Earlier this week, I (Josh) had the opportunity to drive over 100km south of Mahajanga to Ankarafantsika National Park with Daniel, an Eden Projects employee. We needed to deliver seeds to the nursery located in the park and planned to collect more seeds along the drive.
My initial excitement for the day quickly abated as we drove south of Mahajanga through a large deforested area that was recently re-burned. It was heartbreaking to see the damage to the land. Villagers often burn the already denuded land to promote new green shoots for cattle to feed. Sometimes they want to clear land for crops or simply to see their property. Whatever the reason, the result is a barren landscape and damaged land. Pardon the crude video, but it shows a small part of the destruction.
Many people have asked us: What does tree planting has to do with missionary work? Ultimately, both have to do with restoring broken relationships. Planting trees helps restore the broken relationship between people and Creation (the land). Missions helps restore the relationship with the Creator (God). Restoration of both is necessary. This isn't my concept - it was developed by Fuller Seminary professor Bryant Myers and discussed in several excellent books including here and here. But the weight and reality of this truth hit me over the head this week.
What a contrast when we finally reached the National Forest! The dry deciduous forest is teeming with life and variety. There is still poverty and many people take advantage of the park resources (and even start fires within the park), but the difference is obvious and palpable.
During our trip, we also collected a truckload of seed pods from Flamboyant, or Flame Trees. This tree is common in many countries but endangered in the wild in Madagascar due to deforestation. These seeds will be planted in Ankarafantsika and other planting sites later this season. And our prayer is that everyone involved in the process - from the children that helped pick up the seed pods in the village where we collected, to the tree planters, to those that support the work from afar, and to anyone that enjoys the brilliant display of the Flame Trees in bloom will be drawn closer to both creation and our amazing Creator.