“Only God can make a tree.” 

Joyce Kilmer’s timeless words are extremely true. However, only God can change a tree. He did it at the cross. And He did it on Mt. Elgon with a Simotweet tree.

A Simotweet is my favorite tree. You will sometimes see them on Mt. Elgon in Kenya. They are huge! When you see one, you think of a giant Redwood tree. But it is the story about them that I love. When baby elephants see a Simotweet tree, they will go up to the tree and butt it with their heads. When they do, milk comes out of the tree trunk bringing nourishment to the elephant.

Milton Jones in front of a Simotweet Tree

When we constructed our CRF school on Mt. Elgon, we built it under a gigantic Simotweet tree because we wanted to bring life, food and nourishment to children orphaned by war on the mountain. That’s the good Simotweet. But if you traveled around the mountain, you would discover another Simotweet where only bad happened.

Mt. Elgon is the home of one of the most vicious and violent wars that I have ever known. The killings have left widows and orphans all over the mountain. This was bad enough, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created even more despair. The area has become one of our neediest locations for relief efforts. In our last newsletter, we told you stories of how Peter Marangach, our CRF director on Mt. Elgon, traversed all over the mountain distributing food to the war and pandemic victims. He has traveled by donkey. He has traveled by motorcycle. He has walked. But he is the hero of the mountain because of his aid to the hungry there.

Realizing that everyone needed food, Peter did the unthinkable. He decided to bring food to the instigators of the war on the mountain. He figured they were hungry too. And where did he find them?? Under the other Simotweet.

It was under this other Simotweet tree that all the evil plans for the war were made. In the shadow of this Simotweet, many innocent people lost their lives. In this place, lists were made of those who would die in the night raids. When widows like Phemy Chebet saw the tree, it only brought thoughts of the evil done there when her husband was brutally killed. Looking at the tree even made her consider taking her own life.

And it is under this tree where Peter delivered food. Longtime enemies shared food under the tree. And they prayed. 

Peter’s former enemies – now friends through Christ.

And the blood of Jesus washed sins away. Like the cross, God had turned this killing tree into a place of life, hope, and forgiveness.

And what’s happening next? A church is being planted by Peter under this tree.

Now when Phemy Chebet looks at the Simotweet tree, she wants to live. Her one-time enemies are even building her a house nearby.

Two of Peter’s former enemies and gang leaders came up to him with a request. They bore marks of the violent battles on the mountain. One of them had part of his ear cut away. The other had lost his legs and had to crawl to Peter. Their request wasn’t for food even though Peter would have been happy to give them food. No, they requested Bibles. They were hungry for God’s Word and are now disciples of the Lord.

“Only God can change a tree.”