It was 2003, and I was on a flight to Belarus for a mission trip with Operation Carelift. During our good-byes at the airport, my wife Judy said “Here is a book for you to read on the plane.” The book was Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson. The message of this book deeply impacted me. What it challenged me with was this: when I die, I don’t want to accompany God to my heavenly storeroom to see the rewards, crowns, treasures, or whatever you want to call it, and only find a very small amount of treasure sitting in the corner of the room.
From this challenge came a word picture I have shared with hundreds of people in the last fifteen years. When I was a little boy growing up on a farm, one of the most exciting times was when my father would untie the rope and lower the big barn door down. This let light stream into the haymow, and we would climb the wooden ladder, dangle our feet over the edge and gaze out at the fields. Then the Viking elevator would be raised up to the haymow door so the first cutting of alfalfa could be stored in the barn.
As a little boy one of my responsibilities was to help milk the cows. I loved the summers because the barn was open more, allowing the breeze to waft through, spreading the sweet smell of the hay curing above (I am sure that many of you know that smell). Even though we were very young, we knew how important it was for the barn to be completely filled up with hay. Otherwise during the winter, the feed would run out, and there would be nothing for the cows to eat. The hay also provided many adventures, jumping off the stacks and building tunnels and forts. Sometimes the hay bales had a bit too much moisture in them, and my dad would spread salt over the layer of hay to protect it. When the barn was completely full—to the very roof—we would sit there on the hay bales and gaze out, just talking and thinking about life.
We knew how important it was for the barn to be completely filled up with hay.
Here is the word picture. The bales put in the haymow represent my treasures in heaven. A bale of hay is anything I do on this earth to share the love of God in Jesus Christ and to expand the Kingdom of God. For me, the most important bale is to bring a lost soul to Christ. The smell of the curing alfalfa represents the sweet smell that rises to God and the joy He receives when we love our neighbors.
I participate in a ministry called Brothers in Blue, which is a four-day-weekend in a prison. I am frequently asked to give a talk on putting our faith into action. I explain to the prisoners my word picture about putting hay in the barn. After each talk, the inmates are prompted to discuss and make posters of what the talk said to them. One poster of my talk with a picture of a barn with an elevator going into the barn and bales on the elevator. The really cool part was half way up the elevator, the bales turned from green to the color of gold.
My hope and dream is that when my journey on earth is over and I see the face of God, he will hug me and say “Good job, Junior. I was really getting tired of building all those barns for you.”
In Uganda, we are given the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with tens of thousands of Ugandans. I believe thousands will come to know Jesus Christ and proclaim him the Lord of their life. My purpose in life is simply “to make God smile” and “to put hay in the barn.”