My Favourite Stories #9

This is one of those mission stories from yesteryear, from back in the 1960’s when I was a boy.

There was a mission school in Africa and the teacher announced that there would be no classes the next day, but that everyone was to bring a basket so that they could help harvest the corn field. This corn, they were told, would help feed all the students for the next few months.
The next day some turned up with big baskets and some with smaller ones. When Sarah got home, she told her mother she wanted to take a big basket. However, Joseph who lived in the next village had a different idea. “It will be hot,” he said, “I think I’ll take a small basket. Anyway, the teacher didn’t say what size we were to bring.”

All the students went to bed thinking about the job they were to do the next day. The next morning, as the time for school came around, all the students could be seen making their way to the mission, each with a basket, some large, some small. Briefly the teacher told them how he wanted them to work, and at the word Go off they went. Soon they reappeared over the hill, carrying their loads of precious corn. They emptied their baskets in the appointed place, and off they went again for a second trip.

How Sarah managed to carry such a big basketful of corn; nobody could understand. Every time the boys and girls came back, along struggled Sarah – always with a well filled basket. Jerry, who had also brought a big basket, didn’t bring it back quite so full the second time. Joseph’s basket was always full, but he had a small one.

“Phew!” he said, as he emptied his load on his twelfth trip. “I’ve nearly had enough.”
Sarah agreed with him in a way. “But Joseph,” she said, “we won’t have many more journeys to make. Just two or three more and we should be finished.”

By now it was obvious that the number of helpers had dwindled somewhat, for some had quietly slipped home. But still the faithful ones carried on.
“The next trip will be your last!” called the teacher as the helpers set off towards the almost empty cornfield. That cheered everybody, and soon the workers appeared over the hill for one last time.

As they arrived at the mission station, the teacher stopped them, and when they were all together, he spoke, “I want to thank you all ever so much for your help. You have done well, and I am very pleased. I’ll pay you tomorrow when you come back to school, but just as a special ‘thank you’ I want you all to take home all the corn you have right now in your baskets!”

You can imagine how pleased the pupils were to hear this; but you can see them anxiously looking to see just how much corn that had put in their baskets on this last trip? Little Sarah, of course, was very happy, and so were all the others who had brought big baskets – especially those who had filled them up for the last trip. Joseph wasn’t quite so happy, and neither were the others who had small baskets or who hadn’t bothered to fill them.
As for those who had slipped home during the day – they must have had a lesson they would never forget when they heard the next morning how kind the teacher had been to those who stayed until the end. For us there is a bigger lesson still: That if in all our service for Jesus we use a big “basket” and make sure every day it is kept full of kindly helpfulness to others, then our lives will be full of joy and happiness, and one day we shall hear Jesus say to us, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!”

For parents: Life is like a mirror, it gives back what you give it. This story also teaches us the difference between ability vs availability, and the importance of always doing our best. The end reminds us that the gospel is not pie in the sky by and by, but a piece on your plate while you wait. The pay for working for Jesus may not be huge, but the superannuation benefits are out of this world!

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