Lessons from the Golden Rain Tree

This is a barren stretch,
this rocky dry savanna:
land deprived of rain
for half a year, parched
now and waiting,
waiting for the skies
to fill with roiling water
and at last to crack
apart, thunderous, and
spill down blessing.

A golden fountain, meanwhile,
dribbles petals, lemon 
yellow, in soft carpet
all around.  Leaves have yet
to follow; blossoms
are the joyous waking
of the tree from the
bare fast of harmattan -- 
dry wind, no drink, heat
increasing daily.

What woke her? what
rich stores of energy
does she access for
bursting into bloom 
without a leaf in sight?
She hugs the packed
red ridge, tenacious,
roots tunneling wide
and shooting children
upwards to the air.

Together they become
a thick grove, thriving,
a blast of color shouting
silent courage in 
the face of drought.
And green will come,
before the rains,
hope predicting that
it’s time, fruitful in
the midst of famine.

We who travel far 
from irrigated lands
to live in stony soil
have just one source
of like resiliency:
our networked roots,
clinging hard to Rock,
soaking up live Water
and flowering before
the longed-for rains.

Today is a “Day of Remembrance” for me. I just crossed the threshold to a new decade of life, and that is not something to take for granted. It is a grace. And I am grateful!

During the 40+ years we were in Côte d’Ivoire, living in Ferkessédougou, the golden rain tree became a symbol of resilience and spiritual health. Having come this far, I can look back and see ways in which it informed me on the journey. Let me explain why:

In order to grow strong, the golden rain tree needs to be planted in unfertile, dry soil! My dad found this out when he tried repeatedly to plant golden rain tree seeds taken from the long seed pods dropped to the ground. None of them grew into trees, in spite of the rich fertile soil where he planted them, making sure to water them. He did some research and finally could explain why we would see lush rows of golden rain trees along the edges of gravel roads, often sprouting up from rocky red or gray soil. They were fruitful only in tough spaces!

My courtyard in town had one section with that kind of soil, the yard between my bedroom window and the wall separating us from the road beyond. Grass rarely grew there, even in rainy season, just hardy weeds. Year after year the golden rain tree grove there prospered, with new trees sprouting from roots creeping horizontally from the tree trunks. I found out that they are similar to ash trees, bearing their “children” from their roots. 

But they have other roots that go deep down through the dirt to where there are underground water sources. They do not have to be by a visible river or wetland, because their living water comes from where they are grounded.

Maybe you are already seeing the spiritual parallels. 

That grove became my place of refreshment on early Saturday mornings. I had been drawn to the practices of silence and solitude, which lead to listening to what the Lord may be saying, and I needed a private space in a community where privacy is rare. So I told my close friends, family, and the yard worker that if they saw me sitting under the golden rain trees in the morning, I was not to be disturbed unless it was urgent.

Mission life had many long dry seasons. In the early years, just figuring out the Nyarafolo language and increasing a little bit in fluency was a marathon run. Sometimes relationships were a challenge that made the environment feel ambushed by thorns or weeds. It took years of “planting seed” before we finally began to rejoice in harvest.

I would sit in the grove in the dry harmattan air in December through February, contemplating branches just as bare of foliage as trees in Detroit during winter months. But I knew that during the first weeks of March, before the rains began, suddenly there would be grape-like clusters of glorious gold flowers bursting into bloom on the trees. And eventually the petals would fall to the ground making a golden carpet as the green leaves took over above. The birds would be singing and I would be marveling at this beauty that had come out of the long dry season. And why could it come? Because the tree was deeply rooted in the source of its life water.

That was how I had to live to be fruitful and to be resilient after a dry stretch: rooted in my Living Water. Even though all around me there was drought, I was not thirsty. And when the timing was right, I would see the blossoms come.

The season of golden rain glory was like other seasons of mission life, such as when we saw real growth in brothers and sisters, and new siblings coming into the Family—or when working with my translation team, we delved into key terms or challenging passages and found wonderful solutions. Sometimes it was welcoming a pastor’s family into our home for a while, sharing life and growing close, loving on their children. There were also moments when conflicts were resolved, friendships renewed. Precious seasons.

Retirement is similar. I am like a long-lived golden rain tree now, with my children full grown and flourishing with children of their own or bringing beauty to the spaces where they’ve become rooted. There are times that seem like drought, like being on crutches with a broken ankle or homebound during the pandemic. But through it all, when Life is flowing through you, you keep on thriving. The Lord gives purpose wherever we are placed. And I am deeply grateful.

When we retired, the Nyarafolo team gave us a plaque with a verse inscribed on it (in Nyarafolo) that truly resonates with me:

They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green (Ps. 92:14 NAS)

(Okay, some of you may say they are “sappy” but you know what is meant: they will constantly have all the nourishment and water that they need flowing through them!)

And the next verse underlines the purpose of these old people:

To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. (Ps. 92:15 NAS)

And that is what the Father keeps affirming for me: even in old age, I am a testimony to what he can do with an ordinary woman, and how he can continue to keep me growing and “green,” because I ma firmly rooted in him.

Published by Linnea Boese

After spending most of my life in Africa, as the child of missionaries then in missions with my husband, I am now retired and free to use my time to write! I am working on publishing poetry and on writing an autobiography. There have been many adventures, challenges and wonderful blessings along the way -- lots to share!

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