I tend another garden at a plot graciously provided by a church up the street. A few months back, a handful of hopeful gardeners put up fencing around the plot, tilled up our little bits of earth in our appointed spots, planted our seeds and starts and watered and waited.
Yesterday it was more like I waited and watered.
While the community garden was well-designed in most aspects, we’ve had water issues from the get-go. I hear rumors of some kind of underground irrigation going in, but for now all we have is a series of hoses connected together to transport our water from its source–a faucet right in front of the church office–to our garden, which is several hundred feet up a grassy incline.
This patchwork hose has been an adequate solution until recently. Since it runs across the church parking lot, the hose takes a lot of abuse from passing cars, and our current hose sports a small geyser when the water’s turned on. Not only does this voluminous spray soak the parking lot, it reduces the water flow from the end of the hose chain to an annoying trickle.
This was the case when I arrived at the community garden last night. Blessed woman that I am, I have two plots to water. One in the upper left quadrant, the other just a few plots below on the left. I quickly realized that the wee trickle from the hose would not be sufficient for both plots–if I wanted to get this chore finished before I leave for Alaska on Friday.
But I came up with a plan–I placed the hose in strategic spots where it gave the surrounding veggies a good soak, then trotted down the hill to a pond not far from the garden and filled a 5 gallon bucket with water to lug back up to the second plot. After dumping the sludgy, tadpole-filled liquid on my thirsty beets and corn, I raced uphill to the first plot and repositioned the hose between the tomato and pepper plants. I repeated this process at least a dozen times until my vegetables were sufficiently watered (my apologies to all the tadpoles who gave their lives in the process–but you will make good fertilizer). It took me over an hour to accomplish what I normally finish in 15 minutes!
As I lugged the heavy water bucket up the hill, I remembered some of the stories the somali girls told Danielle about life in a refugee camp. Their dad made a garden, they said. The girls described how they watered the garden with drinking cups filled to the brim. If they did not make these long, oft-repeated trips in the searing heat to water their plants, the crops would die and there would be no food. Once, the girls told Danielle about a pet kitten their dad had given them. When food got scarce, however, the kitten starved to death, becoming part of the inevitable food chain.
I’ve found myself becoming a bit irritated with the somali girls lately, and my sweaty exercise in manual watering was a good reminder of where they’ve been. I’ve learned from experience not to place a cupcake-filled platter in front of them. Each girl will devour five apiece, then stuff a few more in their pockets for later. I’ve watched the younger girls take mouldering, mushy apples from my fruit bowl and try to hide them in a coat pocket as they go out the door.
Even though they now live in a land of plenty (comparatively speaking), they still aren’t certain there will be food to eat tomorrow.
On my fourth hike up the hill, I decided to always have my fruit bowl filled with fresh produce when the girls come . . .
Musing about Africa and water and life made me think of Stephen as I carried another bucket and emptied it out on the cucumbers and canteloupe. I injured myself during this haul, scraping my big toe on a rock and making it bleed. I barely dodged two angry bees and got so thirsty I momentarily considered drinking out of the presumed lead-saturated hose.
And in my minor discomfort, I wondered about the conditions Stephen faced as he trekked miles through the jungles to take the Living Water to those dying of thirst. Oppressive heat, lions, snakes, bugs, the LRA, lack of food and water, lack of sleep . . . any one of those would cause me to turn back home. And yet this young Sudanese man, compelled by the love of Christ, forsakes all comfort and safety on a regular basis to share God’s love with strangers.
I prayed for my future son-in-law as I made my journey to the watering hole and then back up the hill one last time. And I asked the Lord to help me ever be mindful of his sacrifice and discomfort as he follows the One who had no place to lay his head.
My garden watered, I hobbled–covered with dirt, sweat and blood–to my little red car and headed wearily for home. Upon my arrival, I made myself an iced latte and then took a shower before checking my email in my nice, air-conditioned house.
The grime washed away, but my garden revelations stayed with me–and even prompted me to make a donation to a wonderful ministry in Sudan, called “Make Way Partners.” Check out their website–God is doing amazing things in North Africa.
I love that the Lord used a thirsty garden plot in Oregon to turn my heart to Africa!
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