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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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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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.

JOURNAL ENTRY 12.06.1999

wa woman black teeth
A Wa woman with teeth stained from chewing betal nut

Excerpt from David Joannes’s journal while traveling among unreached people groups and villages in Southwest China.
Journal entry 12.06.1999

At 6:15pm last night our 3:pm bus decided to leave. Right now we still haven’t arrived into K*****g. We’re taking a bathroom break, and everyone is peeing on the side of the street, squatting in ditches. We’ll soon be home… 8:16am

At 10:am we finally arrived into K*****g. It was a long haul, but I actually slept ok on the bus for the first time. Zhong and I were both wanting to beat up the bus driver for being so lazy. The bus station that goes to all the L*****g county stops is called Jinwan Bus Station 金湾客运站。It takes about 16 hours from L*****g to K*****g.

7:55pm:
Back here in K*****g. I’m beat. Henrik called me a while ago. He got back around 4:30pm. He said two guys from the village did come! That’s great. Elder Li was one of them. They are both around 50 years old. Anyway, I pray they catch the fire of God at this training seminar.

D*****g village, outside C******n, is supposedly a Christian village. It seems to be fairly lax there as far as persecution because they say that 70% of the surrounding villages are Christian Wa. The police are mainly looking for drugs and things of that nature. The problem with most of these villages (I’m thinking) is that they are very nominal. For 80 to 90 years they have existed, and are presently living off the thin stream of life coming from the vein of tradition. Most of the young people could care less about Jesus, and most of the villages still smoke, drink, etc. I would only consider them (only from my few days experience in the area) nominal Christians. They still have hymnals and Bibles in Wa script, but a lot of youth can’t read wa script, and sometimes can’t even speak the Wa language. Everything is becoming “Han-ized”. If they are to be passionate, and re-enter the life of the vine, they must surrender. There are still so many unreached Wa. Where now do I direct my energy? But I am praying that Elder Li and this other man become impassioned with the living Christ. I feel that young men are more adequate, but Joel 2:28 says, “your old men shall dream dreams…” This is the beginning of the Wa revival! And don’t forget Tian Guangzhong under the stars of M****o village, for he is God’s chosen…

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David’s actual journal entry

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A Wa woman cradles her child in front of their grass hut

our team in a wa village
Traveling with missionary heroes from Denmark, Ireland, America and Holland.

wa smoking old folks
The Wa mafia? Maybe not. Just enjoying a quick smoke on their silver pipes.

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A Wa village where we saw great breakthrough

EMMANUEL IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY

This is a blog originally published by my wife, Lorna, in December, 2011. Her writing is always so touching and inspiring because she writes from a deep place of honesty and transparency. I am honored to give you a window into her heart.

See original blog here, by Lorna Joannes @lornajoannes

Two Christmas’s ago, David and I went to the United States to celebrate with his family. We had a wonderful time. That same year, earlier in 2009, we were able to set up three more underground Bible training centers, but we suffered a lot of difficulty in China—from persecution to sickness, and near death experiences. It was also that same year that we published the inspiring Ako Ay Pilipino coffee table book, which took only 13 weeks from conceptualization to publishing. When December came, we were exhausted.

Most of us have experienced it: after a big project is finished—a big success or accomplishment obtained—everything slows down, and your adrenaline plunges. The physical tiredness combined with emotional exhaustion was very real. I felt broken inside and was not ready to go back to the mission field.

I knew that we were on the right track, but questions lingered in my mind. “I know this is what we are supposed to do, but is God really with me?” I wondered. “Are you with me, God?” We often ask these kinds of questions, especially when there are serious challenges along the path of the journey. They are valid questions. God knows the frailty of humankind, and He understands the questions that comes from deep within a man or woman. It is okay. He is not offended.

After weeks of speaking at churches and fund raising around America, a friend invited to us to go to her church. In only a few days we would return to China. We decided to attend.

We met the pastor and people in leadership before the service, where there were about 300 people, but we did not know anyone beside the friend who invited us. The worship was great. The presence of the Lord was there. Suddenly, just before the worship ended, they called us to the front to pray for us. It was very encouraging. People we have never met before were praying for us. As the prayer ended, a lady came up to me. I was surprised as she held my hand and put a gold ring on my right ring finger. She said, “This is my ring, made of broken jewelry, with my name engraved on it. The Lord told me to give it to you.” I looked down and saw the word “Manuela”. She continued, “My name is taken from the word Emmanuel, which means God is with us. God wants to tell you that He is with you, and He has never left you. He told me to give you this ring to remind you of this promise”.

As I stood in front of the 300 people present, I began crying. It was a heavenly moment, a confirmation that God’s presence was given to me. I knew in my heart that He was always there, but to hear a confirmation of the exact answer to my questions earlier that day was mind blowing.

That day, God gave me a promise ring. I’ve never seen Manuela again. I have never been able to get ahold of her. I know it is not easy to give a precious ring to someone you have never met before. I felt like she was an angel sent to comfort me, to remind me of what Emmanuel really means, and to confirm God’s promises so that we could continue our journey. To this day, I am still wearing the ring. Wherever you are, dear sister, I am so thankful for your obedience.

As you read this blog, it is about 10 days before Christmas, and only 16 days before the start of 2012. You might also have similar questions and wonderings going on in your mind. Or you may be facing some struggles like David and I were. They are normal. Wherever you are at this point, hold on to the promises enclosed in this name: Emmanuel.

As you evaluate this whole year that has sped by—as you see your accomplishments and areas that need improvement—remember one thing: Emmanuel. God is always with you. He was with you in the past, He’s in every detail of your future, and He knows whatever you are undergoing at present.

In the Chinese underground Church, it is common to greet one another or say goodbye with these words, 以马内利 (yi ma nei li), which means Emmanuel. They understand the power of the abiding presence of God in everyday life. May it be so in our lives as well.

Because of this word, Christmas exists. God chose to come down to be with us, because He knows that it is too difficult to live in this imperfect world alone. We need a companion, we need Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Invest now.

See original blog here, by Lorna Joannes @lornajoannes