One of my greatest talents is my ability to get lost in the desert. My GPS for desert travel is the kind that points in the direction you are heading rather than showing you a map of where you are and where you are headed.
This has led me, more than once, into dry river beds and thorn-bush forests. I have gotten all turned around from following a cow trail, with very few options but turning around and starting back where I left the main road.
And each time I did, I prayed that God would provide the money for me to buy a camel.
Here are three of the best reasons why I think everyone should own one of these “ships of the desert”.
1. Camels can go where others cannot
This gave me the chance to discover villages in the middle of nowhere. And of the villages I saw, I discovered that there were villages even further out than that, where “Twila” could not go:
- Villages on top of hills
- Villages surrounded by thorn trees
- Villages across dry, sandy river beds
We didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to visit and to bless those distant villages with medicine or whatever else they needed. Just because they were unreachable by car, doesn’t mean that we could ignore the need in the village. So our family began to pray for God to provide the money for a camel. And He did!
2. Camels teach us about the culture we love
I remember the day I went to see my camel for the very first time.
Early one morning in mid-September (2013), I was taken to see the camel we were buying. He is an albino camel of twelve years old.
As I saw him, I noticed two “faults” that concerned me.
Number one: it looked like he had a wound in the back of his head, with black stuff oozing out of his head. I pointed this out and said that I could not buy him, because he was defective. Lots of men were there that day, and everyone burst out laughing at my ignorance.
Apparently, all camels have a gland on the back of their heads that sweats oil.
Number two: it looked like its back legs crossed a bit too much at the knees, like a woman knitting or something. I pointed this out, and everyone started to burst out in laughter again! As I compared his walk with the other camels grazing that day, I realized that this is also perfectly normal.
I don’t know very much about camels. But through this process, I am learning.
I watched my camel walk around, then asked to see a younger one do the same, one that outwardly looked like it was in better shape. When they were both kneeling on the ground, they both seemed to be the same height, but the legs of the younger one were longer and thinner, which struck me as less capable of carrying a load than the camel that was for sale.
My girls wanted me to name our camel “Buzz Lightyear“… but because it was clearly marked on his neck, I named him “99”.
3. Owning a camel connects us with our host culture
After settling on which camel I was going to buy, I paid the amount still outstanding, which was only 15,000 CFA ($30). I was then given an intensive course in camel saddles, about all the pieces involved and why each one is important.
When setting up the camel saddle, you put the four leather pillows against the camel’s skin. The wooden frame holds them in place. You then wrap the leather strap around the wooden frame and under his body, pulling tightly. Leather saddles are placed on each side of the hump by hanging them on the wooden posts on the saddle frame. Our bedding goes on top of the wooden frame, after which you put on the “floor mat” and the bridle.
As is typical in this kind of transaction, I did not have enough money with me. I only had half of what was needed for all the accessories. So when I would come back to the village next time, we would complete our payment for them, and begin making trips to distant villages.
Having a camel gave me new opportunities to talk to my friends about their camels. And because I am dependent on my host family to take care of “99”, I have an excuse to call and just talk.
Owning a camel allows me to enter into this desert culture of the people I love like never before.
Our camel allowed us to make connections with our host culture. What sort of things do you own that make good discussion starters and relationship builders where you live? Please let us know by leaving a comment below: