“Hard work pays of in the future. Laziness pays off now.” Anon
I met a man at the door of pastor Antonio’s home in São José do Rio Preto. He appeared just a few minutes before the pastor was ready to take me to catch the bus for the 6 hour ride from Rio Preto back to the city of São Paulo. This stranger had searched for me during our team’s visit to this city in the interior of the State of São Paulo. Such a pity he showed up when we had only a few minutes to chat.
This man said to me, “I know you.” But I could not remember the man. .
The visitor said, “You were a missionary here.”
He was on target about us being missionaries there in Rio Preto but again I could not recall the name or the face of the man. Was my memory faulty or was it his?
But I remember quite well so many other incidents from my days with our family in the city of Rio Preto. You see, that is where Doris and I went with our year-and-a-half-old daughter Monica. Our son Vernon was born there. That move to Rio Preto followed our year in language school in another city. Our purpose was to plant a church. The year was 1956 and the task was nearly impossible for we were still learning the language.
My memory in some ways is sharp for those were difficult days learning a new language, and fitting in with a new culture. Those were tasks for which we were not well prepared. I remember canvassing from door to door with invitations to attend services in the small rented hall. I recall especially the embarrassment of not having enough Portuguese to be able to respond to questions.
So how and why would this stranger remember me? To answer that I must ask another question that will shed some light on my encounter with him. What do missionaries do? They sow seed and spread it widely, the seed of the Gospel of Jesus. Some of that planting happened as I canvassed from door to door. Another time when we were attempting to plant a church in the town of Poloni, a friend offered the used of his little plane. There above this town we threw leaflets from the plane’s window. I suppose once again that was sowing seed.
The whole idea of scattering seed goes back to the words of Jesus in Matthew 13:8-9. The farmer in the story was no doubt an old hand at sowing. He knew that much of the seed would be lost and with the loss, the loss too of his hard work. He might well have been discouraged and certainly tired.
That’s always been the way of the church of Jesus—sowing widely. The farmer knew all the while that a lot of seed would be lost. However both the farmer and the church know something else. Some seed brings up to 100 fold. That’s the promise of this story.
With that in mind let’s go back at the pastor’s home with the visitor. He continued, “You baptized me and my whole family.”
Still I could not recall either the man or the baptism. Why not? Because there is no sower that remembers every seed that is sown. It is just weeks ago that seeds were planted in my garden. Those carrot seeds were so small and so many sown on the soil of the same color that I have a job remembering which row is what, let alone remember each seed.
But my memory is good for many of those seed planting times in Rio Preto so many years ago. The colored slides taken then of course jog my memory about scattering seed.
Was this stranger at the door one of those folks who came to see the Gospel film strips we showed in the back yard of a lady we knew as Dna, Zenaide. We put the screen up in front of a big castor oil bush in her yard that had no grass, only well-swept red dirt.. There was no electricity in that area—but I had made a battery powered projector. The neighbors came for this was a novelty.
A number of families were deeply touched with the message given through those film strips. Lives were changed. Was this stranger at the door one of those influenced with the words about Jesus in that yard?
Or did this stranger attend the services in the little hall? Or was it a contact made a few years later when with the help of other missionaries we held a city-wide crusade in Rio Preto.
I wish I had been able to chat a little longer with this stranger at the door. Then it might have happened that he would jog my deficient memory so that suddenly years of memory would come alive.
Now I return to Jesus story about sowing seed. He encouraged us to sow widely during our lives and in our churches. That is the message I took away from the encounter with a stranger at the home of pastor Antonio. Though much seed is lost the message is clear; some seed will yield good results. Remember, some seed will produce a harvest.