I talk a lot about one's God-given purpose in life. The Bible states, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” - Jeremiah 1:5. So, God knows us long before we are formed, and, even then, He has plans for each and every one of us. I like having purpose, not just purpose, but, an "ordained by God" purpose and plan for my life.
In an earlier blog I shared my childhood exposure to all things safari that seems to have led me to where I am today. And, not just today, but, through the rest of my days, because I know God's hand is the One that ordained that path.
English primatologist and anthropologist, Jane Goodall, seems to have had a similar experience. Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall was born April 3, 1934 in London, England. Her father was a businessman and her mother a novelist. As a child, instead of a teddy bear, Jane's father gave her a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee. Her mother's friends were horrified with the toy, thinking it would cause Jane nightmares. Even today, Jubilee still sits on Jane's dresser in London.
Like myself, Jane had always been passionate about animals and Africa. In 1957, that passion brought her the the farm of a friend in the Kenyan highlands. From there she obtained a position as secretary of Louis Leakey, the notable Kenyan archaeologist and palaeontologist. Leakey then sent Jane to Olduvai Gorge in Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania). In 1958 she would study primate behavior with Osman Hill and primate anatomy with John Napier in London. Leakey raised funds and in 1960 Jane went to Gombe Stream National Park, becoming the first of what would come to be called, the Trimates, or Leakey's Angels, a group of three women (Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas) selected by Leakey for hominid studies in their own environment.
Jane married twice, first in 1964, to wildlife photographer Hugo van Lawick. The couple had one son, born in 1967, they divorced in 1974. (Hugo died in 2002 and was buried at the place his tent had stood for thirty years in his camp in the Serengeti.) Jane married, secondly, to Derek Bryceson, in 1975, who died of cancer in 1980.
Sadly, when asked if she believes in God, Jane said in September 2010: "I don't have any idea of who or what God is. But I do believe in some great spiritual power. I feel it particularly when I'm out in nature. It's just something that's bigger and stronger than what I am or what anybody is. I feel it. And it's enough for me." I guess this is proof that you do not have to be a believer to still fulfill God's purpose for your life. As Peter said in Acts 10, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:"
Jane is best known for her study of chimpanzee social and family life. She is the only known human to ever be accepted into a chimpanzee society. She continues her efforts to protect the chimpanzee and their habitat. Jane has won many awards and honors for her work, has appeared in many wildlife films, and been the subject of books and television programs.
I do wonder what she could have done in life if she ever found out who God is. Hopefully, she will discover that truth before it is too late.