I have been spending a lot more time in the Kisayhip Village, near our home in Nigeria. I’m slowly becoming more and more accepted in the community as I become a more regular visitor. The other day I walked in to find several children playing Red Rover and not one of them stopped to come over, they just continued to play and acknowledged my presence by smiling and waving. I enjoyed knowing that as I’ve become more familiar, they don’t feel the need to drop what they are doing to come greet me.
As I’ve spent more time in the village, I’ve begun to see more and more issues that I think need to be addressed…everything from marriages and childcare to medicine and personal hygiene. Each time I’m made aware of an issue I think, “If we could just help that, it will help everything.”
For example, of the approximate ten young men who come to bible study, five of them can’t read or write. I’m not talking about reading and writing in English, they can’t read or write at all, in any language. So, I start thinking…if they can’t read, they can’t study the bible on their own. If they can’t study the bible on their own and don’t go to church on Sunday because of work, when do they ever get any sort of teaching? If they don’t get any teaching, how do they apply it to their lives and take it back into their village? The cycle continues to spiral down.
What the Lord brought to my attention recently is that all of the issues the village is facing are “fruit” issues. They are what we see, taste and smell as we walk through the village. They need to be addressed, but addressing only the fruit is an endless task. If you don’t treat the root of a tree the fruit will always remain the same or simply be absent.
What is the root issue? How do we “treat” the roots?
Luke 13:6-9 is a parable Jesus tells in which the owner of a vineyard demands a tree to be cut down because it has not produced any fruit in 3 years. In verse 8 the vinedresser (man in charge of taking care of the tree) says, “…leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.”
I believe the root issue of the village, as with every community, is spiritual. The people need Jesus. They need to know who He is and what He did for them. They need to know what it means to be sons and daughters of God.
How do I figuratively dig around a village and fertilize it? All I know to do is pray and love. Please join me in praying for direction in this.