While in Chad, I often got lost in the Sahara desert. The GPS I used there would only point me in the right direction to my destination, as the roads I was following weren’t on any map.
This led me, more than once, to cross dry river beds and thorn-bush forests with “Twila”, our Speed the Light vehicle.
I often got all disoriented from following a cow trail, with very few options but to turn around and start 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 I can think of, why everyone should own one of these “ships of the desert”.
1. Camels can go where others cannot
Whenever I got lost, it gave me the chance to discover villages in the middle of nowhere. And of the villages I saw, I came to understand that there were villages even further out than these, where “Twila” could not go:
- Villages on top of hills,
- Villages surrounded by thorn trees,
- and 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 of the people living in these villages. 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 visited the camel we were buying. He is an albino camel, and was 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 by owning one, 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 knelt on the ground, both stood at 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. Camel give us something to talk about
After settling on which camel I was going to buy, I paid the amount still outstanding. It was only 15,000 CFA ($30). I then experienced 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. The leather strap goes around the wooden frame and under his body. You must pull that strap tightly, or the saddle can slide off en route.
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 for all the accessories. So when I went back next time, I could complete the payment for them, and begin traveling.
Having a camel gave me new opportunities to talk to my friends about their camels. And I am dependent on my host family to take care of “99”. This always gives me an excuse to call and just talk.
Owning a camel allows me to enter more deeply into this desert culture of the people I love.
Our camel allowed us to make connections with our host culture. What sort of things do you own that make good discussion starters? Are there things God can use to help you build relationships with the people where you live? Please let us know by leaving a comment below: