Thoughts on Generosity…
Matt Farmer’s Barn
It is the first Sunday we’ve had church since Rita. Much of our community is still scattered over four states but many are returning home to clean up. Most homes are still without electricity and water pressure is only now beginning to build up for use.
Our attendance is small today but there is a spirit of worship that is never limited to numbers or size. An impromptu praise time breaks out. Even people who’ve lost a good deal seem to want to thank God realizing that “it could have been much worse.”
In the middle of our worship service Matt Farmer stands to speak. If anyone ever had a good name it is Bro. Matt Farmer. He is a “Farmer who is a farmer.” He and his family run one of the few remaining dairies in Beauregard Parish. Bro. Matt and his sweet wife, Mrs. Dee, are in declining health and their dairy is now run by their son Don.
Matt and Dee Farmer have worked hard their entire lives. No one is more loved in our community and church than this couple. They have a good name in more than just being “farmers.” They have a good name of good works and being difference makers in many lives, including mine.
When Matt Farmer stands to speak, people always listen. He is the kind of wise deacon that can calm a church storm with wise words. I’ve seen it happen.
As he stands today in church, he begins to tell a story. It is the wonderful story of a group of men who came to his farm a few days after Rita.
Much of the worst wind damage from Rita occurred on the barns and outbuildings throughout our community and parish. The airport in DeRidder recorded winds of 110 mph. That type of winds will take the top off of barns and hay storage buildings.
That is exactly what happened to the many barns at Farmer’s Dairy. Trees were down on buildings and fences while tin roofing was scattered for acres.
Bro. Matt told of this group of forty men, unannounced, who descended on his farm. There were older men mixed with strong younger men and boys. They came with one purpose: to clean up the Farmer dairy.
Matt Farmer knew some of them. They had known each other from a half century of farming. Most he had never seen before. He later found out that many were from out of state and had journeyed south to help with the cleanup and recovery.
In a matter of hours these hardworking men had cleaned up Farmer’s dairy farm. He said it was amazing to see how much they accomplished in these hours. Bro. Matt closed with, “It showed what people can get done when they work together.”
All of those present had this thought in mind: Who were these men?
I thought of another barn story told by one of my favorite writers and speakers, Dr. John Maxwell:
Herman Ostry’s barn floor was under twenty-nine inches of water because of a rising creek. The Bruno, Nebraska farmer invited a few friends to a “barn raising.” He needed to move his entire 17,000 pound barn to a new foundation more than 143 feet away. His son Mike devised a latticework of steel tubing, and nailed, bolted, and welded it on the inside and the outside of the barn. Hundreds of handles were attached.
After one practice lift, 344 volunteers slowly walked the barn up a slight incline, each supporting less than fifty pounds. In just three minutes, the barn was on its new foundation.
It is summed up in this statement: I have to do this alone and I can’t do it by myself.
The forty men who came to Matt Farmer’s rescue were members of the Mennonite community who live south of DeRidder in the area we call Broadlands. The Mennonites are hard-working righteous-living citizens who are greatly respected.
And greatly loved… Due to their good works year round in the area I love and call home… Beauregard Parish.
What is your favorite Mennonite story?
“Matt Farmer’s Barn” is from the Curt Iles book, Hearts across the Water. You have permission to share this story with others as long as proper credit is given.