5 Lessons for Ministry from the Tobacco Patch

You’ve never itched until you’ve cropped “sand lugs” from a worn and wet fiberglass seat on a tobacco harvester. “Sand lug” leaves grow near the bottom of the stalk and are covered with dirt and grime. Pulling these leaves from the stalk and passing them through the conveyor belt to the”panner” causes the sand to work its way into some unseemly spots. Like I said you’ve never itched until you’ve cropped “sand lugs” from a fiberglass seat that needed replacing three seasons ago.

Growing up in the south my summer days were filled with an itching bottom and a red neck. I spent my summer vacation cropping tobacco (it’s pronounced tah-backer in the south). In the mornings, we would unload a barn of cured leaves. We emptied the tobacco into burlap sheets to make it ready for the market. (The aroma of dried tobacco leaves still lingers in my mind.) When the barn was empty, we would head to the fields to fill it up again. Although it was only a few weeks out of the summer, it seemed like a neverending cycle. But I am grateful for the lessons I learned in those fields. Experiences, which prepared me for a life in ministry. Here are five lessons I learned and how they relate to gospel ministry:

  1. A grain of sand in the wrong spot will make you miserable, but keep on cropping because things tend to work themselves out.

    In ministry, you will be rubbed the wrong way by things that really don’t matter. You will feel it’s unbearable. However, you can let the little situations prevent you from working for the Lord. Keep cropping. It will work itself out.

  2. When it gets hot, learn to pace yourself.

    Temperature affects your production. If you’re facing a season of heated confrontation, remember not to run full speed ahead, or you’ll get burnt. The pressures of ministry will cause even the most seasoned worker to burnout. Slow down and pace yourself.

  3. Enjoy the simple pleasures in life (like an RC Cola and MoonPie).

    Nothing was more satisfying than a twelve-ounce soda and a snack at break-time in the fields. You’re not designed to work nonstop. Take time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

  4. If you disagree with someone, get it right before the end of the row.

    In the tobacco patch, teenage boys (and girls too) would often argue back and forth while on the harvester. Everyone knew if the matter was not resolved by the end row things could escalate into an all-out fight. In ministry, you’re going to have disagreements, but make things right before it gets out of hand.

  5. Always help others gather their crops.

    The farming community where I grew up helped each other. I remember times when one crew was finished but went to help another farmer to get his harvest in on time.  As a minister, I should never leave my fellow pastor to work alone. Christians should help others.

Again these are only a few correlations between the tobacco patch and ministry. I am sure there are more, but these will do for now. What about you? Did God use a former job or situation to shape you for ministry? I would love to hear your story in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin W. Bounds
Kevin W. Bounds (B.S. Bible and Theology, Lee University) serves as the pastor of West Green Baptist Church in West Green, Georgia. He is the teacher of Biblical Literature at Citizens Christian Academy in Douglas, GA. He is married to Amber, and they have two children.

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