“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.” 1 Corinthians 3:7-9
When it comes to long term efforts, you don’t always get to see the fruit of your labor. And there’s not a more long-term, complicated, messy endeavor than working with human beings. I experience this first-hand while working with middle schoolers after school. While there are plenty of rewarding moments in working with kids, there’s just as many moments where I want to bang my head against the wall.
Sometimes people interpret this concept of planting seeds lightly, as if to justify the minimal effort or follow up needed. I’ve often heard people say, “Well, all you can do is plant the seeds. God has to do the rest.” And while I’m not a farmer, I do know that the process of planting, watering, and nurturing seeds to fruition is no easy, simple, or thoughtless process. The farmer isn’t taking a handful of seeds, haphazardly throwing them in the wind, and hoping for the best. It’s a very concentrated effort to plan, organize, and ensure the survival of seeds.
You cannot discount the role of the farmer in this process. At the same time, this passage also highlights that growth in a person is something that only God can do. I appreciate this reminder in my work with youth. Because you don’t always get to see the fruit of your labor. But day after day, you show up, give your best, and hope that your investment in their lives yields a return. You trust God to do what only he can in the lives of these kids. God is both the one we serve as we give our best effort, and the one we trust when our effort can only do so much.
Every once and a while, however, you do witness the fruit of your labor. For our ministry, this can happen when we see kids move from one aspect of our programming to another. We’ve witnessed this in kids who have started with our organization through our summer camp, Camp Skillz, and then returned to join our after school program, CASE, in the fall. We’ve seen kids in our CASE program return in the summer to get their first summer job at Workwell. One student from our neighborhood began with us in Camp Skillz, then enrolled in the Academy, and this fall, will begin at our Institute.
This type of consistency in programming and personnel is where we have really seen kids thrive. On the other side of adult mentors, counselors, and teachers faithfully planting, watering, and working with God to serve youth, there has undoubtedly been fruit. We’ve watched kids grow up, become more confident in who they are, develop academically, become better friends, and learn more about the Lord as a result of our programming.
Gerron Norman, who will be the first Academy for G.O.D. High School graduate this May reflects, “I would not be the person I am today without the Academy. Usually I would be lost in my thoughts, not knowing where to go or how to direct myself to a better place. Talking it out with the teachers really set me back on the right path when I might have been going down a wrong one. It's just really an encouragement when a teacher is able to give you their wisdom and help guide you down the path that the Lord wants you to be on. The skills that I have learned are not just ones I could write on paper, but ones that I myself can apply outside in my own life.”
It is truly only God that can give growth. But for me, I find no greater privilege than partnering with him to do so.