Twenty-one years ago my wife and I lived in an up and coming town in North Carolina. We lived in a small neighborhood with a lot of first time home owners. We lived on the downhill side of the road and my front door neighbor, Scott , and his family lived on the uphill side of the street. Scott was very, very good at lawn care. His small yard of grass was not pretty, it was verdant and beautiful, lush and full. Here’s the thing, because he was on a hill, it seemed as though his yard was tilted for my viewership. I would look out our front windows and could see pretty much every square inch of his front yard and there were no bad patches. He would mow at angles and stripe his yard. It was something. Scott had a real talent for it. When we moved in all the lawns were pretty beat up as it was a new construction neighborhood. So I began my work on mine but primarily focused on clearing some throughway land behind our house that had a creek on it but I put down some fertilizer and stuff and my yard got better but there were places that grass or anything like it, simply would not grow. Finally I figured out a few things. Evidently, they had cleaned out the cement truck, or let it leak on a few places in my yard. I was trying to loosen up the soil when I found big concrete puddles just under the surface. Needless to say, that’s why our front yard tree had to be replaced three times. Then I figured that runoff had to be a problem with the side yards. A big rainstorm came up so I went outside and stood and stood and watched and watched. Then I marked the place on the driveway where the water was running off and I saw what the downspouts from the house were doing. I then trenched, layed a drain at the drive and put lines on my downspouts, to carry all that water to the woods. It took a lot of work. I rented a trencher. I had all the utilities marked and still cut a phone line because they had left a giant ten foot coil of wire in my side yard. (The AT&T guy was blown away because I was nowhere near the marks, so lecture, averted.) My grass did better, but it didn’t compare to Scott’s and that was OK. I like to look at plants and grass, but my talents and interests in toiling lie elsewhere. That became very apparent when we moved and I had enough land to plant a garden. I am not so naive as to think it would be simple and that everybody could do it, but wow where were a lot of things that I didn’t understand. So, now, everytime I see someone that doesn’t understand screwdrivers and how to hammer a nail, I remind myself that I don’t understand onions. At my level of gardening, we bought sets, that is, little onions and put them in the ground. We had to keep them weeded and watered and all that for what seemed like a long time in the hot summer sun to get slightly bigger onions of the same number as the ones we planted. I started to think about that while I was writing this and googled growing onions. The trick is to start from seeds and then a page worth of stuff that made no sense to me. Just because a vocation comes naturally to you doesn’t mean it’s easy, that’s why God gave us all different gifts and we can all use our gifts to help one another to stay clothed, dry, fed, entertained, well, organized and secure. Back to my yard and growing stuff. One thing that I do know that made a big difference in Scott’s yard and mine was really very simple. You can rectify and control so many variables that lead to bad results in growing stuff: No water, too much water, too much sun, not enough sun. too hot, too cold, bugs or not enough good bugs for pollination. Soil too acidic or too basic, too sandy to compact But all the conditions can be perfect, every single one and a plant will still not grow because of one simple thing…You did not sow a seed or enough seed. Scott sowed a lot of seeds, he really gave his yard a chance. I think he sowed twice a year. Of course he did the other things to help the seeds but he first made sure there was a possibility there. The thing is I too could have sown seed after seed and they would not have survived in some of the places in my yard. In the parable it does not suggest giving up on the difficult areas. It simply takes different gifts. Thorns can be cleared and mitigated, soil loosened, water diverted, concrete dug up, fertilizer added along with many other nutrients and stabilizers. It’s amazing to me how, sometimes, I get to see or hear or experience an amazing illustration in an incredibly timely fashion. That was this week. My wife and I watched The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind which is the true story of William Kamkwamba. William, his family and his village of Wimbe in the country of Malawi, Africa were faced with some of the most unimaginably bad farming conditions. Plants wouldn’t grow because of the droughts in one season and they would be washed away by flooding in the rainy season. William’s father only had hand tools and the ground was dry and difficult to dig. Famine was pervasive and the yield of the land had become more and more lean. When William was 12 or 13 he found a pump in the junkyard and saw a small dynamo on a teacher’s bicycle. A dynamo is a small generator that spins on a bike wheel and powers a headlight. He had a flash of inspiration and began to study energy at his school. Because of the famine and failing crop his family could no longer afford school for a brilliant kid and much of the food they did have was stolen by other starving people. Their situation was about as dire as it gets, but William knew he had the answer. Their family had one resource, one asset to their name, a bicycle. The young boy realized that for him to engineer a windmill to pump water out of the well he would need to cut the bicycle apart. To me this is a huge moment that speaks to the trust and faith that we have, not only in God, but one another. William had made a small model that could power a radio, but he was asking for enough belief in his gifts to sacrifice the last of what the family had. He was not the farmer and he was not the sower, but his father took the chance. Those that remained in the village worked together to put together a tower made of blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard. The wind blew, the scrap battery charged and William’s windmill brought a steady flow of water from the well where they had previously pulled it up hand over hand, one bucket at a time. They were able to plant in the much safer dry season and had the ability to have 2 seasons a year. After several years the world began to pick up on William’s story. His book is being picked up as required reading at Engineering schools and many other schools, colleges and universities. To me William’s story stands as a testimony to community, the necessity of appreciation for what all people have to offer, faith in one another, and making the most of the gifts that God has given you to love and serve your neighbor. If this young man, with the meager resources that surrounded him could bring water from the ground to feed and save his village, what can we do, given the unbelievable resources that surround us. Right now, we are faced with a worldwide crisis. Right now we are the church. My whole life I have always gone to a church building, worshipped from a red or green hymnal, stood up and sat down at the appropriate times, sung three hymns at a worship service, passed collection plates, shook hands, hugged necks, handed people bread and wine and on back drank from the same cup. It’s not that way anymore. We are not the first and we won’t be the last to endure frightful pestilence, disease, famine or war. But in the midst of this, the truth remains the same, the seeds must be planted. God has given us gifts and now more than ever for this generation, we all need one another. We can all plant. We are all called to share our faith in a variety of ways and to build one another up and to lift up each others’ gifts and keep jealousy, envy, and covetousness at bay. Now more than ever the church needs windmill builders, those with ideas on how to grow seeds in this ground we have been given. We are not afforded the luxury of doing it the same old way. We have been thrust into a new reality and the God’s people are not going to starve. We are going to clear this land of thorns and rocks and the winds of the Spirit will turn our windmills. Young or old, what are your gifts? Young or old, would you cut apart the bicycle in your life? Will we unite as a community and use our gifts to do God’s work of feeding, loving, protecting and caring for our neighbor, even the ones that trample our fields, steal our grain and tip our windmills? Jesus said,”“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Almighty God, Send us.