I remember when I first heard about Lily of the Valley. They told me about the children’s village, the clinic, the school and the tomato tunnels…

“Tomato tunnels?” I thought.

“What does growing tomatoes have to do with helping orphans?”

I knew this was something I had to see, so I set out to investigate this tunneled tomato production.

An Opportunity is Planted

Only moments after my conversation began with Ken, the head of the tomato growing project, I realized this was more than an agricultural oddity – this was an ambitious re-imagining of how aid organizations can work!

As Ken led me around the facility, I could see the incredible progress they had made in just a few years. What initially began as a small public works project now includes nine tunnels, one giant greenhouse and goes by the trademarked name Valley Fresh.

They plan to expand the operation, building additional greenhouses and not only growing tomatoes, but also making tomato sauces, salsa, paste and anything else that might allow them to distribute their product.

But most of all, I could see how God has transformed a struggling little side-project into a rapidly expanding non-profit.

You see, Valley Fresh donates all their profits back into Lily of the Valley.

One Vine, Many Branches

Ken and his employees are just as much a part of Lily as the childcare workers and teachers.

When I first thought of the people serving these children here in South Africa, I pictured teachers, volunteers and social workers – a whole list of smiling people holding kids in their arms and leading worship songs.

Local workers carefully manage the greenhouse tomatoes.

But I now also see a man who spends his time planning growing strategies and negotiating with agricultural business partners. His employees (who are all from the local community) spend their time pruning leaves, testing water and packing produce.

All of these actions, these seemingly un-spiritual chores, help grow a company that is not only providing sustainable food and income for the community, but is using its profits to help fund Lily of the Valley.

The profits from growing tomatoes are helping to feed and educate orphans, treat the sick and bring about God’s Kingdom.

In the hours they work, the profits they give up and the future they make possible, they are as much a part of Lily as any teacher or housemom.

I thought back to the places and institutions I consider noble back home. I thought of churches, soup kitchens and relief shelters. Each time I thought of these, I pictured the same sort of people – holy pastors at church, saintly volunteers ladling soup and sensitive counselors providing support.

But when I consider how Ken, using the skills and passions God gave him, helps to make the rest of Lily possible, a whole new set of people comes to mind.

I see the accountants, the delivery drivers, the receptionists, the custodians and a whole line of others that make these places tick.

These tomatoes won’t just feed local families. The profits they create will help to house, educate, and care for the orphans at Lily.

I remembered that Paul himself worked as a tentmaker.

In a way, it reminds me of the body of Christ. Many members, each of them different, but all dedicated to a single purpose.

So now, when I think of myself and my job, and when I imagine what jobs I may hold in the future, I don’t see such a distinction between “Christian jobs” and “worldly jobs”.

If tomatoes can be used to fight the HIV/AIDS crisis, I can’t imagine a profession that doesn’t have place somewhere in God’s Kingdom.

We may all have different skills and passions and personalities. But despite our differences, when we use our talents for God, we can all be part of something great. Our impact is not limited by what kind of skills we have, but by how willing we are to use them.

If I’ve learned one thing here, it’s that impact comes in many shapes and sizes.

And sometimes, it’s shaped like a tomato.

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Next Steps
    • What are your skills and passions? Pray God will reveal how He wants you to use them in His work.
    • LSA is exploring ways in which they can facilitate business training for projects like Valley Fresh. If you have been gifted with these talents, contact Jay to find out more about how you can use them to benefit God’s Kingdom!
    • Are there servants in your church or community you may have overlooked? While it’s important to pray for our pastors and church leaders, don’t forget to pray on behalf of everyone who is serving.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Brad Miller is a year-long fellow with WND. A student of Psychology, Biology, and Theatre, he's worked as an actor, teacher, balloon artist and last-minute fill-in guy for any number of projects. He loves camping and tinkering with broken and discarded things. Brad's passion in life is to unleash the potential in others.

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Comments

  1. Barry Rodriguez said... 

    Reply

    July 26th, 2012 at 4:50 am  

    “If tomatoes can be used to fight the HIV/AIDS crisis, I can’t imagine a profession that doesn’t have place somewhere in God’s Kingdom.”

    Awesome. That’s absolutely true! Great perspective, Brad.

  2. JimM said... 

    Reply

    July 28th, 2012 at 10:47 pm  

    Great reminder to everyone Brad !!

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