The price of corn and soybeans in Iowa this year has plummeted, partly because of the prediction of a bumper crop this fall. While the corn was growing tall here in the Midwest this summer, other fields were being sown with the good news of the gospel, and God has promised a harvest – not necessarily visible, but invaluable and eternal.
Our first trip to the field this summer was the last week of June, where 50 sowers climbed the hills of Virginia to spread the Good Seed over the 20 towns and villages between Wythevillle and Blacksburg on both sides of Jefferson National Forest. There was a good balance of families and young people who took up satchel and Seed in obedience to the great commission and the wise counsel of Solomon, as they faithfully sowed in the mornings and evenings, whether sun or rain. We were working this area at the invitation of the Christians from the new assembly in Crandon, Virginia, who have a burden to spread the gospel in their own neighborhood. The packets included an invitation to gospel meetings in a tent pitched in White Gate, located between Pearisburg and Crandon, conducted by David Petterson and Russell Coleman. There was a good response from the community; a few nights the tent was nearly full. Besides the usual mix of “Christian” denominations, this part of Virginia has pockets of Amish and Mennonites, some of whom are relatives and friends of the Miller and Schwartz families in the Crandon assembly. Few of us grasp the strong hold these conservative religious sects have over their family members, but we can pray for our brothers and sisters who have the great burden of reaching their own loved ones with the gospel.
In early August we undertook to sow in the hills of east central Iowa, parts of southwest Wisconsin, and in northwest Illinois. We were camped between Dyersville and Dubuque, Iowa. This area has a very high percentage of Roman Catholics. Dyersville is home to one of the oldest and largest Catholic basilicas in the USA. We had over 80 sowers with us, many of them young “first timers,” but there were also a good number of families and veteran sowers in the ranks. We covered a 40-mile radius around Dubuque, from Platteville, WI, to Galena, IL, to Maquoketa, Monticello, Dyersville, and Guttenberg, IA. There were no special meetings during the distribution, but on Wednesday night the group made the hour-long trip to the Beetown, WI assembly to support a gospel series in progress by brethren Roy Weber and Jerry Jennings. One of the pleasant surprises has been the number of response cards returned requesting gospel booklets and visits. The average response in the USA would be less than one card out of 200 texts (½ of 1 percent), but so far this distribution has seen nearly double the average response rate. Andrew Baker (Marion, IA), Scott Hayes (Cedar Falls, IA), and Jonathan Hunt (Garnavillo, IA) have committed to sharing the responsibility for follow-up with materials and visits. In the previous two summers (2012 and 2013) we completed the central portion of Iowa: Des Moines, Ankeny, and Ames. With the east part of Iowa now being completed, we have covered nearly half of the state. The only significant remaining metropolis is the Quad Cities, which, Lord willing, we hope to cover next summer.
In late August, Tim and Judy Barkhouse, our Canadian partners organized another distribution in Ottawa, Ontario followed by a series of meetings gospel meetings conducted by Gaius Goff and Shawn St. Clair in the North River Road Gospel Hall.
For any who have not been at a distribution and wonder what it is like, the best thing to do is to come and see. While we have expectations for dress and behavior, Seed Sowers is not an independent para-church organization operating outside of the purview of our local elders. It is mainly families and young people using their summer vacation time to do something that is useful (over 65,000 gospel texts delivered to homes this summer), healthful (a typical day of distribution would be an eight mile walk), and enjoyable (good singing and fellowship) with an eternal outlook. A typical day starts at 7:00am with breakfast and, following after, one or two young men (those approved by their assembly elders) share something from their own study of the Scripture. Vans with responsible drivers are then loaded with pairs of walkers for the day and, with only an hour to break for lunch, many feet pound the pavement until suppertime at 5 or 6pm. After a couple of hours of free time, if there is no local meeting to attend, we gather around a campfire to sing and hear testimonies of salvation and restoration. We are careful not to make emotional pleas for salvation but, as Paul the Apostle told his testimony, often there is seldom a clearer and more compelling gospel message. This spring we had the joy of hearing of a young man from a Christian home who had been awakened at a distribution last summer by a simple, clear testimony of a girl saved out of the world as a result of a Gospel Hall Sunday School outreach.
Since 1987 when Ross Vanstone had the first 15,000 texts printed and a small group of friends went door-to-door in the village of FlinFlon, Manitoba, about 65 million texts have been printed and distributed worldwide. Many stories have been related how a text was used to reach a soul or was used to bring people to a gospel meeting. Most of the texts are given out by individual workers or local assemblies, but organized text distributions have taken place in over 30 countries around the globe. They also find their way into some of the world’s remote islands. Recently an assembly believer was visiting the small island of Mauritius off the coast of Madagascar and discovered a text on the wall of a business contact. A friend or relative had sent it to them years before. Many of us can’t stand on a platform and preach the gospel well, but most of us can carry a satchel full of texts, climb the front porch of a home, and deliver the same gospel message in printed form. Perhaps the Lord will say of those foot-weary sowers what he said of the woman of Mark 14, “She hath done what she could.”