The Missionary   [I wrote this towards the beginning of my now twenty year mission]


Today I removed a stump.

I loved a child who knew not love.

I was her father for she had not one.

She played with my kids and ate dinner not from a box or delivered by a car.

She bowed her head at a table with a family

and heard the man who took her in submit himself to God in prayer.

My wife held her and hugged her and rocked her and told her that she was loved.

The child learned that Jesus was hope and not a vain epithet muttered in angry hopelessness.

She stayed the night because there was not a place for her at home.


The roots of the stump ran generations deep.

Did I uproot it in one day?

No, but countless days, chopping and straining against the gnarled behemoth.

And still, shoots from the old wood may spring forth and dominate.

For now there’s a hole.

Not much to show, it seems, for my effort.

But a place to plant a seed.


Around me are the holes of many absent stumps

with sprouts from seeds I have planted.

Tomorrow it may be rocks I must remove

lest the roots beshallow and the plant be scorched.

Or maybe tomorrow I will pull the life-choking thorns that spring so readily

from this hard ground now that there are holes in the canopy.


The Master Farmer has sent another to share in the toil!

When I have fallen, he has lifted me up.

When the cold gripped the rugged land, we kept each other warm.

When wolves attacked, trampling and tearing at the tender shoots,

we were not overpowered but stood back to back.

Twice, herbicide was sprayed across the rough field.

How we mourned the dead!

How we struggled daily to purify the soil and nurse the sick.


We look now at the field and see holes–

empty places where the old growth once shielded seed from the Son,

empty places where boulders once laid unyielding,

empty places where thorns once sucked life.


We also see poking through the debris and amongst stumps, rocks, and thorns yet to be pulled–

young plants.

Some have thickened in their trunks, having persevered through countless storms.

Most have blossomed and are nourishing fellow plants.

They are leading and loving, giving and growing.


But from the distant watchtower those who squint see only the holes.

“Where are the new and mighty trees? Have you not cast any seed?”

What can I answer?

Today I removed a stump.