To every laborer in God’s own field
Who comes with their sickle, ready to wield,
Eager to work with all of their might
To bring in the harvest that’s golden and white—
These may be confused and perhaps a bit hurt
To discover the field is just full of dirt!
To these God says, “Today we plant seeds;
Today we water; and today we pull weeds.”
And so they work through the heat of the day;
And, oh, how they work, and, oh, how they pray.
Then they leave as the sun sets low in the west,
And the casual observer would never have guessed
That work at all had happened out there
For there is no harvest to see and share.
But what they can’t see and what they don’t know
Is that just underground a seed’s starting to grow.
For before every harvest, sowers come first,
Planting the seeds for the harvest to burst.
So to those who work, but whose work doesn’t show—
Sometimes we reap, and sometimes we sow.
A few years ago, I was a young men’s youth teacher at church. One of the young men had recently received a mission call and was discussing it in class one Sunday. I felt it would be a good time for me to tell the group my thoughts on missionary work.
I had been thinking about this topic anyway since my youngest brother had also just gotten a mission call to serve in Finland. I had heard that the Finnish language is quite difficult to learn. However, regardless of language or location, missions are just hard in general; it is as plain and simple as that. It is hard to spend so much love and effort and see so little fruit for your labors.
So, I took the time to share with the young men that missions are NOT just about putting people under the water in baptism. They are about bringing people to Christ, and sometimes our part may only be moving them ever so slightly along that path. Sometimes that movement is so slight that we do not even realize what we have done.
I told them how I remember going to the Missionary Training Center at the start of my own mission and seeing lots of pictures on the walls depicting missionary “success”. There were pictures of golden wheat fields, pictures of missionaries with scythes, pictures of baptisms from all over the world in all different circumstances: in summer, winter, tropics, and snow.
Seeing all of these images got me excited for the work. But at the same time, something in the back of my mind was bothering me. Before I left, my dad told me to be very careful how I measured success. Then, one day, I was waiting in the halls with hundreds of other missionaries for a meeting to begin. I remember looking at some of the artwork on the wall and suddenly having a very different picture open up in my mind. It was kind of a grey, gloomy day and I was looking over a recently plowed field of dirt. That was it, the image was gone. Then, into my mind came the thought, “Before every harvest, someone must sow.”
That was an important learning moment that has greatly helped me with the difficult days since as I have labored in God’s service. There are definitely paydays—harvest days; but more often than not it seems we are planting and tending little seeds. It is important to know, too, that success lies in the invitation and not in how the other person uses their agency to accept or reject that invitation. And you never know, what may first seem like rejection may not be. We often do not understand the full impact our efforts will have in another’s life. Just because you don’t see any results from your actions, you never know the seeds that may have been planted.
After all, every harvest starts with sowing.
Written: June 20, 2016