My husband Matthew is writing a book that shares the gospel by following the trail of trees through the Bible. So when Ryan Bennett, our Blessed Earth Tennessee director, took a group to Haiti in December, we were thrilled to learn that they would be planting trees.
Ryan took a team of 11 to Gressier, Haiti, about 20 miles west of Port au Prince. In the 2010 earthquake, 90 percent of structures in Gressier were leveled and most trees were either uprooted or snapped off.
The team focused on three primary jobs. In the mornings, they worked on constructing a kitchen, guesthouse, and maintenance building on the church grounds. In the afternoons, they spent time with the school children, playing games and sharing gifts while explaining the gift of hope we have in Jesus.
Evenings were reserved for tree planting. At dusk, the team visited neighborhoods surrounding the church, bringing Bibles and fruit trees: mango, breadfruit, citrus, cherry, and apricot. They knocked on doors and asked if they could plant a tree in the homeowner’s yard. If the villager said yes, they discussed the importance of finding a place where the soil was rich, where sunlight hit it, and where it could receive water. These conditions would help the tree grow big and strong and produce fruit.
While preparing the site, Ryan explained how our lives are like trees. If we want to produce fruit, we need to make sure our soil is fertile, we have good exposure to the sun/Son, and that we are nourished with living water. The team offered the homeowners a Bible, since the Word is to our souls what water is to the trees. Many times, Ryan was asked into the house to pray with the family and share the gospel.
Development experts believe that the cycle of poverty in Haiti—the poorest country in the western hemisphere—will not be broken until the land is reforested. Without trees, topsoil erodes, crops fail, and children die from hunger and disease. Trees, literally, give life.
Similarly, the cycle of impoverished spirits—in Haiti and our own neighborhood—will not be broken until our hearts are watered with the living Word of God. It is no accident that the Bible begins with the Tree of Life in Eden and ends with the Tree of Life in heaven, which bears fruit in every season and has leaves that heal the nations. At the center of our faith is Jesus, the new Adam, who died on a tree to give us life.
Ryan’s team planted about 100 fruit trees in Haiti—and many more seeds of faith. This spring, we hope you will join us in planting trees of hope (physical as well as spiritual), wherever God has placed you.
Nancy Sleeth is co-founder and managing director of Blessed Earth, a nonprofit that “inspires and equips people of faith to become better stewards of the earth.” She is the author of Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life and Go Green, Save Green