Lord of the harvest

 

 “Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matt. 9:37-38 NKJV

 

They fidget on mid-century chairs in my husband’s office. Mid-century not because the sleek wooden lines are hip, but because we are a mission agency, and the chairs have been around a long time.

Fresh and innocent, brimming with anticipation and expectation, the young couple before us is eager to begin the adventure. They want to become overseas missionaries. We start with small talk.

“Where are you from?”

“How did you hear about Avant?”

And then, my husband Phil leans forward. His shirt sleeves unbuttoned, and rolled like a man ready for work, he rests his elbows on his knees and clasps his hands under his chin. The atmosphere changes slightly and I know it’s a transition of importance. They feel the static of here-it-comes tension and shift in their seats.

“Why do you feel God has called you to the mission field?” my husband asks.

“The harvest truly is plentiful but the laborers are few…”

They look at each other, searching for the right words, desiring concrete expression for an intangible conviction. Hesitation holds the moment, as if the question hovers above us, the crux on which futures teeter.

And their story begins. I hear the weight of the harvest, the stirring intimacy of its call, in the quiver, the tremor, and sparkling tear. I feel the grip in my own heart, the moving of Christ’s passion for the nations.

“Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

And I sense in this young couple the dawning of what it means, of leaving, and severing umbilical cords. Their story touches other’s stories and other lives. A picture emerges of mothers and fathers, pastors and teachers, some encouraging and others not wanting to let go, bewildered by the course.

Two stories layer into one Sovereign happening. The telling back and forth rolls like a heightening wave, reaching to the door of our mission where they sit on Avant’s black and green mid-century chairs and marvel at their own story written with God’s finger.

And in spite of knowing what’s ahead, I rejoice with them at the privilege of being entrusted with a call to go.

I remember accounts of past eras about parents who prayed for their children to become ministers and missionaries. Men and women of God believed and held tight to Matt. 19:29, trusting God’s word through pain and separation.

…”everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life…” (Matt. 19:29 NKJV). 

My husband’s great grandfather Jacob B. Becker came to Christ in 1893. His salvation radically changed the course of history for those who came after him. Jacob Becker prayed that God would call generations of his descendants into ministry. It was a bold prayer from a simple man of strong faith. And God responded, sowing offspring like seeds across the globe for the sake of the gospel, many still in full time Christian work, and several with Avant.

Throughout mission’s history, mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers chose to send offspring overseas in ships and planes, to live years of toil and sacrifice because the message of the cross of Christ was held in highest esteem. Ordinary people, gave up everything, convinced that to surrender a life of service to God was the noblest task.

“Therefore pray…”

I wonder if mothers still pray a life of ministry and missions for their children or if grandparents embrace a similar prayer for grandchildren? Perhaps it is easier to ignore Jesus’ instruction to His disciples. Perhaps it is easier to wish harvest-labor on another’s child.

“Someone else, Lord, not mine.”

Far away skin on a flickering screen cannot be caressed, cannot be hugged.

Jesus loved the harvest. He knew what He prayed for, He knew what it meant. He understood man’s dire need and anticipated the compelling commission that would scatter His church to every corner of the world. He saw the pain of good-byes and letting go. He knew it would be messy.

Jesus’ obedience came with a price. Ours pales in comparison. Yet, in contradiction of loss, Christ promises gain.

Our interview finishes. The couple stands and we shake hands, laborers on a mission.

After they leave, I don’t really want to look at the pictures on the office wall, but my eye is drawn there anyway. Twelve grandchildren, smile at me. I see them as if they were in the room, dimpled and wiggly, charming and clever.

Little arms circle my heart and I pray like eternity matters.