Daniel Overdorf is the Dean of Ministry and Preaching Professor at Johnson University in Knoxville, TN. He relates the following story: One of my older sisters and her husband served for 12 years as missionaries in Haiti. Among various other ministries, such as church plants, a school and feeding programs, they also trained a few young men to lead various churches and ministries.
One participant in this was a young man named Miltador. Miltador showed a heart to obey even the most difficult instructions of the Bible. Like most Haitians, Miltador lived in abject poverty. However, he did have one possession that many Haitians did not: Miltador owned a cow. That may not sound all that impressive to us, but that cow gave Miltador’s family ongoing nourishment from the cow’s milk as well as income from breeding the cow and selling its calves.
Miltador came into possession of the cow after several years of work. A local farmer hired Miltador, who was then just a boy, to take care of a calf. Each morning and evening Miltador retrieved the calf from the neighboring farm, found a place for it to graze, and then returned it to its home. Miltador cared for the calf with no pay. When the cow was old enough to be bred, the farmer gave Miltador a calf – his only payment for years of work.
When the missionary’s training group, including Miltador, studied the New Testament, they came upon 1 John 3:16-18. The man who led the study struggled with whether to teach the passage. American Christians need this message because we typically live in abundance. Haitians, however, rarely have anything that isn’t necessary for their bare existence. But because the passage was in the Bible, and because even the poor need to recognize the need to help others, the teacher decided to go ahead and study the passage.
When the group met the following week, the teacher casually asked Miltador how his cow was doing. Miltador hung his head and said, “I don’t have the cow anymore.”
“What happened to the cow?” the teacher asked.
“My brother has been sick and needed to see a doctor,” explained Miltador. “He had no money to pay a doctor. Last week you told us that if we have material possession, and see our brother in need, but don’t help, then how could the love of God be in us? So I sold the cow and gave the money to my brother so he could see the doctor.”
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16,17, NKJV).
Harvest Sunday is one of the great traditions of the Lord’s church in Jersey Village. It is the day when our entire congregation, and all of our guests, has the amazing visual reminder of what the love of Christ looks like. When we see the entire stage area filled with grocery bags, when we know how many people we will be able to share the world’s goods with, we remember the words of the Savior, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34).
What a privilege we have to serve, in deed and truth, the One who was love personified. May the blessing of Harvest Sunday touch many lives, including our own.