Five years ago when we were looking for a house to rent in Bujumbura, one of the things I had truly hoped for was a yard with at least one or two fruit trees. Fortunately for us, the rental house we liked best had two mango trees, an avocado tree and an orange tree. These fruits all grow in abundance here. But the main fruit crop for Burundi is bananas. Our yard was lacking a banana tree. So one day I asked our knowledgeable house-worker, Gilbert, if we (he) could plant a banana tree in our yard. The answer was of course, “Yes!” (Maybe he was thinking what took you so long to ask.)
While I looked online to find out about how to grow a banana tree, Gilbert had already asked the neighbor, who had several trees for a baby banana “sucker”. Before I could finish reading about how bananas grow and what they need, he had already dug a large, deep hole and put the baby banana plant into it.
Then he proceeded to dump our daily compost around it and water it. Clearly he didn’t need my help or the internet’s
I was surprised at how quickly it began to form new leaves. Within no time it was becoming a substantial tree with large dancing leaves. In just a little over a year it grew its first banana stalk with a banana flower. As the flower opens you see the little green banana fingers beginning to form, ending in the flower at the end of the stalk. Gilbert found a strong wooden pole to prop up the branch with the stalk on it as the bananas would need to grow for another few months. I counted 9 “hands” of bananas at that time.
As we left for the U.S. in December I was wondering if we would completely miss the harvest of this first stalk of bananas. It was almost ready. Just before we returned some of the friends who stayed at our house while we were gone said they had eaten some of our new, ripe bananas. We arrived back to find our refrigerator full of multiple, large hands of bananas and there were still some on the tree. We had not missed out completely on the harvest! We ate many, shared many with others and made lots of banana pulp for the freezer.
The bananas were good, but the thing that I enjoyed most was watching the process of the tree growing and producing fruit. It has become an object lesson to me of progressive, ongoing, steady growth that is so often unperceivable day by day but its cumulative effect becomes visible as it produces the fruit it was made to bear. I walked past this tree every day but only every so often saw a demonstration of its growth in a new leaf, another inch in height and eventually in the stalk of bananas. And all that happened without much help from humans (once it was planted). So on days of unperceivable growth in some arena of my life (relationships, faith, character, understanding, work, activities) I’m encouraged to think about this banana tree, which is already growing several other new trees to make more stalks, and affirmed that there is grace at work in me growing the fruit I was made to bear.