to a wildlife park where animals are looked after. At the park, there was a giant tortoise called Mzee about 100 years old. The baby hippo, looking for an animal to be his mother, found the tortoise. The hippo adopted the tortoise as its mother and there was soon a strong bond between them.
Now they eat and sleep together. The hippo follows the tortoise in the same way that young hippos follow their mothers. If a person goes near to the tortoise, Owen the hippo becomes aggressive. He is keeping the tortoise safe, just as he would if thetortoise was his real hippo mother. This story is so well-known in Kenya that a postage stamp has been printed with Owen and Mzee.
A song was written about them called 'Will You Be My Mum?'
Adoption means to take a child into a family and to look after it as if it is their own child. Many countries have laws which make it legal for this to happen, with papers to sign that say a child is now part of the new family. The child becomes a full member of the family, just like a child born to the parents.
This sometimes happens when a married couple cannot have children of their own. Sometimes parents of the child may have died, or the child's mother may not be able to bring it up.
This is how it is with God, who wants to be a father to us. We can be far away from him, just as the baby hippo was far away from his mother. We are pushed, not by the water, but by the things we do wrong. These can keep us from knowing God. God is waiting for us to turn away from our wrong-doing. Then he will be our father. It is as though he adopts us and gives us all the love and care that a good father gives his child.
Just as the hippo and the tortoise came together, so God is with us and loves us like a good father. When God 'adopts' us, he promises us a home with him in heaven when we die, and life with him for ever. But we can know God now as our father who loves us and helps us with our problems. He can give us peace in our minds. We also have this wonderful time to look forward to, when we will be with him in his home in heaven.
He loves us now
The Christians' holy book, the Bible, tells us that God loves us, even before we begin to love him. "God has shown us how much he loves us – it was while we were still sinners (people who do wrong) that Jesus died for us."*
God does not like the wrong things we do, but he loves us, the people he has made. He loves us so much that he sent Jesus into our world to take the punishment that we should have for our wrong doings. He died the death of a criminal – the punishment given to very bad people who break the law – even though he never did anything wrong. God does not wait until we do good things before he starts to love us. He loves us now and wants to be our friend and helper.
* You can find these words in the part of the Bible called Romans, chapter 5, verse 8.