It happened one morning not too long ago. The driver of the tractor-trailer pulled into the farm and came down the lane to the barn area around 5:30 a.m.
He was picking up potatoes that had just been harvested the day before, and he would be delivering them to impoverished communities in West Virginia.
We have come to understand with some degree of clarity that the opportunity to cross paths with someone may be fleeting, but it may also be a valuable encounter.
For many years, we were so busy with the farm that we rarely made time for sharing life with others. We likely missed many messages from the Lord as a result.
After we finished loading the trailer together, we got to talking over cups of coffee before he headed back to West Virginia.
After describing some common farm experiences, he mentioned that he had served in Vietnam. We had lots of older friends who had served there, so we asked him to tell us more.
He said he was an RTO — radiotelephone operator — and he went on to describe his situation. As the RTO for the company, he was the hub of communications to receive instructions, get help and more.
He reported activity on the ground and worked closely with the unit’s commander. He said RTOs had an exceptionally short life expectancy. It was as if the RTO wore a large target on his back. Actually, he wore a large antenna on his back. It made him vulnerable to being spotted, our new friend said.
It was chillingly obvious why he would have been a favorite target of the enemy. If his unit were cut off from communications, it could not summon airstrike support or call for help with casualties. If the enemy could pick him off, the rest of the unit would be badly crippled.
Sure, snipers go after strays who are on the periphery. But taking out the communications hub has much greater impact.
So it is for us all. If our communications with one another — whether in the fields, in our families or in our churches — become frayed or fragmented, we are much more vulnerable to attack.
As Martin Luther so aptly said in his famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” — “For still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe. His craft and power are great. And armed with cruel hate. On earth is not his equal.”
Yes, our ancient foe is clever. He knows he can destroy a Christian leader’s effectiveness by attacking the leader’s ability to communicate, encourage, teach and direct.
How often have we been rocked by revelations within our churches when people in leadership suffer “falls from grace” due to sin and corruption?
When that happens, their witness is tarnished.
What is our best defense? The hymn’s second verse gives us the answer — “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing. Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing ... and he must win the battle.” So we look to our fortress, Jesus Christ, for protection and strength.
In Psalm 46 we read: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar, and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress ...
“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.’
“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Our farm ministry is unusual in the number of people who help with the harvest or distribute the bounty to people in need.
Even so, there is a network of people in every farm operation, and good, clear, honest and reliable communication is a key to success. Put Christ at the center of your daily communication.
As our new friend got ready to leave, we asked him how he survived his tour of duty. He said the Lord gave him a sign when a rocket-propelled grenade directed at him and his best friend failed to explode.
As his truck pulled away, we reflected on our conversation and marveled that God had spared this man’s life in the jungles of southeast Asia for many untold reasons and purposes, but one of them was clearly so that in 2017 he would minister to people in need in West Virginia and bless these potato farmers in Maryland with his story — a witness of the goodness and power of God.
This post was originally published on Lancaster Farming.