“Why am I out here in the desert?” John asked us in his heavy Ethiopian accent while a sly smirk inched towards his cheek. He was all too keen to answer his own question so we kind of shrugged. We had come out into the desert this morning to pray and spend some time together, but I think John had maybe caught onto something else. “That is what I asked myself” he continued, “and then I saw this tree”. He motioned towards a lone tree sprawling towards the desert sky and told this story:
“I see this tree, and it is alone. There are other trees here too, but they are all alone. I wonder, why don’t they come together? What keeps them from coming together? What would happen if they did?” I decided interjecting with what I learned in 9th grade Biology class about competition among plants for water and space wouldn’t be wise, so I remained quiet and tried to understand what John was getting at. “They don’t come together because it is hard for them to move. There are rocks on their roots, we would need to help them. But if they did come together, this place would no longer be a desert. That is why we are here, in the desert. To help them.”
John ended abruptly with a profound silence. The rest of us slowly gave nods of agreement, we understood. That is why we are here, in this country. There are believers, even amidst hardship and persecution they are here. We’ve met them. They’re scattered, often afraid, and sometimes unmotivated. The need here is to bring them together. To see them become a forest that bears fruit, provides shade, life, and drives back the desert. John’s parable was an astounding metaphor to the spiritual reality of life and work here. I hope it helps you better understand what it is like spiritually here, I know it helped me. Please join us in praying that the believers here would unite in one Spirit and that fear and disunity would have no place.
[This is the abridged version of a parable unknowingly told by John, a fellow worker here of Ethiopian descent, he’s really cool!]