About 10 years ago while living in Iowa we received a Gurney’s Seed and Nursery catalog in the mail. The pages were filled with colorful, delicious fruit that could be grown in your own garden. All you had to do is order it, plant it, and harvest it. I set aside two full acres (we lived on a 70-acre farm) for my first-ever independent garden. I ordered strawberries, red raspberries, black raspberries, dewberries, blackberries, gold raspberries, pumpkins, and several varieties of watermelons. My dream was to grow as much great fruit as I could.
The summer started dry. No rain. Since you can’t have watermelons without water I spent countless hours carrying five-gallon buckets of water to the scores of watermelon plants. As the early-summer drought continued the berry bushes began shriveling. More water was needed – so much more that I pumped the well completely dry.
Sometime in mid-June the skies decided to open and release their moisture. And with the rains came weeds – 2 acres of them. Instead of watering plants I was now spending countless hours pulling weeds. The rain wouldn’t stop. As the entire strawberry patch was now flooded I faced a new problem. How do you get water out of a garden?
You can imagine the summer I had. My garden was a mess by the end of the summer. Weeds were growing everywhere. Every plant in the garden had evidence of varying degrees of neglect. Even so, nature did its part (have you ever seen how many watermelons can be grown on two acres?) I began giving watermelons to the neighbors. I’d take them to work and give them out. I loaded up my truck and handed them out after church services– more than once.
The foolishness of my gardening endeavor didn’t completely sink in until the weeds died in the fall. The whole hillside was covered in melon carcasses. Literally thousands of pumpkin and watermelons littered the landscape. What an embarrassing revelation for the entire countryside to see! I wonder what the neighbors thought!?!?
Even with my best efforts I was able to only rescue maybe 10% of the harvest. And the 10% of the fruit that was rescued wasn’t very good. Acceptable at best, but not good. I learned a valuable lesson that year. Just because you have a thousand melons on your hill doesn’t mean it’s a good thing – especially if they’re all rotten.
We often operate our youth ministries like I did my garden. Just because you have hundreds of kids in your youth room doesn’t mean it’s a good thing – especially if they’re not producing good fruit! Fruit production takes patience. And a fruit farmer can only handle so much fruit in his garden before he becomes ineffective and inefficient.