These African giant pouched rats may look hideous and repulsive yet they help save countless lives by detecting mines in Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
For their life-saving capabilities, they are called Hero Rats.
A Belgian Organization called APOPO trains these rats. The acronym in English means, “Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development”
The rats with their strong sense of smell and trainability provide a cheaper and more efficient way of detecting landmines. They are too light to detonate any pressure-activated mine. Their small size means that they can be transported easily to minefields anywhere. They are widely available, inexpensive to procure and have a relatively long lifespan of six to eight years.
In 2003, APOPO trained rats to detect tuberculosis (TB) in human sputum.
Currently, tuberculosis is detected through microscopy. A laboratory technician can process 40 sputum samples per day. But a trained rat can diagnose the same number of samples more swiftly in less than seven minutes.
No wonder they are regarded as Hero Rats.
Even though they may look ugly yet their God-given sense of smell can be trained to save human lives from deadly mines and diseases.
Just so is the hero of our faith. The great apostle Paul has been described as “A man of small stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked.” And Paul himself admits to having been “abnormally born” in I Corinthians 15:8.
But what stood out for Paul was not his outward hideous appearance but his inward faith and depth of intellect that inform our theology, instruct our doctrines and inspire our hope and mission in our world and history.
That’s what heroes usually are – their God-given capabilities for the sake of humanity.