Over the next weeks and months, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will be sharing reflections from our CBF field personnel serving around the world. These are stories of impact and outreach, Gospel-sharing and relationship building, long-term presence and abundant love.
The following is a reflection from CBF field personnel Jon and Tanya Parks, who serve in Košice, Slovakia. You can learn more about their ministries and support their work at www.cbf.net/parks.
For some people, like healthcare workers and front line responders, the time of lockdown due to COVID-19 has been chaotic and stressful. For many of us, it was a season when we found ourselves with more time for a while.
That extra time was a mixed blessing. There was plenty of time to slow down and find peace, but also plenty of time to fear for the safety of our loved ones and friends. There was plenty of time to find new ways to serve and minister from a distance, but also plenty of time to grieve the opportunities lost, and to wonder if things would ever get back to “normal.”
During the six weeks or so we were mainly confined to our home, I decided to try something new: I planted a garden. It’s something I’ve wanted to try personally for a long time, but also something that might “bear fruit” in ministry one day—community gardens are popular development tools all over the world, but it’s hard to lead others in growing a garden if you’ve never done it yourself!
I haven’t had much luck with plants for most of my life, but not for lack of trying. I can’t count the number of innocent houseplants I’ve killed throughout the years. So I knew it’s something I couldn’t do alone.
Fortunately, I’m surrounded by a nation of teachers. For centuries Slovaks have traditionally been farmers, gardeners and foresters. People of the land. And that’s still very much a part of their culture, even as the country and people have become more urbanized.
So I ask for help from my neighbors, whose massive garden across the fence amazes us each year. Through social media I ask friends near and far for advice on everything from soil to slugs.
And slowly, slowly, something lush and abundant appeared where there was only dirt and weeds before.
I hope that in the next few weeks I’ll be able to give tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini to friends, and to enjoy some of these vegetables at our own table. I hope one day to be able to show pictures of these plants and vegetables to people trying to start a community garden, and say, “Believe me, if I can do this, so can you!”
But even if the slugs finally have their way and I get no fruits from this garden, there are important things that have happened inside me.
I’ve been reminded that, while we’ve been here a number of years, I still have a lot to learn about this place and these people. I still have a lot of growing to do—God’s Spirit isn’t done with me yet!
I’ve been reminded that even the smallest seed, with patience and care, might someday, somehow grow into something meaningful.
I’ve been reminded that, if we will take care of the earth God has entrusted to us, that earth will continue to take care of us.
I’ve been reminded that, even if the soil of our lives feels dead and dirty and full of weeds, God’s able to transform that into lush and abundant life.
May the Great Gardener enrich all our souls through these troubling times, showing us new fruit and abundant life where we least expect to find it!