My family toured the Ballard Locks in Seattle on our recent vacation to the West Coast. While there we learned of Carl S. English. He began working at the locks in 1931 after graduating from college with a degree in botany. He was hired by the US Army Corps of Engineers, not to garden but to mow the lawn. Carl and his wife, also a botanist, thought they could improve the grounds of the locks, but they weren’t given any money in the budget to do so.
What do you do when you’re young and have no resources except vision?
Carl and his wife were avid campers who collected seeds from plants all over the West Coast, brought them home, and planted them on the grounds of the locks. Eventually Carl began trading seeds with other botanists around the world. The result is a seven-acre park beautified with native West Coast plants and exotic species from around the world.
Undeterred by lack of money, Carl changed the grounds of the locks one seed at a time. No doubt it didn’t look like much for quite a while. Over time though, one seed at a time produced a garden that contributes to making the locks the second-largest tourist attraction in Seattle.
It’s easy to feel as if our efforts go unnoticed and maybe are even wasted when we plant one seed. I often wonder why I continue to speak the truth into teens who reject it even as I finish the sentence. Why continue to pray for those who show no sign of leaving their unbelief? Why put the effort into events others don’t value? Why spend so much time ministering to youth? Why read and study the parts of the Bible you don’t understand?
The temptation is to quit if we don’t see the fruit or when opposition confronts us or when it seems too big of a task to change our corner of the world.
That’s exactly what happened to one man in Jesus’ parable of the bags of gold (Matthew 25:14-30). Three men were entrusted with their master’s money while the master went away. Two of the men took the money they were given, put it to work, and gained more money. The third man saw how hard the task was. He saw what the master expected of him as a burden too big to fulfill. He decided his little wasn’t enough to make a difference, so instead of using his little, he buried it. Upon the master’s return the master said of him, “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:26).
We continue to speak truth into young people, pray for the unsaved, teach the young, study the Word, and do the many other things we do for God's kingdom because we don’t know which seed will take root and produce fruit. We do it because we value the Word and don’t want to keep it to ourselves. And we do it because God has entrusted us with his Word and with the unique talents he gave us to spread it, teach it, and build up the saints until his return. We continue to nurture our own faith to produce abundant fruit; fruit to shelter some, encourage others, and be an example to those just starting their faith journey.
Don’t worry if you aren’t seeing the garden yet. Just take what you have, however big or small it is, and use it with a prayer that God would make it grow.
We likely won’t know the effect of our efforts until eternity. But won’t it be great to see the garden then!
Amber Albee Swenson is a writer, speaker, and blogger. Her husband and four children keep life exciting and give her lots to write and pray about. Mother, wife, and author are treasured positions, but child of God is her identity.
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