After sending a Mustard Seeds column to friends in Australia, I received a query from their ten year-old granddaughter, Jema:
“Why are you called Mustard Seeds? Please let me know.”
My response to Jema was, “In the Bible, in Matthew 13:31-32, it says, ‘Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
“‘Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.’
“I think what Jesus was trying to tell us is that sometimes great things come from very small beginnings. A little mustard seed can grow into a large and beautiful plant. I call my column ‘Mustard Seeds’ because I hope that the things I write about, even though they might seem small and insignificant, perhaps will influence someone to want to be a little better, to be grateful for what he or she has, or to want to help someone else become a little better…which can result in a better world in which to live.”
Well, there you have it; the secret is out. But allow me an example of the mustard seed principle.
There is a mainline church that has approximately 14 million adherents worldwide. This church asks each of its members to fast on the first Sunday of each month and to donate the cost of two meals to the church. The monies thus generated are used throughout the world exclusively for the relief of those in need irregardless of their religious beliefs or of political boundaries.
For most of us, abstaining from two meals per month would be a small thing. For most of us, donating the cost of those two missed meals would also be a small thing. Let’s take a look at how such small things translate:
During the last twenty-five years, that church has sent more than $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid to 167 countries around the world. That includes 61,308 tons of food;
12,829 tons of medical supplies; 84,681 tons of clothing; and 8.6 million hygiene, newborn and school kits.
Also, from 2003 to 2008, that church improved mobility for disabled people by distributing 302,000 wheelchairs. Church volunteers trained 113,000 physicians, nurses and midwives to save newborns with breathing difficulties.
During that same period, church efforts resulted in improved sight for 215,000 people. In addition, 5.2 million people now have access to clean water thanks to a church initiative to improve health by providing convenient and sustainable sources of clean water to communities worldwide.
Millions have benefited from this church’s financial support to the World Health Organization for campaigns to eliminate diseases such as measles.*
Within hours of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti, three transport planes departed the U.S. for that island nation filled with emergency supplies from that church’s granaries and storehouses.
This massive work to help the poor and needy was set in motion by the Savior Himself:
“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
“Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me…
“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt 25:35-36, 40).
When we see such numbers and such impressive results, we might think that we, too, must do something big—like travel to a third world country to build an orphanage or to dig a well or to donate large quantities of money to some non-profit organization.
But the lesson here is that big things happen when each of us does something small.
I was gratified to read in our newspaper about the local efforts to help those whose lives have been forever changed in Haiti. As we multiply our local efforts with those helping from throughout our city, state and country, big things will happen.
Yes, Jema, like the many hands that send help to someone in need, our hands—doing something small—can accomplish something large.
*Church News, Salt Lake City, Week ending October 31, 2009.
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