I just returned from Venezuela and will write more about my trip in a couple of days, but wanted to share this reflection. It was one of those therapuetic experiences that God is good enough to give us once in a while. As many of you are aware, this is the organization where our family served for a number of years prior to coming to Costa Rica.
I arrived at the children’s home while the boys were still at church. It was joyous seeing a truck coming down the hill filled with children sticking their heads out of the windows. As it got closer a couple of the faces became familiar, but even if I wouldn’t have known a soul, just the fact that there were children living in this place was good enough for me. As the truck pulled up, the kids jumped out. Some ran up to greet me, others ran off. It was good to see some smiling faces. As the kids ate, I was able to walk the premises and meet with a few of the leaders. I touched the walls of homes with affection and hiked the property over, as if I were touching someone I loved, yet hadn’t seen for quite some time. The trees, bushes, buildings, benches, shovels became objects that carried a value I cannot not easily relate. One tree in particular caught my eye. I walked over to it and talked to it then waited in silence for it to respond. But it had already responded. It had responded over the years. Nearly five years ago I and one of the teenagers living in a home on this property attempted to rid the tree forever. You see there was a trunk that appeared to be dead…killed by parasites, lack of attention, dead and taking up space. We worked together throughout the day attempting to rid the obstacle. After nearly a day’s work, there laid the trunk, beaten, bruised, exposed and left for someone else’s hatchet in the future. The tree trunk won the fight to remove it from the earth. Its roots laid bare for all to see, but there was some strength left in that old tree. Something prevented it from being taken from its birth place; something was deeply grounded into the red Venezuelan soil. In time I said to myself “that too would die.” After several months I revisited that trunk thinking maybe I would give it a go once again. Maybe those old roots would finally give way to the inevitableness, to the
end that we must all one day face. To my surprise there was small green stem growing out of the trunk. At first I thought it was moss, or perhaps one of the very parasitical plants that had sucked the very life out of it. In taking a closer look it became obvious that the very trunk I had sought to remove forever from the place of its birth had not fully given up on its being and fulfilling its purposes. That small stem grew ever so slowly over several months but remained an insignificant growth on a trunk that had served its purposes long ago. After our family left Venezuela, I had forgotten about that tree trunk there in the red soil. It had been forgotten by the very person that sought to remove it from its place of birth. This recent trip to Venezuela gave me the opportunity to once again visit the place where children play. Children who once remained silent now play near that trunk on most days of the week, passing it by without any knowledge of its history. As I looked from afar appreciating the new trees that had recently been planted I noticed from afar an old trunk with new life. Impressive life . . . life that did not just live for itself, but for a greater purpose. As I approached it, I noticed the small fruits beginning to hang from its branches. It must have been fifteen feet tall, looking down upon me from where it stood. The old trunk had given new life for all to enjoy. The avocado tree now stands proud and beautiful. Peering down upon the old trunk reminded me of how far it had come. Its old trunk, now mostly rotten from insects and exposure was rough and brittle. The new trunk was now taking over, protruding from the bottom of the old trunk to remind me of its old state. While the tree is now flourishing with hope and purpose, it is not hard to find the place of its pain. There for everyone to see. It is a reminder of the pain that it has seen.
The Creator spoke to me through that tree as I pondered the way they work. I am saddened by the thought of one child not being protected and helped to flourish, but the very maker of that tree spoke to me out of their patient response to my doubts and anger. The maker of that beautiful avocado tree spoke to me as I looked upon the beauty and resilience of their creation. As children played around the trunk, I wondered if the very purpose of this new yet old creation was to give to the very ones with whom it might most be sympathetic? The children know what it means to be exposed and bruised.
I now ask the question: What helped to regain its life and purpose? Prior to that long and fruitless day of seeking to remove it from its place, the tree remained in a neutral state, alive, but not fulfilling its purpose. While I am not a botanical expert, I would guess that I was part of the very solution to its now hopeful state. As I took the hatchet to its roots and sought to pry life from it, something within that very trunk was awakening. Something was moved within the root system that had remained so silent for so long. The resiliency of that old tree now shouts to the world that it is ALIVE again.
The very boy who worked with me, now a twenty-one year old young man, now a leader in the community, walked up and said to me later on that day, “Greg do you remember that tree trunk? Did you see the avocados growing on that tree?” I nodded my head, unable to speak. There was the answer . . . I understood and heard the very words of God.