One of the joys of hiking is getting to see all the amazing trees nature has to offer. For instance, on Mulanje Mountain you get to see Mulanje Cedar, a coniferous species endemic to this massif. When fully grown, the cedar has a wide girth it would take two teenagers to encircle it by holding hands to each other. And while being still on Mulanje, the tallest mountain in Malawi, you also get to see protea, a supple tree with brilliant blossom. It has a bulbous flower, with silky tendrils that wrap around the petals when the flower is closed. And when the bulb opens, it exposes beautifully arranged petals in white, or mixed colors of white and pink or soft red. And I think I have seen some with traces of yellow. Whatever the color combo, the exquisite flower is a beauty. A species called King protea is the national flower of South Africa.
Around many rivers and at the bottom of several mountains in Malawi, you get to see the mighty m’bawa tree also known as mahogany in English. It is a towering giant with strong roots that have been known to upheave foundations of structures that are built near it. Most people still mistakenly plant it near schools, hospitals and churches. M’bawa will weigh the foundation of these buildings and will find them wanting. In other words, it will destroy anything it will catch its in radial root architecture. Other than its underground adventures, mighty m’bawa offers plenty of shade in summer, and unfortunately, it is also susceptible to illegal harvesting due to its sought-after hardwood. M’bawa gets to live for hundreds of years, and when fully grown, it will take several grown up men to ring it by holding each other’s hands.
On Kilimanjaro, you get to see another towering giant at the bottom of the mountain, and a strange looking tree towards the top. The latter has a jacket of old leaves, which it uses to cover itself when the temperatures drop low.
Another wonder that comes to mind is the baobab tree. A giant of immense proportions, this fruit tree is a darling to many children due to its sweet and sour summer treats. The fruit is covered in a hard shell, decorated by a thin layer of short velvet hair. Once you break the shell with a help of stone, you are treated to rows of white, compact powder wrapped around a black seed. The rows are separated by coils of fibre that protect the seeds. You eat the fruit by letting it dissolve in your mouth, or if you are impatient, by sucking it just like sweets. To the more aggressive souls, you can break the seed by biting hard into its black shell to reveal a soft white paste, more like the meat of groundnuts. The baobab tree prefers hot weather and it is found in abundance in districts along the lakeshore, Nkhotakota, Salima and Mangochi. You can also find it in Mwanza, a district in the Southern Region. The tree is also found beyond the borders seeking refuge in many parts of Southern Africa.
By the way, despite its immense size, the baobab is hollow inside acting like a giant reservoir. It will absorb the scarce rainfall whenever the patched grounds it prefers to grow on receive any rains. And sometimes, when it has drunk more than it can handle, it gets compromised and will fall down to its side due to its relatively weak root system. It is not uncommon to see the octopus like roots sticking in the air, next to the fallen hero after drinking one to many a raindrop. Such is the beauty and diversity of trees one gets to see in the wild.
But then the Bible introduces another type of a tree. It is called The Tree of Life, and it is first mentioned in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. We are told it was in the midst of the Garden of Eden, next to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The latter had a fruit that was pleasant to look at, and would make one wise. Now, that’s some tree.
But before going for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Let’s look at the Tree of Life. It appears in the last book of the Bible, at the end of the New Testament. In the book of Revelation, it is mentioned three times. Access to the tree had a special clause in Genesis. It could only be taken if and only if man would not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And in the Book of Revelation, its fruit will only be eaten to him that overcomes (Rev 2:7). This special tree will only grow along the pure river of life, clear as a crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb in New Jerusalem, that will rest upon a great and high mountain (Revelation 21 & 22).
It does not stop there. It says the Tree of Life will bear twelve manner of fruits, and will yield her fruit every month. And its leaves will be for the healing of the nations.
So read the passages again. Of all the trees that are in the world, of all the wonders that they offer in terms of fruit, flower and other potent uses, none can compare to the Tree of Life. This is the only tree that was protected by the flaming fire of a cherub. And in the new world to come, it will only be found in one location, and enjoyed by one group of people – those that overcome. Now, that sounds to me like a motivation to face life’s challenges not as cowards but those that are determined to rise above the limitations of fallen humanity to celestial beauty of a saved life. All thanks to the precious works of our only Redeemer and Provider, Lord Jesus Christ.
I want to see the Tree of Life, enjoy its joys perched high above the world on the greatest and highest mountain in the world while sipping the cool waters of Life flowing from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. This is not just another good story. It is the Good Story for mankind.
See you at the top.