The Importance of Showing Up at the Field

I grew up in a small farming community in Kansas.  During High School, I worked for my best friend’s dad in their family’s wheat fields during harvest. While I did a few different things for him, my primary job was to drive the wheat truck.  The list of qualifications to drive a wheat truck is not all that long:

  1. You have to have a pulse
  2. You have to have a driver’s license
  3. You have to know how to drive a stick shift

I definitely had number 1 and 2 covered.  Not so much on number 3.

So two days before we were planning to harvest the wheat, my best friend’s dad took me out on a dirt road in a 1950 Chevy wheat truck (this was in the early 90s) and taught me to drive a stick shift.  I was never completely comfortable driving wheat truck because I always had a very real sense during harvest that I was carrying a significant portion of someone else’s livelihood in the back of a truck I barely knew how to drive and I was driving it down a loose gravel road.  The importance of this responsibility and of this very short window of time called “the harvest” was not lost on me.

For any farming community, the harvest is extremely important.  To maximize returns on your crop, you want to be ready to start when the wheat is ripe.  Once you start, you don’t want to stop out of fear that weather may roll in and damage the crop and reduce what can be harvested.  There’s no time to stroll into town for lunch during harvest. Lunch is brought out to the field. You eat and you get started again.  Each day you cut and haul the wheat as long as daylight will allow you to. You just can’t afford a break in the action until the entire crop is in.

That’s why one particular day stands out to me more than any other.  My friend’s dad let me know we’d be leaving his field and going over to someone else’s field that day.  Apparently, the owner of this field was battling a serious illness and simply would not be able to harvest his wheat.  When we arrived, we were not alone. I don’t know how many wheat farmers lived in the area but I’m certain most of them had shown up that day with their combines and wheat trucks.  A community member was down and everyone stopped work in their own fields to help out.

A great number of combines roared to life and set off into the field.  One after the other, staggered like stair steps and moving in unison around the edges, they slowly worked their way toward the center.  Some of the farmers had new fancy equipment and others had, well, 1950 Chevy wheat trucks. However, that day it didn’t matter. Everyone was needed.  What would normally take many days was finished in less than one. Those that weren’t cutting or hauling prepared a lunch feast that was eaten together as a community among the wheat stubble at the edge of the field. As a 16-year-old who could barely see over the steering wheel, I was likely the least qualified person in the field that day, but even I had a role to play.  This day made a huge impression on me.

It’s a beautiful picture of what movement looks like.  You don’t show up to the field because they are serving lunch at the end of the day.  You show up to contribute what you have to offer. You do that because without you, everyone else carries a heavier burden and the celebration loses its richness.

In less than two months (May 9-11) the Christian orphan care and foster care movement will gather in Dallas, Texas for the CAFO 2018 Summit.  Advocates from all over the world will fly in, ministry leaders will drive in, and weary foster and adoptive parents will limp in — not primarily because of what they can get, but because of what they can give.  This is not just another conference. It’s not just a place to consume ideas and great teaching or absorb emotional experiences that inspire us. This is where the movement meets to generate the oxygen needed to fan the gifts of one another into flame so that more kids can be helped.

There will be someone there who needs you to be there.  They need to run into you in the lunch line and hear what you’ve learned about loving kids from hard places.  They need to hear the question you ask at that break-out session that will give them the courage to take action on an idea that has been ruminating for years.  They need that 5-minute conversation with you right before a plenary session begins to open their world to new possibilities in child advocacy. That is what this movement has always been about.  That is what Summit has always been about.

Don’t get me wrong.  When you show up to the field you will receive.  Abundantly in fact.  But that’s not the main reason you go.  You go because everyone else there needs you to be there.  Your gifts are needed. Your experiences are needed. Even your weariness is needed.  All of it will be a gift to someone else.

Can you meet us at the field?

To learn more about the CAFO2018 Summit, CLICK HERE.

A version of this story first appeared in Fostering Families Today Magazine as a part of our regular Foster Movement column.  This blog post originally appeared in our Foster Roster e-newsletter which is delivered each Friday. We keep it short and sweet and fill it with practical articles, videos, blog posts and other tools for leaders like you working to help kids and families in foster care.  To sign up, go to