Like most of you I receive a free copy of the Banner Graphic on Mondays. Most of the time I flip through the first section – noting who’s doing what for better or for worse – and then move on. But, this past Monday I happened to read into the second section, and it was there I discovered a story worth holding onto.
Did you see the article? It was a quick blurb titled “Purdue-trained guard unit helps Afghan farmers.” The essence of the article is that there is a group from the Indiana National Guard that has been specifically trained to help the Afghani people relearn and re-cultivate successful farms.
Here is the line that jumped out to me:
"A lot of generational knowledge that gets passed down from father to son on different ways and successful ways to do agriculture has really been severed,’ said Maj. Shawn Gardner, the 1-19th Agribusiness Development Team's operations officer.”
Ever since the Russians invaded Afghanistan in the late 1970’s Afghanistan has been torn apart by war and wrecked by devastating leadership, including the detrimental presence of the Taliban. The “ways” that led to life and prosperity have been replaced by the “ways” of death and destruction and disruption. And within this disruption, there is the erosion of mentoring, what Maj. Gardner calls “generational knowledge” – passing down the secrets of the trade from “father to son.”
So, why did this strike me? Why should I (or you) care about a new farming initiative in Afghanistan? Well, to put it simply: because this story is a reminder to pass on our Christian faith … because we are called to hand on our faith to the next generation (Deut. 6:4-7).
Our faith is essentially a “generational” faith. Someone has said appropriately that Christianity only has the shelf-life of one generation, and what they meant by this is that unless the faith is passed on from mother to daughter, from father to son, or even from grandparent to child, Christianity will not persist. And, yet, generation after generation our faith has been passed on.
Which begs the question, “Who passed on the faith to you?”
In the New Testament, we see an incredible, vibrant example of passing on of the faith. It’s the story of Paul the Apostle and Timothy his disciple. We have a lot of Paul’s and Timothy’s relationship recorded for us throughout Paul’s letters, but it is in the second letter Paul wrote specifically to Timothy that we see a clear desire to pass on the faith:
“You then,” Paul says to Timothy, “my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.” (2 Tim. 2: 1,2)
In essence, Paul says: “Pass it on. Keep speaking about and teaching people what I have taught you, Timothy.”
Let me give you another example. My wife (along with Megan McKee and Catharine Simmerman) is currently teaching swim lessons to children at Greencastle High School. Anna told me recently that they were teaching each of the main strokes: freestyle, breaststroke, etc. One day at a time, they were training these kids how to use their bodies to swim. And here’s the key: My wife and Megan and Catharine are teaching children what their own mentors taught them while they were young. They are passing on “generational knowledge.”
So, let me ask you again: “Who passed on the Christian faith to you?”
What did they teach you? Did they teach you well?
And who are you mentoring? Are you seeking to pass on the faith to anyone else so they might grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ?
You know, it takes a serious, determined, disciplined effort for a group of Indiana farmers to pack up their lives and move thousands of miles away so they might pass on basic farming skills and knowledge. But, it is also an incredibly loving and charitable thing to do. What Maj. Gardner and the 1-19th Agribusiness Development Team are passing on is new life and new hope. That is their mission.
And, we – as disciples of Jesus Christ - have the same mission in our own way: to cultivate life and hope in and through Jesus. Sure, God may not call us thousands of miles away from Greencastle, but God still invites us to go to those whose lives have been disrupted and eroded. We are sent – commissioned – to go out and pass on what we are learning from Jesus to others (Mt. 28:18-20, especially verse 20).
Who passed on the faith to you? Did they teach you well? Have you been given a faith that can sustain you and even give you abundant life?
Are you growing as a disciple?
These questions are always there for us. And so is the opportunity: to go to other people and to help them tap into the living root of Jesse, the True Vine, Jesus Christ.
May we grow in faithfulness to Jesus Christ and in our service to the needy.