Friday, March 23, 2018

Coffee, Anyone?

Patience is the middle name of a coffee grower.

The students at the Bible Institute that our mission established in Medellín, Colombia, supported themselves by coffee picking. The property was well suited for growing the bean that the world loves. Medellín is called The City of Eternal Spring, which pretty much tells you that its climate is perhaps the most agreeable in the world. The city sits about 5,000 feet above sea level and the mission property, perched on a hillside, looked down toward the floor of the valley. During rainy season, Medellín had predictable amounts of precipitation. You can count on a significant amount of rainfall sometime around mid-afternoon every day. Between the sun and rain, growing conditions were almost perfect. Banana trees, scattered among the coffee plants, protected them from the hot South American sun. It was ideal coffee growing country.

But coffee was not an instant cash crop. It took two to three years before the plants would flower. Coffee trees are at their most productive about five years after they have been planted. Then the “cherries,” the bright red berries of the mature coffee bean, were handpicked. The bigger, professional coffee growers have ovens that they use to dry the coffee quickly so that the husk will come off and the bean exposed. But we grew coffee as a sideline to help the students and the community rather than as a moneymaking proposition, so our process was a lot slower. Don Juan, our mayordomo, (foreman) and his helpers would spread the coffee out over the cement pavement in front to the boy’s dorm and let it dry in the sun, carefully turning it to make sure it dried evenly and didn’t ferment.

I wouldn’t make a good coffee farmer—at least not during those first five years. Patience is a virtue that I am still working on and there are plenty of times when I wonder if I’m not failing the subject.

Happily, God is supremely patient—with me and everyone else. You see; spiritual growth often acts like a coffee bean. Becoming more like Christ is a slow process. There may be some aspects of that growth that happen more quickly than others, but it’s not instant. For those of us who have grown up in an “instant” world, spiritual development can be a discouraging journey. It just takes so long!

Paul was a religious man long before he became a spiritual one. He knew his Old Testament forwards, backwards, upside down and sideways. He knew every one of the more than 600 rules the Pharisees had added to the do’s and don’ts of Jewish society. He thought he was doing God a favour by persecuting the followers of the “cult” of Christ. When he finally had his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he already was halfway to the spiritual growth finish line. He already had the head knowledge, now he had to cultivate the heart knowledge.  That turned out to be the hard part.

Paul said: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19, 20, NIV). He goes on to call himself “wretched” (vs. 24) because of this constant struggle between what he wants to do and what he does.

These are the moments when we take a lesson from nature—God’s live productions on the earth’s stage to constantly remind us that God has tons of time and lots of patience. If He made a simple coffee plant to take five years to be fully productive, there must be a lesson in that.

Paul concludes that though he is a “wretched” man he is not forever condemned to be so. Who will change that wretchedness in His own time, with labour and love administered with the sun of grace, the rain of mercy and the gentle cultivating of His Spirit?

Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25, NIV).

Coffee takes a long time to grow but for us coffee lovers, the end result is well worth the wait. God loves me, and you, and is willing to keep working and waiting. He knows that the end result will be well worth it. So enjoy the sun—and the rain. Cool off in the shade of whatever your banana tree experience is. Let Him pick and prune, roll and toast. He’s got the time—and so do we, whether we believe it or not.


Lynda is a missionary, speaker, educator, writer, editor, and cat lover. She was born and raised in Timmins, the heart of gold mining country in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Lynda has served with Fellowship International for more than thirty years, first in Colombia, a brief stint on home staff in Toronto, Ontario and, more recently in Venezuela. She is currently on staff at First Baptist Church in Timmins, Ontario where her primary focus is spiritual formation. The author of Divine Design for Daily Living, a 365 day devotional journey through the entire Bible (published in Spanish and English),  Lynda blogs Lynda’s Grain of Sand, maintains her own website Northern Breezes , and has been seconded by Fellowship International to serve on the Communications team of The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada.

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