By Frank J. Senters

A few years back my family and I were visiting family in Carthage Mississippi. Oh what a wonderful time we were having. We sang on Saturday night down at the church. There was no service just a bunch of the family went down, and we took turns singing gospel songs. Have you heard of the verse, Make a joyful noise unto the Lord? Well we were doing just that. The next day we had church on Sunday, we visited a nursing home on Monday, we went to an area pastors meeting one day, and we were just having fun being together.

One afternoon we all decided to go to Jackson to a museum where they have an old church building, an old store, school, Mississippi’s biggest rocking chair and lots of other neat things. After that we had a picnic lunch, and my pastor cousin Mike said “lets go to the zoo.” Well believe it or not, my wife had never been to a zoo in her life. We thought this sounded like a great idea. So we went.

When we got to the zoo, we found the price of the zoo was something like 6 dollars for adults and 3 for children or something like that. It was not the price per person that was high; it was the fact that there are 6 in my family, 6 in Brother Mikes family, my 2 in laws, my brother in law and his wife and 2 children and a friend and some of Mikes kids had brought friends. We started adding up the cost of the zoo, and we were looking at around 80-100 dollars to see the monkeys.

As we stood there the lady at the window said is this a group rate? Pastor Mike talked with her and told her he was a pastor and that this was really family that had come to visit and not really a group, but large enough to be one. The lady at the window charged us the group rate which was only about 30 dollars for the bunch. Evidently God wanted us there. You might giggle now, but wait.

We had only been their for about 15 minutes. We messed around this little play area up near the trinket store. As we started to go into the zoo, we went down a path and down a hill. Just then I heard a women yell “help please somebody help”. Pastor Mike and I took off running toward the lady. As we topped the hill, she was pointing off into an open area about 100 ft. away. Now honestly folks, I expected to be coming to the aid of some kid who had his head caught between the monkey bars or some little girl with her foot wedged in something. But what I saw I will never forget.

In the open field I saw a full grown female cheetah coming down the path jumping up and down with a little boy in her jaws by the arm. I don’t know why but I kept running toward them. I had no idea what I was going to do. When my wife had heard the lady calling for help, she yelled “Frank come help”, when she saw the cheetah she said “no Frank not you.” ( Women they can never make up their mind.) Anyway as I ran toward the cheetah, she dropped the boy and was standing straddled over him. When she did so, I also stopped and bent down on one knee. Now I don’t know for sure if the cheetah looked at me as a threat, or a bigger meal, but she still stopped.

The young boy who’s name is Marshall Baily was about to get up, so I said son just lay still, don’t move just lay perfectly still. He yelled to me “your going to have to help me mister.” I can still hear those words today, and they always bring tears to my eyes. I felt as helpless as he did at that moment, but I couldn’t tell him that. I told him help was on the way just lay flat and be still. About that time the cheetah bent down and nudged the boy with her nose, sniffing around at the back of his neck. I had no idea what she was doing. Suddenly she took the boy’s Atlanta Braves hat (that he had just received a few days earlier from his dad as a present,) off the boy’s head. Marshal started to reach for the hat, so I said, “Son let her have the hat, I’ll get you another one ok?” He put his hand back down. Just then I noticed two men walking up on either side of me. I said guys if you are not with the zoo I would not go out their. They both said we are. At almost that same second the cheetah took the hat, jumped off the boy and ran to the open field to play with the hat. One of the men ran and took Marshall to a building. I began to weep. One guy from the zoo said, “Sir, do you realize you may very well have just saved that boy’s life?” I told him God saved that boys life, I was just the tool he used.

I, to this day have no idea why I ran toward an animal that I had no idea about. I found out later that everyone else in the zoo including my family had been placed in protective buildings. The only people outside were Marshall Baily, the cheetah,Pastor Mike (who by the way went off to the side and began to pray), my brother in law, (who snapped the only pictures of the incident, and they were published all over the world including the National Enquirer {you know nosy neighbors have to know, …or was that inquiring minds….oh well}) and people that worked for the zoo. Oh yes and of course the cheetah.

Remember him losing the hat? I looked hard to find one but could not. I talked with his mom and said if she would find him one I would pay for it. She said the Atlanta Braves had heard of the story and had sent him not only a new hat, but a shirt and jacket too. Our God is Good.

What had happened was the cheetah was in heat. The boys had wondered off from there group and were on a feeding or service road behind the cages. Somehow the cheetah had climbed over the fence and chased down Marshall.

I have told this story at the end of sermons and watched people come under conviction. I tell them how satan is just like that cheetah. You might think you are safe from his grasp but you are not. He is walking around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The world is out there crying “your going to have to help me mister.” God used me to save the life a small boy in the grip of the cheetah. I pray he allows me to rescue the life of someone perishing in the grips of satan.

Written and submitted by Frank J. Senters [email protected]

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This page last updated: 1/1/98