Sunday, May 22, 2016
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field. That seed is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows, it is one of the largest garden plants. It becomes big enough for the wild birds to come and build nests in its branches.” Jesus Christ in Matthew 13: 31-32
We probably identify more with this parable than with any other in the Bible. We are not building large, well-engineered bridges across wide rivers, or erecting multiple secondary schools, or building hospitals, or building and staffing orphanages. Those are good things to do, but we are few, woefully underfunded (most of our money comes out of our own Social Security payments), and lack the technical and logistical expertise to do what it takes huge aid organizations to do. What we do is plant mustard seeds. Karen started an English class for just ten third-grade students, but that mustard seed has grown into a class that has been in operation for eleven years with over twenty-two students every year—and those students go on to pass the test in English to allow them to attend secondary school. One day, eleven years ago, Jerry Buckingham found local materials and built the first biosand filter (that we still use for our family). That mustard seed became over 500 filters providing clean, safe drinking water to over 10,000 people in schools, hospitals, orphanages, and private homes. The Methodist Church here in Bunda started a preschool but it rapidly outgrew what could be done in the church building and moved over to our mission where around 40 orphans below the age of five, have had Montessori school experiences with two cups of hot porridge a day and plates of beans and rice every day since. That mustard seed has now expanded to seven preschools in seven of our churches with all the teachers trained in Montessori by Karen here at the mission. John saw a woman crying one day and discovered that she had spilled the ten liters of water she had carried for six miles. John took that mustard seed and with help from his internet friends raised the money to put in a deep-water well that has been supplying water to three villages for over five years now, and no woman has to walk more than a half a mile to get the water from any village. An evangelist (lay pastor) told me about ten years ago that a new bicycle and five Bibles in Swahili would allow him to start at least three new churches. Since that mustard seed was planted over 35 new bicycles and 175 Swahili Bibles have been sent out into the remote villages. Bishop Festo was here yesterday to get the money from me for another new bicycle for a new evangelist. Some Arkansas friends wanted to set up a scholarship program for poor, Christian students to become certified teachers at our local teachers college. That mustard seed has produced over 65 graduates now teaching all over Tanzania. A number of years ago, an old man asked Karen and I to come see the elementary school the villagers of Kabasa were trying to build. They had made all the bricks themselves and if they could get the cement to build the walls, the government would put on the roof and provide the teachers. All they needed was $200 worth of cement, but that might as well have been a billion dollars to them as they were very poor. For Karen and I, it was just a mustard seed, and we gave the cement, and the school has been in operation every day for the last nine years and is expanding the building (without our help). Most of the time, God doesn’t need you to part the Red Sea or feed five thousand at a sitting. Most of the time, all He needs is for you to plant a mustard seed. As the scripture above recounts, that tiny, tiny seed can yield benefits that will amaze, astound, and humble you. We will not be judged by how many Red Seas we parted but by how many mustard seeds we planted. It is enough for us to know that God is guiding our planting of those tiny seeds regardless of our age or health. It is our willingness to plant that God wants of us, and we have answered that call.