A special thanks to Brian for getting the garden going, and also to Bob Niehoff for establishing the well-ordered variety that it has been producing.
As an additional update, you may remember we undertook a ministry to plant two gardens for needy people in the township. You can read up on that HERE. The first family's garden produced no fruit at all, because no real effort was put forth by them an it was never truly nurtured. Zachariah's family only received butternut squash from all the various seeds that we planted. He said the birds ate the rest of the seeds.
Scripture gives us several references to gardening, farming, planting, watering, etc... Most notable among those references is the Parable of the Sower. The seed planted in that parable produced many different outcomes, reflecting spiritual seed planted in an individual's life. Jesus made the point in Matt. 13:11 "to you (the disciples) it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted." We know that we can plant, we can water, but it is God who gives spiritual increase in someone's life.
In a way, each of these gardens pictures something of the heart of each family.
With the first family, we had an initial suspicion that there was no real spiritual hunger, just a "what's-in-it-for-me" attitude. Part of the reason for planting the garden for them was to help reveal to us the issue of their heart. Luke's account makes more specific reference to the type of soil in which seeds are planted. Here the doctor records Jesus' emphasis that some soil is hard and the seed is trampled or snatched away immediately. In working with this family we get the sense that their heart condition is one of hardness. I have shared the gospel with them but have seen no fruit whatsoever. With their garden, we planted it for them but no fruit was produced whatsoever. Without Jesus doing a regenerating work in our heart, there will never be any life in us (Eph 2:5).
With the second family, we have poured much into their lives. This garden was just another in a list of ministries to them. And there are times when we see a bit of promising fruit. Zachariah is a man who knows his scripture but struggles to implement it in his life. God knows the heart. We trust in Him to do whatever work He sees best. Our prayer is that the seed planted in Zachariah's family isn't going to be choked out by weeds or wither because of pour roots. Our confidence is this "...The Lord knows those who are His..." (II Tim 2:19).
All that the Father has given to His Son will come. It is not for us to ask Why? or Whom?, rather to love Him by loving His task of Going into all the world and making disciples. We have learned truly in this ministry that the call of God on individuals is not "Say this prayer and repeat after me." Instead His call is to discipleship. I do not and never will advocate that our acts of service or obedience to Him will merit us eternal life. But one cannot have the life He gives without that life overflowing in acts of service and obedience. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Faith without works is dead.
Our garden at The Village plays a significant role in this scriptural picture as well. The seeds of God's Word are being planted into the hearts of the children He brings us. But if we fail in His command to MAKE DISCIPLES then we fail altogether. Making disciples is not scaring people with the reality of hell and convincing them to say a prayer to get their free ticket to Heaven. Making disciples involves real effort - blood, sweat and tears. Bob will tell you what it means to labor in the heat of the African sun to get a bit of fruit from seeds that have been planted. Just as a seed must die in order for the new life programmed by God within it to sprout, so our new spiritual life is a work of God. And for that seed to grow to fruit-bearing maturity a loving hand must protect it from the weeds and predators, must direct it into the right path, must water it.
While salvation is entirely a work of God, there must be an element of faith on our part. I don't pretend to fully understand it all, but I know from His revealed Word that we as humans are held responsible for our actions, for our response. Pray earnestly together with us for these seeds to take root and yield a crop a hundredfold.
"Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls." James 1:21