Carlos was the kind of kid you tried to get away from. Slightly overweight and too talkative, his mother had obviously spoiled him with sweets. Most of us at ACTION’s sister ministry, ABBA, in São Paulo, didn’t think much about his future beyond helping him with his education and hoping he could eventually go home to live with his mother. Of course we also kept him from having candy whenever he wanted it.
Last month the ABBA team held a fundraiser to encourage monthly support for Casa Elohim, our residential program there for abandoned and abused boys and girls. They asked Carlos, now nearing 30, to come and tell his story to prospective donors. As you will have guessed, he did eventually move back with his mother, get married and go to college. Now he attends church regularly and works as a hospital technician. He’s one of those stories that keep us coming back for more.
The idea of the event was not to collect immediate donations as much as to serve pizza at the house and explain the need for monthly support to pay the bills. The volunteer missionary staff wondered how to pay for the pizza with an already tight budget. They didn’t have to worry. Carlos agreed not only to give his testimony in thanks to the ABBA team but he donated R$1000,00 (over $300.00USD) that more than covered the cost of the pizza. Resources come through harvest.
The harvest is still white and ready.
Workers are still few.
Funds are often scarce.
Most are not interested in going or giving.
Ultimately, we’ll never have spiritual harvesters without a spiritual harvest. Only disciples make disciples. As Pastor David Platt, President of the International Mission Board, said recently, “Those who are enthralled with God’s glory long to proclaim it among the nations” (quoted from WMBI radio). It isn’t the funds that are lacking but the desire and the courage (in short, the calling) to invest what we have in reaching the nations with Christ’s love. The resources we need come from faithful, committed disciples, the fruit of our discipleship efforts and those of the church around the world.
Recently I asked an ACTION leader why a project hadn’t received any local donations. He said none had been expected. Both the missionary and the local church expected the West to foot the bill. He said we often “think that only wealthy locals can give substantially toward a project” and we don’t know any, so we don’t give opportunity for those who have benefited to become shareholders by giving. “Many could at least contribute labor,” he said, “but we don’t ask or expect much from the poor. And therefore, typically, our low expectations are realized. We’ve forgotten the story of the widow’s mite.”
“It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops” (2 Timothy 2:6, ESV).
Paul teaches Timothy that the farmer should be the first to enjoy the fruit of his labors (2 Timothy 2:6). The reverse is also true: If nothing grows, the farmer and his family go hungry. There is little question that the fruitless farmer changes his technique next time he plants in order to produce. If he doesn’t he goes hungry. I wonder how our projects would change if we knew that eventually they had to depend on their own harvests.
But it wasn’t just money that Carlos gave that night. His story of transformation through the gospel planted the Word of hope in others too. Tauani grew up in one of ABBA’s homes and then spent two years living with our family. When she heard Carlos’s story that night, she and her boyfriend pledged a monthly donation of R$50,00 (about $17.00USD) to help pay expenses at the Elohim children’s home. “ABBA was my home for all those years.” She told us. “It made me what I am. I’d be ungrateful if I didn’t help.”
Not only does the farmer feed his family with his harvest, he also reaps seeds for planting. A fruitful spiritual harvest bears spiritual and emotional resources as well as financial ones. The Word of Christ’s transforming love can be proclaimed with fresh conviction and power from first generation believers. How encouraging for the ABBA team to taste some of the fruit of its labors!
May each of us expect and reap abundant fruit in Christ as we faithfully plant and cultivate his Word. Let’s make disciples everywhere we go so we will have all we need to do His work and fruitful seeds to plant until He comes.