Twelve Dusty Farmers
By Mike Hicks
“So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat while he was plowing, with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he with the twelfth” ( 1 Kings 19:19)
As the school year ends, do you feel like you were “plowing” on your own this year?
Plowing a field is quite different today than it was in Elisha’s time. It’s not just the tractor versus oxen issue, but the plowing implements themselves have changed. Modern plows form as many as fifteen to twenty deep furrows with each pass, whereas ancient plows scratched the soil one shallow furrow at a time. When God sent Elijah to anoint Elisha as the next prophet in Israel, he found him plowing a field behind eleven other teams of oxen yoked together in pairs. That’s what it would take to match the work accomplished today by a single pass of a diesel-powered John Deer tractor. Elisha’s crew, however, were operating grass-powered bovines (cows), each in a line adding their single furrow beside the one created in front of them.
You might be wondering, “What does this have to do with me, and my work with children in our schools? And how is learning that Elijah found Elisha at the end of a line of eleven dusty farmers going to help me get through another tough day at work?
That’s a great question!
Consider this. The hard work of cultivating soil occurred every year in the winding valleys in the hill country in Israel, but it also occurs in school buildings and classrooms every day across America.
When you think about it, farmers and educators have a lot in common. We both plow in the fall and hope to see fruit in the spring. We labor knowing that the harvest comes at the end of the process, after a lot of exhausting work. School is the plowing season in a child’s life; a time when they discover who they are and how the world works. We have the privilege of playing a significant role in that development. God has called us to be cultivators of the minds and hearts of children during that critical time.
Jesus tells us we have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit…fruit that will last (John 15:16). That makes it clear that our job is much bigger than just teaching content or providing instructional support. We are to manifest the realness of God to the world and share His love and truth with those He has placed in our lives.
Gripping the handles of a plow and stumbling across dusty fields was difficult and exhausting work for Elisha and his staff, but we also know about weariness and difficulty. What we do is incredibly rewarding, but it’s also a labor of love that can take its toll on us. Some days leave us empty and discouraged. Shepherding the souls of children can be a thankless job, especially when the beneficiaries of our efforts often fail to recognize our contribution until long after they leave our influence.
So, on those days when we feel like giving up and throwing in the “plow” how do we keep our eyes on Jesus? How do we maintain our passion and energy when the field seems so large and the soil so unresponsive? I believe Elisha can help us. When his mentor came looking for him, he didn’t find a solitary figure plowing alone behind a single pair of oxen. He found him working at the end of a long line of fellow laborers. It was truly a team effort.
Twelve colleagues…twenty-four oxen…one task!
You’ve probably heard the popular slogan, “We are Better Together” but for a Christian educator, together is not just better…it’s essential. Jesus never intended for us to labor in this field alone, and yet that is often what we see happening.
This is why we believe LIFT (Lasting Impact Fellowship for Teachers) is part of a God-inspired movement to change that condition. Our vision is to help Christians working in our schools find the support and encouragement they need to plow well and to bear lasting, eternal fruit.
This past school year we saw gatherings in Oregon (Salem), Iowa (Ames, Cedar Valley, Butler County), California (Anaheim, Inland Empire), Washington (Vancouver) and Oklahoma (Oklahoma City). Others in Maryland and New York gathered virtually, rather than in person. In either case, we saw God restore passion and give hope. It’s true, the fields seem more difficult to cultivate these days, but the need to care for the souls of children has never been more urgent.
Looking forward, we are excited about what we see God doing. In July, seventy educators from around the country will be gathering in Colorado for our Christian Educators leadership summit. During that week (July 19th ) we will be partnering with the Prayer Garden to host a LIFT Gathering in the Colorado Springs area. Not long after that and it will be time to gear up for another school year and the calendar is already beginning to fill.
What’s it like in your “field”? Are you plowing alone? Or are you part of a team that labors together to make a difference?
If you feel weary and isolated, overwhelmed or discouraged, please reach out and let us know. We would love to provide you with support. Could your next step be to start or strengthen a LIFT Group at your school this fall? Or possibly even bring a district or city-wide gathering to your area?
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out our web page at: ceai.org/liftamerica.
Mike Hicks – Director of LIFT America (An outreach ministry of Christian Educators)
Mike Hicks is the director of LIFT America, an outreach ministry of CEAI. LIFT stands for Lasting Impact Fellowship for Teachers and is a ministry designed to help Christian Educators build communities of faith on school campuses across America. Mike was a high school biology teacher for 24 years in southern California and now lives with his wife Carmel in central Virginia.