Christian Fiction: Brokenness - The Garri Story

I stared hard at the smooth and twisted tuber in my father's hands. I watched as he rubbed off sand and kept harvesting. He stacked the cassava into a sack and we set off to the car, then home. I asked, "what are we going to use the cassava for?" He replied, "we'll make garri". It suddenly occurred to me that I never understood or knew how garri, a common starch food eaten almost by all the masses in my land, was processed. 

"Hmm..." I thought with a silent itch in my heart to actually watch the process and follow it through. I suddenly had a tightening in my stomach and an attraction on my tongue to drink or just taste the end product of the journey we started as if the garri was magnet. I knew there was work coming.

We set out to peel the cassava. So many tubers; long, short, twisted, straightened, tangled and alot more. We peeled to perfection. Made sure there was no blemish or spot. As we peeled, the sand made little stains on the body. We washed and scrubbed till each of the cassava tubers looked very white. We then stacked them into sacks and drove off to the processing plant. We got to the processing plant and I was startled. Such a long process to get a fine textured flour that melts right into everyone's mouth in different forms.

The young man grinding, set out to his work. The blaring of the loud machines made our voices fighting to get to our ears. I bent down to pack the crushed wet flour mixed with starch and alot of impurities. As I scooped the wet flour into a basin, I noticed hard cassava that had refused to break and probably jumped out because of the heat of the teeth of the machines. Although I loved that we make us of all the cassava, I had to throw out all the ones that didn't grind into the garbage bin. I poured out the starchy flour still wet into sacks and tied them.

We let the water mixed with starch run out at the processing plant. We returned later in three days. The workers at the plant had the semi-dried flour tied up and set under a pressing jack with huge logs of wood resting on them to suck out the remaining water. I watched as the bags responded painfully to the weight of the wood. The starchy flour squeezed and squeezed within the bags wishing to be elsewhere than go through that pain. I watched with so much enthusiasm.

I thought we could go home now with our home-made cereal. But I was disappointed as we were just starting the process and there was more. I was immediately asked to break the moulds the pressing had formed in the bags and sieve with a big basket. I started working immediately and as I sieved, there were so many that had not been broken at all or didn't break well. I threw every impurities and unbroken cassava tuber into the garbage bin. I finished sieving and set the properly ground flour for frying.

The women frying poured little amounts each time on a wide pan set over fire. I looked at them sweat with constant and stirred quickly to keep the powder just as brown as it should be. Another woman kept ensuring the fire stayed at its expected level; medium, not too low, not too high. I fixed my gaze on the pan as the woman stirred and fried with so much passion. I looked at how she smiled as she saw the wet flour crystalize and take a new form. I felt exactly like I was in a goldsmith's workshop. Like dirty iron ore been formed into pure, bright and beautiful gold. I smiled widely as I splashed some of the fine particles into my mouth to have a taste. Just what I expected and even better. I thanked everybody as I packed my own gold into a new and strong sack.

As we set out to go home, I thought about the cassava. From being cassava to becoming garri. From wholeness to brokenness to usefulness. All the broken ones although went through painful stages became something everyone wanted but the unbroken became waste. Just as the cassava in the garri maker's hands so are we in God's hands. Brokenness is a stage and the only stage that God can use us in. Are you broken? Are you in the process of being made? Are you useful? Are you even in His hands? Broken but useful. Unbroken and useless. Choose.

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