We planted a walnut tree in our garden in Central Asia.
As we sat in its meager shade (it’s still a small tree) my husband smiled and said: “Just think, one day our grandchildren will be able to climb this tree and enjoy a view over the whole city!” For a few moments I enjoyed the thought of a huge leafy tree with my grandchildren climbing it and then reality hit. Why did we plant a walnut tree? Our grandchildren will probably never come here for a visit to see it, never mind live in this house!
Why are we investing time and money here when it’s all temporary anyway? Who knows how long we will be allowed to continue living here? And yet God commanded the exiles living in Babylon to plant gardens and seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which He carried them into exile (Jeremiah 29:4-7).
When we first left to come to Central Asia, we packed up five suitcases to take with us and then built a shed in my parent’s garden—making sure that it was rain and insect proof—and stored the rest of our lives there in big plastic tubs. During our second home assignment we once again went through all our precious possessions which were literally being damaged by moth and rust and decided that it would be better for these things to be used rather than grow old waiting in boxes for us to need them someday. What followed were some of the most painful days of my life as we gave away the special gifts we had received at our wedding: our Canadian oak coffee table and so many other treasures that held worth because of the memories stored within them.
Getting rid of our possessions back home and planting trees and living life here has had me mulling over the question: “When we leave Central Asia, what will we leave behind?” We certainly won’t leave behind a shed filled with stuff in somebody’s garden, but what other treasures will we leave?
I love hearing from the local people here about the workers that have gone before us who have now returned to their passport countries. I hear stories like: “She taught me to quilt” or “She gave me this recipe” or “She taught me how to set a table for foreigners” and, of course, the best stories begin: “She taught me about Jesus.” These are the things those who have gone before us have left behind.
What will be left of us after we leave Central Asia? Hopefully there will be people here whose lives have been changed or at least have been affected from having known us and from knowing the One we’ve pointed them to.
And there will be a walnut tree growing in a garden on the outskirts of the city.
Beth is from the global South, and she loves the ocean and cold Christmas dinner on a hot day around the pool. She is married to an adventurer, and they have three wonderfully unique children.