Just Plant a Seed


It takes some skill to grow a beautiful tomato and make it tasteless. As C&MA missionaries in Hong Kong, the place of my birth, my wife, Donna, and I discovered that farmers there can grow tomatoes but, my goodness, they are terrible. Not only are they tasteless, but they are not much larger than a golf ball. So when we moved to Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, we were amazed with the size and surprising taste of a locally grown tomato.

When I discovered I could grow them at home, in our backyard, I considered myself a farmer. I stripped a patch of lawn and prepared the soil under Donna’s watchful eye. I purchased fertilizer that claimed to produce tomatoes too big to handle with a taste that would slay you. I bought the necessary tools: stakes, cages, markers, watering supplies and devices and spent an entire morning in the garden shop being lectured on which seeds would grow well in the local environment.

I planted the seeds myself, on my knees, hands in the soil with much care and affection and some anticipation. At this point, time had to take over. I inspected the seedlings daily, but some unanticipated problems sprang up as well. There was some sort of fungus, several varieties of bugs (I discovered there was a different spray for each of these averaging six or seven dollars a bottle, along with dire warnings of the toxicity of the product) and the quite catastrophic, atomic bomb–like presence of deer, who were most grateful for the leaves of these sprouting buffet spreads. Not to worry. I bought all the necessary poisons and fertilizer and erected a fence tall enough to give the Great Wall of China some competition.

Bugs, mold, deer, climate, weeds, rabbits and heavy rain took their toll, but the day the first large, red beefsteak tomato appeared, I was ecstatic. I wanted to pick it before the ravages of the yard took over, but Donna tenaciously protected that tomato until it was ready to eat. The picking ceremony was a big event, attended by the entire family. We took the gorgeous fruit to the kitchen table and thanked the Lord for it. It was the best tomato I have tasted in my life of more than 70 years. But after eating it, I thought I would figure out its cost. Given supplies, time spent, the fence, the tools, the watering and all the chiropractor visits, I figured each tomato cost about $32. But it was worth it!

Last year, Donna and I visited the Kowloon Tong Church of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Seventy years ago, my dad and mom planted that little seed in a small, one-car garage on Cumberland Road in Hong Kong. My parents were there to operate a hostel for the children of missionaries who were serving in inland China, an environment so hostile that the government often did not permit them to take their children with them.

Dad needed a place for the children to worship, so at his own expense, he rented a small garage and started preaching the gospel. After just two years, the Japanese occupied Hong Kong and put Dad in an internment camp. Many other obstacles attacked that little garage, but little did we know it would become the grand “tomato” that we see there today.

Here is what has grown from that seed: Every Sunday more than 6,500 people attend the network of 22 branch churches or the mother church. The congregations support 20 local and 20 overseas missionaries. There are 13,500 students studying in schools operated by the Kowloon Church, and their largest branch church is constructing a seven-story building for services, programs and activities.

As I preached at the seventieth anniversary of this church started in a garage by a printer from Albany, New York, and a lassie from Ireland, I thanked God my parents took the time to plant a seed and work the ground.

If you want to taste the fruit that God will grow in spite of the circumstances, plant a seed—and you have to get down on your knees to do that. It will be the sweetest thing you have ever tasted. Costly but sweet.

Past Alliance Life Issues


Get Involved...


We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »


Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »


Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »