Blog - Doing Earthwork
WORKING FOR FRUIT THAT WILL LASTThursday, September 17, 2009
Ralph appears on the cover of the August 2009 issue of The Costco Connection. The cover story features the Broetje’s work. They label the produce from their farm “FirstFruits,” taken from biblical passages such as Exodus 23:16.
They have not always pursued the work-as-ministry vision. Farming near Yakima, Washington, in the 1970s, the Broetjes bought more and more land as bumper crops kept paying off. In that period, “I kind of lost track of why I was farming,” Broetje now admits. But in the 1980s, financial reversals forced them to sell out, move to Prescott, Washington, and start farming from scratch. The new apple trees produced well, but the cherries did not. But before cutting down the cherry orchard, they gave the trees to ministry. A year later, the cherry trees began producing in earnest.
A mission trip to Mexico in 1984 turned out what Ralph calls a “wake-up call.” It transformed the way he saw his employees and his own role as an employer. God has blessed them and their farming business. They now employ a thousand permanent employees, with temporary workers swelling the ranks to 2,800 during harvest. They learned that some of their workers were living in their vehicles, in garages and in substandard housing—often paying far too much rent. So in 1990, the Broetjes invested $5 million and opened Vista Hermosa, a community of 121 three- and four-bedroom homes. They also provide affordable daycare, with 23 employees assigned to care for 77 children.
The Broetje’s oldest daughter, Suzanne, now manages the Vista Hermosa Foundation. It has provided more than $50 million to such ministries as summer camping, scholarships and various projects (chosen by employees) in East Africa and Mexico. The Cost Connection article points out that they have given international grants “to faith-based, community-oriented initiatives. They have focused on Haiti, Kenya, Uganda, India, Mexico and Central America to help with issues of immigration, hunger and economic empowerment.”
Reading the story in the Costco magazine reminded me of Jesus’ words in John 15:16—“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last.” Not many of us will become literal fruit-growers. But each of us, whatever our daily work, is called to go and bear fruit for the glory of God—fruit that will last.
Read the Costco story online at http://www.costcoconnection.com/connection/200908/#pg1.