My favorite smells are the Pacific Ocean and eucalyptus trees. Both remind me of my hometown: Montecito, California. When I was there in January, the scent of the trees made me cry. I hadn’t smelled them in more than a year, and I realized just how much I missed living in such an enchanted place. It saddened me to think that the smell of eucalyptus would forever only accompany a sense of nostalgia because it would only remind me of the hometown I would never be able to live in again.
And then God, in his infinite grace, gave me today.
After eating a late breakfast (french fries for me, toast for Ryan) with the Kulps, DuBoses, and Kobys, we hired a driver and headed out in a van to the top of Entonto Mountain, one of the highest peaks in Addis. Because it is Palm Sunday here (Easter at home…we’re on different calendars), women everywhere were dressed in white and, as far as we could see, people were wearing palm branches as necklaces, headbands, and rings. They were all walking down the mountain from a church two miles up ahead while we drove up.
While trying to take in all that I was seeing (mothers nursing their babies on the side of the rock-laden road, women burdened with heavy bundles of sticks on their backs that they spent all morning walking to the top of the mountain to collect), I put down my camera and froze when a familiar smell came wafting through the van windows: eucalyptus. I thought, “No, this cannot be. We are in Africa.”
Sure enough, though, once I backed away from the lens of my camera and stopped looking at all the people, I saw that we were surrounded by eucalyptus trees. They lined the road we were winding along, and Greg DuBose said from the backseat, “Man, it looks like we are on the Pacific Coast Highway in California.”
Indeed, it did.
When we reached the church near the top of the mountain, we got out of the van and took a 1km walk to very top of the mountain. Street kids shadowed us, many of them acting as tour guides, all of them hoping for us to give them some more mints, dum-dums, or the matchbox cars I had stashed in my bag. As we neared the top, a group of women—maybe 30 or 40—came singing and clapping down the road wearing their palm branches. In a chorus of joy that I will never forget, they sang in Amharic the words of John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life) and, “He saves.”
There is more, so much more, that must be written about today; however, I haven’t had nearly enough time yet to process the beauty and brokenness our Entonto walk engendered. All I can say is this:
The smell of eucalyptus will no longer only remind me of my hometown…it will remind me of Selah’s.
We hold her tomorrow.