If The Christian Church Was An Apple Picking Society, What Kind Of Apple Picker Would You Be?

Original post at davidjoannes.com

 

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Warning: Get ready for a massive shift in perspective!

This witty story helps make sense of the ridiculously lopsided allocation of Christian workers to unreached peoples in the 10/40 Window. [CLICK TO TWEET]

For more frustrating statistics on missionary work in the 10/40 Window, see Chances Are, You Don’t Care and The Great Imbalance Of Global Missions.

Orchard Parable: The Society for the Picking of Apples

Once upon a time there was an apple grower who had acres and acres of apple trees. In all, he had 10,000 acres of apple orchards.

One day he went to the nearby town. There, he hired 1,000 apple pickers. He told them:

“Go to my orchards. Harvest the ripe apples, and build storage buildings for them so that they will not spoil. I need to be gone for a while, but I will provide all you will need to complete the task. When I return, I will reward you for your work.

“I’ll set up a Society for the Picking of Apples. The Society—to which you will all belong—will be responsible for the entire operation. Naturally, in addition to those of you doing the actual harvesting, some will carry supplies, others will care for the physical needs of the group, and still others will have administrative responsibilities.”

As he set up the Society structure, some people volunteered to be pickers and others to be packers. Others put their skills to work as truck drivers, cooks, accountants, storehouse builders, apple inspectors and even administrators. Every one of his workers could, of course, have picked apples. In the end, however, only 100 of the 1,000 employees wound up as full-time pickers.

The 100 pickers started harvesting immediately. 94 of them began picking around the homestead. The remaining 6 looked out toward the horizon. They decided to head out to the far-away orchards. [CLICK TO TWEET]

Before long, the storehouses in the 800 acres immediately surrounding the homestead had been filled by the 94 pickers with beautiful, delicious apples.
The orchards on the 800 acres around the homestead had thousands of apple trees. But with almost all of the pickers concentrating on them, those trees were soon picked nearly bare. In fact, the 94 apple pickers working around the homestead began having difficulty finding trees which had not been picked.

As the apple picking slowed down around the homestead, Society members began channeling effort into building larger storehouses and developing better equipment for picking and packing. They even started some schools to train prospective apple pickers to replace those who one day would be too old to pick apples.

Sadly, those 94 pickers working around the homestead began fighting among themselves. Incredible as it may sound, some began stealing apples that had already been picked. Although there were enough trees on the 10,000 acres to keep every available worker busy, those working nearest the homestead failed to move into unharvested areas. They just kept working those 800 acres nearest the house. Some on the northern edge sent their trucks to get apples on the southern side. And those on the south side sent their trucks to gather on the east side.

Even with all that activity, the harvest on the remaining 9,200 acres was left to just 6 pickers. Those 6 were, of course, far too few to gather all the ripe fruit in those thousands of acres. So, by the hundreds of thousands, apples rotted on the trees and fell to the ground. [CLICK TO TWEET]

One of the students at the apple-picking school showed a special talent for picking apples quickly and effectively. When he heard about the thousands of acres of untouched faraway orchards, he started talking about going there.

His friends discouraged him. They said: “Your talents and abilities make you very valuable around the homestead. You’d be wasting your talents out there. Your gifts can help us harvest apples from the trees on our central 800 acres more rapidly. That will give us more time to build bigger and better storehouses. Perhaps you could even help us devise better ways to use our big storehouses since we have wound up with more space than we need for the present crop of apples.”

With so many workers and so few trees, the pickers and packers and truck drivers—and all the rest of the Society for the Picking of Apples living around the homestead—had time for more than just picking apples.

They built nice houses and raised their standard of living. Some became very conscious of clothing styles. Thus, when the 6 pickers from the far-off orchards returned to the homestead for a visit, it was apparent that they were not keeping up with the styles in vogue with the other apple pickers and packers.

To be sure, those on the homestead were always good to those 6 who worked in the far away orchards. When any of those 6 returned from the far away fields, they were given the red carpet treatment. Nonetheless, those 6 pickers were saddened that the Society of the Picking of Apples spent 96% of its budget for bigger and better apple-picking methods and equipment and personnel for the 800 acres around the homestead, while it spent only 4% of its budget on all those distant orchards.

The 6 pickers knew that an apple is an apple wherever it may be picked. They knew that the apples around the homestead were just as important as apples far away. Still, they could not erase from their minds the sight of thousands of trees which had never been touched by a picker.

They longed for more pickers to come help them. They longed for help from packers, truck drivers, supervisors, equipment-maintenance men, and ladder builders. They wondered if the professionals working back around the homestead could teach them better apple-picking methods so that, out where they worked, fewer apples would rot and fall to the ground.

