Jon R. Black

One of the dominant features of my faith community is the motif of “Seedtime and Harvest.”

We are always planting seeds. We plant seeds to improve our health, cultivate relationships, reduce debt and to address political issues in our community.

These are intentional seeds, planted with a specific harvest in mind. However, in nature and in life, we are constantly and unintentionally planting seeds.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a telephone call from a Marine I met in 1988. We were stationed with the First Marine Wing in Iwakuni, Japan. For the sake of this article, I will call him Bill.

Bill was a new sergeant and I was a junior officer. Bill volunteered at the chapel. I was the chaplain in charge of all Protestant services. Before that telephone call, Bill and I had not spoken to each other for almost 30 years.

After reminiscing for a few minutes, Bill told me a story that I found very difficult to believe. He began by saying that he thought about me every day for the past 30 years. My personal journey served as Bill’s career map.

He tailored his education, marital life, parenting and career after me. His decision-making model was WWJD, “What would Jon Do?”

Bill told me of his journey into the Navy’s chaplaincy, educational endeavors and his retirement. All were modeled after my story.

That conversation humbled me. When I look back on my time in Iwakuni, I remember being a very green chaplain. I frequently found myself in situations that were far above my training and experience. Unlike Bill, my matrix for decision making was based on the Hippocratic Oath, “Do no harm.” I did not feel like anyone’s role model. I needed all the help I could get.

My experience reminds me of Jesus’ sermon found in Matthew 25. Jesus was teaching about the end of the age. The people of the world had been separated into two groups, which Jesus called “sheep” and “goats.”

To the sheep, Jesus offers entry into his Kingdom. He justified this invitation by stating, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35). The sheep responded, “When did that happen?” (Jon Black’s paraphrase).

Like me, the sheep discovered a deep truth: we are constantly planting seeds into the lives of others. A smile offered to a cashier at a local store, a word of encouragement to a friend, a shoulder to cry on, or a big hug all look very small.

They should, as most seeds are very small. However, these seeds can produce a great harvest.

I was very fortunate to have that conversation with Bill. Most of us will have to wait until the end of the age to discover the impact our seeds had on the lives of others.

The Rev. Dr. Jon R. Black is senior pastor at Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church in Bluffton.