Busting up Rocks and Planting Trees

Our family recently moved to Sindou, Burkina Faso. It’s a picturesque little village in the shadow of some rock formations that would remind you of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Our house is on the top of a hill that must be a part of this ridge, because while our location has a great view, our yard is essentially a mix of rock, gravel and sand.
Besides telling God’s story here among our Muslim neighbors, we try to live it out. We’re trying to introduce some practices that will bolster nutrition and income for families here. In other words, we are gardening. More specifically we are planting trees—avocado and fruit trees—in our rocky yard.
It’s not the first time I’ve planted trees. When I worked in maintenance and grounds for our seminary, i planted some 200 trees—big ones in a month’s time. I dug pretty holes nice and deep with a couple of strokes of the back-hoe. At the time i though the clay of Tennessee to be poor soil compared to the rich chocolate we called dirt in Kansas. But oh what I’d give for some Tennessee clay to replace my Sindou rocky-top.
It takes me on average 4 hours of back-breaking work under the hot African sun to plant 1 tree here. I break rocks with a pick-axe and scoop out the bits with a shovel. When the hole gets deeper, i switch to a 6 foot pointed iron bar to splinter and pry bits of rock loose and then scoop out the pieces with hand trowel. I planned on comparing this process to getting my Muslim neighbors ready to hear the good news about Jesus—slowly breaking down their crystallized conceptions about Jesus. Much to my surprise, I’m finding my own heart full of rocks and thorny weeds. It turns out that banging away in a rock pile is just about the best way to start my morning before God, turning up a little soil where his word could take root and maybe even bear a little fruit one day.
Those monks were on to something.

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The Albino Camel

I ordered a kids book written by a Brit living in Burkina Faso–“Sophie and the Albino Camel.”  I just started but am already hooked.  The story is about an English girl living in northern Burkina.  She gets swept up into an adventure.  I can’t wait to read it to my own white kids trying to find a way and discover who they are in a sandy sea of darker faces.  The book recognizes the challenges of this cross-cultural life, grabs their hand and pulls them out on the floor to dance.  I know my kids will see themselves in the story.  Heck, i see myself in the story.  And i know it will open their eyes to the adventure around them.  Thank you Stephen Davies.  I want to write stories like that for my kids.  I want to tell God’s story that well to my Jula friends and neighbors.  May they–we be drawn further into that big story together.

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