When I read "The Little Prince" 12 years ago, I loved the baobabs because they were being tenderly taken care of. When I first tasted the chalky, melt in your mouth fruit of the baobab that we (numerous Cameroonians and my MK student) had made fall after many failed attempts balancing awkwardly on strangely balanced boulders in the remote north of Cameroon, I loved the tree for my experience with it, for the sweet taste the thought of it brings to my senses. I loved it for its bristling shape jutting up into the North African landscape. I loved the baobab in my front yard for all it reminded me of, and all that it represents.
To see the tree lying there on it's side and slowly becoming chunks of wood to be burned and forgotten brought tears to my eyes. I prayed that I would understand these tumultuous emotions. I don't want to make little things big or big things little. I want my perspective on the world to be formed by my Creator and close to his way of seeing things. What came to mind?
Earlier in the week, I sat in the reception area of our office, looking at the list of 510 languages while the devotional time was finishing. That pesky water faucet in my eyes sprung a leak as I imagined so many speakers, not being able to hear God speaking their language, and not realizing the value of the language to communicate with God. The urgency to get the Word to them before they abandoned this treasure for a language that would never communicate to them as deeply, and probably not even to their grandchildren the same way their own language would swept me up in prayer, picking at random the names and reading them up to God. Maybe that is the baobab for me. It represents the languages of Africa, uniquely African, that people think are in the way of progress. People think the baobab hinders cars from moving freely, and people think their language hinders them from being educated and prospering. What they forget is that the baobab will never grow there again, as their language will never rise again once they have stopped speaking it to their children for the sake of equipping their children for the future. What kind of future will it be? The life, vibrancy, Nigerianness of their culture will be stripped away with the discarding of the language just as my yard will now be missing the fruit, greenness, and the beauty of the baobab.
Now that the tree is down, I thought maybe we could find a way to use the wood, to re-purpose the tree. I know nothing of the quality of the baobab wood, but surely something beautiful could be made of it. That is part of what our department does with language too. We try to help people think of how they can use their language in new and creative ways to connect with God. How can they take their language, which has been strictly used in home and market environments, and bring it into the body of Christ where they can connect deeply with the Most High as they connect with those around them at home and in the market.
These are my lessons from the baobab, now only a memory.
Please pray for the thousands of people represented by the hundreds of numbers who need to understand the purpose God has for their "baobab," their language.
Pray for the Scripture Engagement department as we help people to enjoy and engage with Scripture in their language.
Pray for all of SIL Nigeria as we strive to help language communities have access to God through His Word in a language that speaks to their hearts.