You know that parable where the farmer sows four lots of seed? The first lot of seed falls on the path where it lies until the birds swoop down and enjoy it for themselves. What the birds don’t eat are trampled by the feet of those who were passing through the fields. The second lot […]
You know that parable where the farmer sows four lots of seed? The first lot of seed falls on the path where it lies until the birds swoop down and enjoy it for themselves. What the birds don’t eat are trampled by the feet of those who were passing through the fields. The second lot of seed falls on soil which has limestone just underneath it. Since the seeds can’t get a root down into deep soil, they quickly wither and die. The third lot of seed falls on the deceptively thorny ground where the good seed and the weeds grow together but as they do, the seed is too weak and is choked by the thorns. The fourth lot of seed finds soil that is free of thorns, rocks, and birds swooping down to eat it. In this good soil the seed takes root, finds nourishment and grows, producing an abundant and productive harvest.
The parable of the Sower can be read as a challenge to be different, as a call to improve our life, so that if the same parable were told about us, all the seed would fall on rich, fertile soil. But maybe there is something wrong with that reading of the parable, because if that is what it is about, then when we read it, we can start to worry about what kind of ground we are on with God. We can start thinking about how many birds are in our field and how they seem to swoop in and peck at our faith when we are most vulnerable. We can begin to remember the rocky times where the small seeds of joy, love and hope have been smothered as we’ve experienced loss, grief, fear and doubt. We can ponder on those times we’ve fallen among thorns- caught in a chokehold of sin or pain. We can worry about how the odds are three to one against us and maybe also wonder how we could beat the odds, or at least improve on them. If we read it this way, this story should be called the parable of the judgement of the soil. Instead, it’s been known for centuries as the parable of the Sower, which means that maybe this parable is not so much about our own successes and failures and birds and rocks and thorns, but more about the extravagance of a Sower, who doesn’t seem to be fazed by such concerns, who seems careless as he flings seed in reckless abandon, even in the most unlikely of places.
The Women’s Care and Counselling Centre is located in Port Klang, Malaysia, about an hour from the centre of Kuala Lumpur. It is managed by the Holy Cross Lutheran congregation, who worship in the adjoining building. The centre was opened in 2009 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia. Since its formation, the centre has been under the care of Deaconess Elizabeth Gopal. It is a place where women are invited to focus on the generosity of our maker, the prolific Sower; the one who doesn’t obsess about the condition of the fields or who is stingy with the seed; the one who casts the seed endlessly and lovingly everywhere, on good soil and bad.
When Carol found out she was pregnant, she only told her closest friends. She was young, unmarried, and incredibly fearful of the judgement of her parents. Significantly, Carol who is Christian, had become pregnant to a Muslim. In Malaysia a non-Muslim person who wishes to marry a Muslim must convert to Islam before the marriage can be recognised as legally valid. Any child then born would also be a Muslim. As a Christian, Carol did not wish this for herself or her child, therefore she planned to abort the baby.
One of Carol’s friends shared the situation and Carol was introduced to a man she now calls “uncle”. He made arrangements for Carol to meet with Deaconess Elizabeth from the Women’s Care and Counselling Centre.
During the next few months of her pregnancy, Deaconess Elizabeth spent time with Carol, reminding her that God is love, and as love he is generous, lavish, abundant and eager to share his Word; the Word which has the power to bring Carol freedom. Deaconess Elizabeth encouraged Carol to pray as a way of being near to her loving Heavenly Father and to be strengthened when she felt like giving up. She took Carol to worship where the Holy Spirit used the words of the pastor to bring her peace. Rather than focusing on the birds, rocks and thorns, Carol began to form a deeper relationship with the Sower, who had relentlessly and indiscriminately (some may say, wastefully) thrown seeds of love and grace on Carol’s heart. In addition to worship on a Sunday, Carol began to serve God by being involved more deeply with her faith community.
It was while Carol was struggling to trust in God’s goodness and mercy and the weight of her situation was at its heaviest, that our God abundantly sowed seed through the Women’s Care and Counselling Centre. Carol became convinced that she did not want to abort her baby. She decided to offer her baby for adoption to a couple who she was sure would provide her child with a bright future.
God does not give up on any one of his precious created children and he will not deny anyone access to hearing about how much he loves us. As Carol accepted the extravagant and radically generous love of God and saw the power of the cross, she experienced the joy of being a beautiful perfect creation made in the image of God, rather than judging her imperfections. She began to get a taste of God’s kingdom and was able to bask in the hope which is hers and ours for all eternity.
The Women’s Care and Counselling Centre is also available for women involved in the local Holy Cross Lutheran church. Muniammah was 27 years old and raising three children, when her husband suddenly died. He had been the family’s only income earner. Through the Centre, Muniammah received financial support for her children’s school provisions and other necessary items until she could obtain her own income. As well as physical items, Muniammah was also given emotional care. She met regularly with Deaconess Elizabeth, who invited her to remember that God loves and accepts her as she is, including as a widow and single parent. As Deaconess Elizabeth journeyed with Muniammah in God’s Word, Muniammah absorbed it into her life and was transformed to connect more deeply and love others more abundantly. She began to be a witness to Christ’s love and to offer hope amidst her often hardened, rocky and full-of-thorns community.
Kalavani is also a member of the Holy Cross Lutheran congregation, who had been born into a Hindu family. As a child, she never knew what it was to live in true love and peace. She was tasked with meeting certain requirements and making offerings to the many Hindu gods, yet she never felt a personal relationship with any of them.
Kalavani is now a follower of Jesus and meets regularly with Deaconess Elizabeth. There she is offered a safe space in which she is encouraged to pray, to engage regularly with God’s word and to put her hope in Jesus. She can cry out to him in her difficulties as well as empower her children to focus on the Sower.
The work of the Women’s Care and Counselling Centre reminds me that we can sow with the same radical generosity of our extravagant Sower. Whether we sow in the hopeful or in the less promising places, there is the possibility of producing a tremendous harvest.
Thank you for joining in the Sower’s ministry through the Women’s Care Counselling Centre. This Sower feeds the birds, whistles at the rocks, picks his way through the thorns, shouts hallelujah at the good soil and just keeps on sowing. He is confident that there is plenty of seed to go around and that when the harvest comes, it will fill every shed to the full in the whole neighbourhood. This is the Sower who is not judgemental of women like Carol, Munjammah or Kalavani. He is not cautious or even very practical, but he is willing to keep reaching into his seed bag for all eternity, covering his whole beloved creation with the fertile seed of his Word.
Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray
Read more stories about our partner churches in Malaysia at https://www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/malaysia-peninsula/