Our harvest services are going to look different this year. Yet in times of difficulty, expressing gratitude for God’s provision becomes even more important. For one community in Sulawesi, Indonesia, gratitude at harvest time has helped rebuild the church...
Sulawesi is one of the largest islands in the world. It’s also one of the most vulnerable to natural disasters.
In September 2018, an earthquake triggered landslides and a tsunami that caused huge destruction and loss of life. Nearly 70,000 houses were damaged or destroyed, and many of the crops that people depend on for food were lost.
Part of Tearfund’s long-term response to the Sulawesi earthquake has been training vulnerable communities in improved farming techniques, as well as providing seeds and tools so they can grow their own vegetables. This not only helps families get all the nutrients they need, but also provides a source of income, as many crops are in high demand.
But the success of this project has had unintended consequences…
An abundant offering
Then our partner staff recently visited communities in the Kulawi region – which had been hit especially hard by the tsunami – they found that part of the harvest had been donated to the local church.
The church had been heavily damaged in the 2018 earthquake. As a result, the congregation had been meeting in a makeshift shelter made from bamboo.
‘The first harvest on the group land we have offered to the church,’ says Yarni, who leads one of the farming groups. ‘Besides water spinach plants, there are mustard plants, tomatoes, string beans and cabbage. We offer it to the church as a form of our thanksgiving to the Lord Jesus, who has blessed us through farming.’
These are people whose lives would have been turned upside down by the earthquake. People who have experienced bitter poverty. Yet as soon as circumstances began to change, their first thought was to bless the community as a whole.
Once enough money had been raised from the sale of the produce, many members of the farming groups rolled up their sleeves and helped with the repairs.
Firstfruits (and veg)
The community was following the Biblical principle of offering the ‘firstfruits’ of the harvest to God. There are many passages in scripture that describe this practice, including Exodus 12, Numbers 15, Deuteronomy 18, Leviticus 19, and the following from Proverbs: ‘Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.’ (Proverbs 3:9-10).
‘This is a special harvest,’ says Merda, another of the farmers. ‘God has blessed my farming business and family, and friends in my group. I believe we will continue to be blessed through this farming business.’
Harvest is a time of thanksgiving. A time to remember that, whatever our circumstances may be, we have reasons to give thanks to God. It is also a time to remember that we are blessed in order to be a blessing – as demonstrated so powerfully by these communities in Sulawesi.
Take a moment to consider what the ‘firstfruits’ of your own life may be – the things that God has provided for you. Maybe write them down on a piece of paper. Consider how you might use these things to bless the people around you.