Dusty Trails Along the River Bank

Elies on the move by Michael North Imagery

Photographer – Michael North Imagery (Used with permission)

Africa is such a land of contrasts. From barren dry deserts to rain forests; from rich farming land to rugged mountain ranges and rocky canyons; from mighty river courses, like the Zambezi, carving their way through the land to little unnamed streams.
From scrub bush and the grassy plains to untamed areas that soon will be the last refuge for wild animals to roam wild and free.
From modern cities teeming with people to remote primitive villages with its residents living exactly as their ancestors did, hundreds of years before them.

This vast land of contrasts embraces it all with such uniqueness that once you have breathed its air, soaked in the warmth of its sun or walked its trails; you are forever changed. For those of us who have been privileged to live and experience Africa; we carry its sights and sounds with us no matter where we wander and hold its memories close to our hearts.

Many of my readers know that my childhood years were spent growing up on Mission Stations and travelling with my parents to remote villages in the bush; where we spent many idyllic weeks in primitive camping.
This developed a love in me for the bush-veld and a huge appreciation for the wild life we encountered. To the trained eye and ear, the unspoiled bush is alive with the purest life and sounds that have not been touched by the trappings of modern civilization.
These are the memories that have stayed with me through the years. I have spent many hours walking the winding dusty trails created by the feet of countless wild game; the animals that have walked these paths, each leave their own messages to the observant eye!

Elephants are great trail blazers, creating paths through dense bush which eventually will lead the follower to a water source. Elephants have an amazing “internal compass” to search out water even in the driest of seasons. The matriarch will lead the herd of hot and thirsty elephants, sometimes for days in the dry seasons, to a water source with pin-point accuracy. She will do this year after year. This in turn opens a trail for other wild game to follow in their own search for the life giving water of these remote rivers and pools.

Not only do these bush trails lead to the cool refreshing wilderness waters but they provide a place of refuge from the heat of the day in the shade of trees, which have their roots tapped into the life giving water. The trees along the banks of the rivers in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe produce deep shade regardless of the arid conditions in the surrounding area.
I have watched in fascination as silently a herd of elephants will wend their way along the dusty, well-trodden trails to seek the deep shade of these trees during the heat of the day. Mothers will stand guard while the babies of the herd, nurse or sleep in total safety in this place of refuge.
It is a scene etched in my memory that brings back a deep appreciation for the rich heritage I experienced and a reminder of the many lessons I learned. The passage of time may change the environment around me but nothing can rob me of the call of the African bush and its “life lessons” it gave me! Those days that now seem so distant, helped to mold who I am and actually helped to deepen my personal walk with God. In the rugged wildness of the Rhodesian bush I was able to see the Hand of the Creator which only increased my love and devotion for Him!

The Prophet Jeremiah speaks of the individual who is like these trees growing along the river banks.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NKJV) “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

The prophet Jeremiah was declaring the promise that as we allow our spiritual “roots” to grow deep into the “water of the Word” we will not faint or wither in the harsh heat of life’s trials.

Even the Psalmist David recognized the key to weathering the heat of the battles of life.

Psalm 46:1-4 (NKJV) “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.”

GOD IS OUR REFUGE – “He HIDES us” from the attack of the enemy of our souls.
I have watched as the mother elephants will pull the young calves against them in the middle of the herd at the first sign of danger. So too when the enemy of our soul attacks, he cannot penetrate the impregnable defense that God surrounds his trusting child with.

GOD IS OUR STRENGTH – “He HELPS us”.
The elephant herd will become a force to reckon with if a predator gets too close to their babies.
If these wild “gentle giants” will defend their young which such coordinated ferocity, how much more will God come speedily to the cry of even His weakest child?

There are times in our lives that we need a REFUGE to run to. When the storms are merciless and the battle raging; we sometimes find our strength to fight on waning; it is then we have a place to run to……..our God is our refuge!
This does not mean that we stay hidden though; God is our refuge so that He can HELP us.
This is not just a place of “escape” for the child of God but a place of “rejuvenation”.

When life bombards us with events that overwhelm us, we seek God’s place of refuge where we will receive strength, courage and wisdom which empowers us to return to the thick of the battle with fresh resolve!
With God as our refuge we have nothing to fear in these troubled times. When we are firmly planted in the Word of God and surrounded by His impregnable love, we will be able to withstand the fiercest winds of adversity. Our confidence and strength lies in the creator of the Universe to keep us safe, despite the heat of adversity!

Learn the lessons from the trails in the African bush!
No matter what you are facing today, focus on the promise that God is your REFUGE and STRENGTH and He will help you weather your storms and times of testing!
Let me close with the beautiful words of this inspiring hymn:

TIL THE STORM PASSES BY, (songwriter THOMAS MOSIE LISTER)

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies

When the long night has ended and the storms come no more
Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore
In that land where the tempest, never comes, Lord, may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

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