Yesterday a tree snatched the roof rack on our truck and held so tightly that we dismembered it. The thumping and trashing and snapping of the tree couldn’t match our 4×4’s horsepower. The branch held strong and fast until it could only cling with dying strength as its life peeled away with each forward inch we drove.
Three men were required to detach the branch from our truck and give it a proper burial.
One of my favorite parts of the African landscape is the tree. I simply love the trees and yesterday in the village of Mandala, I planted a little baby mango tree with a young boy named Melin.
Like the mountains and the sea, trees are stronger than we are. They stand when we fall and endure when we pass away. But trees are also givers. They give beauty and shade and fruit. They also willingly give their lives for lumber with each cutting blow of the axe.
Unfortunately, all to many trees in Malawi have given in this way. Malawi’s population is greater than that of Zambia, Namibia and Botswana combined and it is smaller than any one of those countries. In fact, Malawi has one of the highest population densities in Africa and it is continuing to grow.
This density has demanded much from the environment. The vast majority of people in Malawi live without electricity and hence, they use wood as a fuel source. It is estimated that an unsustainable 30% of Malawi’s forests have disappeared over the last 10 years alone (50,000 hectares are being cleared each year, mostly for fuel).
A local NGO here is doing their best to change this. They are planting 100 mango and orange trees in each of the communities that they support. Yesterday, I got to join in the fun. The whole village of Mandala participated in the planting from the chiefs to the children.
The event was about transforming mindsets. Living in the shadow of death and dying, this is a welcome effort.
Each child in the village was assigned to plant a tree and adopt it thereafter. This teaches them to appreciate their environment and to invest in it and understand the value of the tree. The trees we planted were tiny baby seedlings and will need a lot of tending to. By giving the children the responsibility for the tree, it becomes part of them. The tree is used as a way for them to understand their own growth. It helps them to see a world different from what their parents saw. They will grow up with trees around them and observe the changing culture and environment. And isn’t this the important part? All animals can take and eat the fruit. But as humankind, we can adore and before we take, and adore we must. Taking is not the only way. Giving is built into the universe. As humankind, we must first give adoration and then take.
Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. First you need to plant the seed. Then you have to nurture it and once its germinated, help it grow.
A young seedling is like this. A caretaker must be assigned to protect it; else the animals may devour it. A caretaker must water it; else it will dry up and die. The tree must be pruned; else it may fruit too early and become weak. Then it needs to grow its own strength, and this takes time.
Melin is the caretaker of my little baby mango tree. Together they will grow. Together they will face danger and thirst for water. They will need some pruning and time to build strength.
I trust that at the appointed time, both will bear fruit and live an abundant life.
My prayer for Melin is for him to give to his tree before he takes. It is my hope that he will first give of his adoration and only afterwards taste the sweetness of its gift.