An Okra Gardener!

Our son Marc put out a four-box garden this season at his new house. He has always done some minor vegetable garden work that started back when he lived in Illinois. Now that he is in Texas, he dreams of a two-season garden: spring and early fall. He has set out a neat area in the corner of his backyard for his garden boxes and has filled them with tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, watermelons and okra. The roma and cherry tomato varieties have produced generous fruit for salads and sandwiches. The cucumbers provided jars of pickles. The watermelon made the summer meals more enjoyable. The green beans became the vegetable of choice for Sunday dinner. But, it was the okra that has been the gift that keeps on giving!

It is a fact that okra loves the toasty temperatures of central Texas. This single plant has literally taken over the box and continues to reach upward each day bearing copious quantities of the most delectable of spiny projectiles. It requires daily attention in harvesting those pods that are ripe and tender. If left on the plant too long, they lose their optimum appeal. So, Marc is monitoring the okra with regularity and discipline.

Production was rapidly exceeding demand. Marc loved having us visit in late summer to help eat the daily harvest because he is the only one of his household that loves okra. His mother, Monique, showed him how to freeze okra whole and store it in freezer containers for future use. She also tutored him through a recipe for Texas okra gumbo that we have enjoyed for years around the Keppler table.

Marc has several colleagues at work that love this greenish ribbed fruit in their vegetarian recipes. He has been sharing his produce with them, but they will not eat his gumbo with bacon for obvious reasons. So, he cannot share that recipe too widely among them. This is, in many ways, a good problem to have. You can start a conversation with gumbo as the subject. You can befriend new persons with small gift zip lock bags of the fruit. And… you can wear out your welcome with the same individuals.

What’s an okra gardener to do? My answer is to enjoy it while you can! Squirrel the product away so long as you have available freezer space. Widen the circle of okra-crazed persons upon which you may bequeath your daily gifts! Say to yourself, “I will never put out more than one plant of this fruit again or suffer the consequences of family desertion at the dinner table!”

Many of my family and friends know that I can find a point in almost anything! Here’s my lesson from the okra gardener, actually not mine at all, but it was Jesus who said, “The harvest is great, but the laborers are few!” Our Lord’s point was that there are a great many seeking meaning and significance in their lives, but they need someone to point them the Way. In this sense, we all are in the harvesting business. It is daily. It is timely. It requires discipline and commitment to the task. But the fruit of such an endeavor is incredible for the kingdom of God!

I’m thankful someone shared a gospel witness with me years ago. They harvested the spiritual fruit of an eleven-year old boy that changed his life. This is our job as Christ’s servants. The task is so challenging that we all must work together daily and diligently to share what Christ means to us. As we do, it bears fruit unto the saving of many. Give your best efforts to “kingdom gardening!”

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.


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