The 6 pickers sometimes wondered to themselves whether or not the Society for the Picking of Apples was doing what the orchard owner had asked it to do. [CLICK TO TWEET]

While one might question whether the Society was doing all the owner wanted done, the members did keep very busy. Several members were convinced that proper apple picking requires nothing less than the very best equipment. Thus, the Society assigned several members to develop bigger and better ladders as well as nicer boxes to store apples. The Society also prided itself at having raised the qualification level for full-time apple pickers.

When the owner returns, the Society members will crowd around him. They’ll proudly show off the bigger and better ladders they’ve built and the nice apple boxes they’ve designed and made. One wonders how happy that owner will be, however, when he looks out and sees the acres and acres of untouched trees with their unpicked apples.

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Reach people who have never heard of Jesus before! Donate to Within Reach Global today.

You may also like:

What If There Were Only 7 Churches In North America?

Chances Are, You Don’t Care

Original version appeared in Let’s Quit Kidding Ourselves About Missions, by James M. Weber, missionary to Japan, Moody Press. © 1979 by The Moody Bible Institute. Edited and revised by Howard Culbertson.

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6 WAYS TO GET RICH (OR REALIZE THAT YOU ALREADY ARE)

Firework of dollars

There is a sweet, gray-haired 70 year old woman with a pretty smile named Elena on the corner of Aurora Blvd. and General Aguinaldo Ave. I see her nearly every day. She travels ten miles from her slum home to beg for money in the high traffic Araneta Center area. I always stop for a moment to ask how she is. We have a cordial conversation. Elena asks about my newborn baby, And how is your wife? She always looks so pretty! She asks if I am having a good day, and squinches her cheeks with delight when I reply in Tagalog. Mabuti naman po. 

She has picked a good spot in the bustling city of sixteen million people. Not that everyone is overly generous, but every coin counts, and adds up. I’d say she’s doing pretty well for herself—relatively speaking, of course, pretty well as far as the beggar’s lifestyle goes, pulling in more than a hundred Pesos a day.

She makes me think about the lifestyle that I have been blessed with. She makes me consider finances and food and entertainment and all the good pleasures of this world. She makes me feel rich.

But opulence is a funny thing, a sticky conversation full of loopholes and relativity. The rich announce that they’re poor. The poor makes you think they are rich by their amiable smiles. The middle class always want more. Beggars are always reaching for another coin. Millionaires never have enough.

So how wealthy are you? Where do you fall on the global rich list? Here are five ways to get rich, or realize that you already are.

1. INFANTS SLEEPING ON THE MANILA SIDEWALK
Walk less than fifty meters northeast from Elena’s spot on Aurora Blvd. to watch infants sleeping in makeshift cardboard boxes strewn across the sidewalk. They are usually asleep next to an older sibling, a toddler or ten year old. Traffic is heavy with personal vehicles and public jeepneys, and the humidity collects billions of smoggy molecules, stuffing the black soot inside tiny, helpless nostrils. You can’t believe how dirty the poor baby’s cheeks are. Their mother’s empty eye follows me as I walk past them with a hampered cringe in each step. I’m pretty sure she’s wondering how rich I am.

2. WA VILLAGE ON THE CHINA / MYANMAR BORDER
Take a twenty-four hour overnight sleeper bus from Kunming city to The Edge, the northern point of the Golden Triangle. Home to the former headhunting Wa tribe, the landscape is dotted with lush poppy fields and grass huts. Methamphetamine production and ethnic genocide (amongst a myriad of other tragedies) have ushered in a tidal wave of poverty. Spend the night in a Wa hut, sip some of the local rice wine jet fuel, converse with a toothless old man puffing a silver pipe, and pinch the children’s cheeks as you hand them gifts of balloons and used clothing. The wide open wet skies outside will remind you that you don’t have it that bad after all.

3. LEGLESS BEGGAR IN BIRD AND FLOWER MARKET
Set out for a shopping day in Kunming city like any decent consumer. But watch your step as you stroll under the branches that hang over the Chinese souvenir and trinket venders at the Bird and Flower Market. Fate is not so fair to every human being, you will see. I have always wondered about that man’s story—the legless man with polio shriveled arms, contorted in inhuman posture, with hollow tin can laid in front of his face. When I see him, I am shocked and saddened and pissed off. His gnarled vertebrae is a hump of bone and flesh, pathetic and hopeless. On a busy day at the market, you may not even see him until it’s almost too late as you nearly trip over him and despise yourself because of it.

4. ORPHANS ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF MONROVIA
Watch from inside your vehicle as the hoard of excited children run toward you, smiling, waving, What’s your name? hugging your leg, Will you be my friend? Your car has not even come to a complete stop yet, and you are surrounded. The moment your foot steps on the Liberian soil, you are engulfed in a swarm of loveably curious little children. Some are late in their teen years. Others are toddlers. The sun beats down on you as the African temperature soars. A five year old boy named James holds your hand as he looks up at you with those big, black eyes. He has seen war. He has felt loss. His parents are gone. His eyes are more articulate than he himself, and they tell a story of hope and longing. Suddenly your first world problems seem more trivial than ever.

