s I was picking boysenberries I began to reflect on the relationships between this strenuous but rewarding task and missionary activities.
One must choose a good location for the planting of boysenberry bushes. There must be fertile soil and adequate irrigation. In missionary work we must choose to work in areas in which there is receptivity to the gospel message and adequate resources to nurture the gospel seeds sown.
The berry vines grow a full year before beginning to bear fruit. It’s similar with preaching the gospel. One must work for a time before souls will accept and be willing to join with God’s commandment-keeping people.
While picking berries people must spend a good deal of time on their knees in order to reach the best berries hidden under the foliage of the vine. If we don’t spend time on our knees seeking the skills from the Master Farmer, we won’t find the most promising individuals for the Lord’s kingdom.
Not all the berries ripen at the same time. One must return again and again to the berry patch. Some individuals are ready to accept Jesus within a short period of time; others may not be ready now but will be in the future. By the same token, if the berries are allowed to stay on the vine too long, they become soft and spoil. These are those who have never been given the good news of salvation.
If one grasps the fruit too firmly, the berry is smashed and must be thrown away. Some individuals are pressured to make a decision when they are not ready to do so, and never accept Jesus.
One picker may go through the patch and think he or she has picked it well, but another person comes behind with a slightly different approach and finds more ripe fruit. Likewise, some people will respond well to one person while others respond to another.
The good ripe fruit is often hidden among the thorns, and one gets scratched in the process of reaching them. This creates scratches and scars that take time to heal. When a person is preaching the gospel to the world, they often encounter thorns that scratch and leave scars. Most scars heal over time, but some are permanent reminders of the battles fought in the name of Jesus.
It’s easy for berry pickers to become tired and discouraged as they view the long row ahead. Gospel workers are often discouraged by the seemingly slow work, the long hours spent with what appears to be few results, and the even longer hours that loom ahead.
The reward of a berry picker is to look at the crate of full-ripe berries shining in their prime lusciousness. There is also the anticipation of enjoying the flavor of those berries in the future. The missionary is rewarded when those who have accepted the invitation of Jesus to “come unto me” gather together to worship God. But there is still the anticipation of enjoying the pleasures of eternity with those for whom one has worked.
Let us be faithful berry pickers for Jesus.
Fred L. Webb is a retired missionary living in central California. This article was published July 28, 2011.