Columnists > Soul Food

Humble harvest

The fields are ripe for harvest-even in your own backyard

Issue: "California: Bellwether state," Oct. 24, 1998

My husband is an arborist. Since we married 17 years ago, I've learned a lot about trees. He's learned a lot about people who know nothing about trees. Perhaps that's helped him in a way, since he meets at least a thousand people a year like me-people who need help understanding their trees.

Neither of us knew much about Jesus when we met. As New Age seekers, we thought he was just one of the many spiritual teachers with helpful sayings. We had a picture of him on our meditation altar, along with half a dozen other gurus.

In 1987 someone finally told us who Jesus really was. We were well into our 30s. I remember thinking, "Why didn't anyone ever tell us this before? I never knew he was God's son! Of course, I want him as a Lord and savior."

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From that moment, everything looked different to us. We joined a church and learned of people doing great things for Jesus. We heard of the Great Harvest, donated money to missions, and prayed fervently for those who had given their lives to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

We took stock of our lives. We lived in one of the most affluent counties in the United States, a county where only 4 percent of the population attend church, where New Age ideas and liberal politics abound. Surely we needed to live somewhere else-somewhere conservative and cozy, filled with families like ours. "Lord," we prayed, "let us move to the Bible Belt!"

Then there was the problem of our business. In the true spirit of American enterprise, Tripp had started with a chainsaw and climbing saddle and built a successful company with 25 employees-learning to navigate the labyrinth of taxes, insurance requirements, and government regulations along the way. We were way too comfortable financially. "Lord," we prayed, "help us find something more useful to do for you."

Getting wind of our plans to sell our business, a pastor urged us to reconsider. He said God had given us the "ministry of finance"- calling us to be worker bees, making money to give to others to spread the Good News. When we found that God wasn't answering our prayers to move and do something else, we accepted the verdict that funding missions was our calling. Or was it?

My task was simple. I homeschooled the children for seven years and kept producing new little souls for the kingdom.

My husband's task has been more complex.

In 1990, when the economy in California soured, and layoffs threatened our company, Tripp began praying with our employees in the morning. "Lord, we thank you for the work you have given us and pray that you will continue to give us work." At first the men were embarrassed, but Tripp was sincere. And each day God was faithful to provide work for all.

Soon it was a morning ritual. The men stood a tree trunk upright and sawed it at an angle as a gift for my husband-a pulpit for him. Now each morning they pray for work, for injured employees, and for family members who are ill.

When employees have problems with drugs or alcohol, Tripp intervenes. When their marriages are shaky, we babysit for their kids and send them to a Christian marriage conference. There is so much more to do than we had thought.

And then there are those thousand people a year Tripp meets who know nothing about trees. Most of them know nothing about Jesus, either. They confide in my confidence-inspiring husband the heartaches inside their beautifully landscaped homes-marital problems, rebellious teens, medical and emotional traumas. Tripp simply says, "May I pray with you?" They usually say yes.

That's all he does-just takes them into God's presence, shows them how to talk to the one with all the answers, the one with the power to bring them into the light.

Thus we found that we didn't need to go anywhere special, do anything extraordinary to serve him. He had already planted us where he wanted us. We only needed to look around. In terms of a mission field, there was no place like home.

"I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest" (John 4:35b).

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