5. YAO VILLAGE ON THE CHINA / VIETNAM BORDER
Look to your right, south toward the Mekong River, as the swooping valley bursts with greens and yellows. Banana and pineapple plantations as far as the eye can see, and the smoke of a thousand villages rise in the dusky purple haze. The Yao tribe is one of the poorest of the poor people groups in Southeast Asia. Tonight you are sitting on an unnaturally short stool, crouching over a splintery wooden table laden with boiled cat, leafy water spinach, and raw grub worms. Your stomach churns as you scan the delectable delicacies with worry in your eyes. But you are an honored guest, and they are serving you the best that they can manage. You squeeze your chopsticks awkwardly, pinch a glob of bone and flesh, and chew slowly, savoring every unique flavor as your host scrutinizes with innocuous eyes.

6. THE MIRROR
Take a moment to pause and reflect. Linger a little longer than usual in front of the mirror. Inspect your jeans. Scrutinize your shirt. Examine your shoes. Survey your stuff behind you in the room, your electronic devices, your gadgets, appliances, furniture, light fixtures, wall paint. Perhaps a sudden epiphany will shock you with a thought like, Wow, I am not as poor as I thought. Yes, there are bills and obligations, and it always feels like you wallet is filled with more receipts than cash. But that may simply be because you only use plastic! Just a moment more. Linger there in front of the mirror a little longer. Are you poor or rich? Are you well off or just getting by or keeping up with the Jones’s? If you are reading this, the reality is, you are most likely in the the top ten percent of the world’s rich.

Confirm how rich you are on the Global Rich List.

I’m sorry if this blog was deceiving, and you haven’t walked away with newfound wealth or secret steps to becoming rich. But I hope that you realize how blessed and well off you truly are. Now, why not find a cause to give toward.

To whom much is given, much will be required. 

Perhaps it’s time to become more intentional with how you use your wealth for the benefit of both yourself and others.

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2012 IN REVIEW

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. I’m pretty happy with it. I am inspired to finish my book in 2013—once I awake from zombie mode because of the recent birth of my baby girl! Yes, there’s a lot of sleep deprivation going on around the Joannes household right now, but there are glimpses of deep inspiration as well. I hope to draw on that inspiration to create a book that satisfies your craving for unique missionary stories.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

A BEGGAR KISSED ME TODAY

It was a brief transaction, simple, I thought, but much bigger than I may have realized.

A glimpse.
A moment.

I was on my way to the grocery store to buy veggies for my wife when a middle aged man approached me.

He wore flip flops and a yellow t-shirt with a hole. He wore worry on his wrinkled brow. And I thought I recognized sadness in his eyes, perhaps more than the common passerby.

“I’m trying to get to Bulacan,” he said in Tagalog. “Do you have 20 Pesos, sir?” But he suddenly changed his bargain, hoping he didn’t set the bar too high: “Even 10 Pesos will do.”

I have recently decided to give a few coins to every beggar that asks it of me, and my decision has made me a busy man.

I opened my wallet and began thumbing through my cash in search of a 20 Peso bill. But I was all out.

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you…'”

But Peter was a poor fisherman, and I am blessed beyond my own needs. Generous Within Reach Global donors have been giving to my ministry for many years, so how can I withhold from those in need?

Besides, sometimes I think we use that scripture to get out of giving to those in need. Unfortunate, I know, right?

How about a little shift in perspective.

Maybe we should start saying it in reverse: “What I do have I give you,” then check our pockets and continue, “and I just happen to have some silver and gold on me right now!”

I was out of coins, and I could not find a 20 Peso bill. So I grabbed a 100 Peso bill and handed it to the man in need.

He was shocked at first. 100 Pesos goes a long way. He could pay for a bus to Bulacan, and pick up a few snacks for his family on the way with cash like that.

To put it in perspective, 100 Pesos is less than $2.50. But the standard of living raises it to roughly the equivalent of $20 Dollars—a decent size amount of money for a man in his situation.

The transaction continued. The bill slowly passed from my fingers to his hand. The lines in his brow softened. Gratitude grew on his face as empathy budded in my heart.

The man bowed his head and began kissing my hand. “Salamat po, sir!” He kissed my hand a few more times as I smiled awkwardly, assuring him that it was alright. I patted him on the back as he walked away.

I stood there watching him blur into the crowd.

Until now I am unsure what kind of effect my simple—even infinitesimal—generosity had on the man in flip flops and tattered t-shirt. Maybe someday I will understand how far into eternity ripples actually stretch.

In the meantime I am thankful that I have a little bit of silver and gold to share.

Want to share some of your silver and gold? Donate to Within Reach Global here.