Remember when you were a little kid in Sunday School and you planted some flower seeds in a little paper cup? The anticipation that something wonderful would happen? You checked the seeds at least five times a day to see if they had sprouted… This summer I have a garden. The excitement is still there. And I only checked my seeds once or twice a day. And it didn’t make them sprout any better or faster either.
Years ago when I was in mission orientation at Montreat getting ready to go to Japan, former missionaries to the countries where we were going came to talk to us. An elderly gentleman had been in Japan as a young man in the 1930s. His mission was to establish a “preaching point” on a street corner outside a factory in a mid-sized city and try to talk to the people about Jesus. Every day he stood on his soapbox trying to engage people as they went back and forth to work. After two or three years passed, he returned to America feeling a failure. He hadn’t gotten even one person to become a Christian.
When Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964, this former missionary had a chance to go back to Japan. He went to the city where he had been posted and visited his street corner preaching point. As he stood there, a man came up to him and said, “I know you. Didn’t you used to be here every day years ago trying to talk with people?” The former missionary said yes, he was the same man. The Japanese man introduced himself as the pastor of the local church. He then said, “Will you come with me? I want to show you the church you started.” The American said, “I did not start a church.” The man said, “Oh, but you did.”
The Japanese pastor then explained that as a young man he had been impressed by the faithful dedication of the missionary. Obviously something was very important to the American for him to be there every day, regardless of the weather, trying to talk with the people. What could be so important for him to do that? He found out the American was a Christian missionary, he learned about Christianity, became a Christian, wound up going to seminary, became a minister, and eventually started the local church. This was all because of the seeds the missionary had sowed almost 30 years before; the church he didn’t even know he planted.
In the parable of the Sower (Matt. 13: 1-13 and Luke 8: 4-15), some seeds yielded a good crop, others didn’t. It wasn’t what the sower did or didn’t do. The sower’s job is only to sow the seeds. God makes the seeds, God makes the ground receptive, God provides the sun and the rain. God gives the seeds life when the time is right.
This was so liberating to me. God has entrusted all of us with his seeds of love and faith. It is a bag of seeds that never runs out. I can’t make the seeds grow, but I can happily fling them far and wide wherever I go. I trust that some will land in “good soil” and when the time is right, God will make these grow. I may or may not see the seeds sprout and fruit, but that’s all right. Gardens that others have planted are just as beautiful.
Glenna Finnicum continues our summer series of reflections from our incoming class of elders. She further shares: “I was born and grew up in Miami, Florida. I attended St. Andrews Presbyterian College where I received a fantastic education. After graduation, I came to Richmond to work at Camp Hanover, loved it, and moved here a few years later. When I found GPPC, I knew I was home. Here folks live their faith every day, not just on Sundays. GPPC opened my eyes and heart to possibilities for service, and I wound up going to Japan for 8 years as an educational missionary teaching English in high schools. Now I’m retired from the phone company where I was an engineer.”