Tuesday, March 4th, 2008
I don’t know when I’ve been so tired–and humbled. We left the house at 6 am to drive to the edge of the escarpment leading down to the Rift Valley, which is wide, deep, and distinct here. We waited at the top for women who would be walking down into the valley to collect fire wood. They would already have been walking 2-3 kilometers, then it was another 3-4 kilometer walk (not the right word) down rocky, dusty semi-paths to find a place where there was still wood to be found.
Hill and valley as far as you can see used to be covered with forest and rich land, maybe just 30 years ago. Now it is all eroded down to grass, rocks, scrub, and gullies. The firewood the women collect, we would call kindling. That’s all that’s left now.
Here’s the humbling part. We went down too, but not as far as the women. Going down, Talitha was glad for a helping hand several times when the slope was steep and the rocks slippery underfoot. But she was energized on the way back–way ahead of me.
By the time I was about halfway back up, I was testing the bench qualities of boulders about every 30 feet. And I was carrying nothing. I hope not to do this again for a long time, if ever. But these women, some in their 70s, carry 40-50 lbs of wood on their backs up the escarpment 2-3 times a week. Many women spend 30 hours a week collecting firewood and water. Around that they do all that a woman does to care for her household. This includes cooking over a fire, while I just turn a knob.
You could hardly ask for a more clear illustration of how much Care of Creation is needed, in particular here, for the planting of trees to renew the land and to help people live more productive lives.
On the way home we stopped at a school where one Bethlehem team helped to build a water tank where water is caught from roof rain run-off. Another Bethlehem team built a fence around the tree nursery there–very young saplings that are nurtured by water from the tank. Dozens of fruit trees are ready to be sent home with students who have been instructed how to plant these in their yards. Other types of trees will be suitable to grow for firewood.
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