by Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International
Dubbed summer’s last bow, this national holiday is observed by parades, cook-outs and family times. For us in Southern California, there seems to be no end in sight for hot weather and the kids have already been back in school for a couple of weeks. And, not many of us pay attention to this holiday’s origins. It was born out of violence and upheaval back in the late eighteen hundreds when America was trading her agrarian overalls for manufacturing and commercial uniforms. In 1894, the first Monday of September became a national holiday by presidential decree.
Here’s an all-family activity to enjoy this weekend. Take lined paper and pen or pencil and, with everyone contributing, see how many ‘laborers’ you can list who add to the wellbeing of your family. If you know the name of the postal employee who delivers your mail, the driver of the garbage pickup truck, or the check-out clerk at the supermarket, all the better. But this is just the beginning of a long list of ‘laborers’ who enhance life for you and your kids. You can keep adding to the list for a few days and spend some time thanking your Heavenly Father for this blessing.
Jesus had an agrarian model in mind when he advised his followers to pray for laborers. In Matthew 9:37, he instructed his disciples to “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” I think it’s interesting that at about the same time as Labor Day became a national holiday here, God was raising up a mighty army of workers for his Kingdom in England. We call them the Salvation Army, founded by William and Catherine Booth. Booth’s son, Bramwell, began active work alongside his parents when he was thirteen. In 1879 the Salvation Army was established in America by a young woman, Lieutenant Eliza Shirley, who had sailed to America to join her parents. Why not share this remarkable family odyssey from information you can find online, or in the first volume of Hero Tales (by Dave and Neta Jackson, Bethany House Publishers), the second set of stories?
Here’s another example of Matthew 9:37 that took place during this same era of history – this time in China. It’s about Jonathan Goforth, born in Canada in 1859, thirty years after Booth. Goforth became known as China’s Greatest Evangelist. He and his wife, Rosalind, spent most of their adult lives in the Henan, China’s most populous province. “Today the gospel seeds that were sown a century ago have produced a bountiful harvest. The efforts of the Goforths and Chinese pioneers laid the groundwork for a wonderful harvest of souls for the kingdom of God throughout all of Henan Province.” (Taken from The Galilee of China, article in Asia Harvest magazine.)
An interesting side bar for the sports enthusiasts in your family. Both Booth and Goforth had a champion, professional boxer in their cadres of followers – fellow believers who played a significant role in the growth of these men’s ministries. You can get the book, Henan: The Galilee of China by requesting it at Asia Harvest. Biographical material on the Booths and the Salvation Army is abundant online.
Finally, what is God saying to you and your kids about where and how you might work for this Heavenly Employer both now and later on? Take time to capture your ideas, summarize any discussion in writing. No doubt, your family history will be very different from the Booth’s and the Goforth’s. Just let them be among those who motivate you to join the great labor force for which Jesus commanded his disciples to pray. Benefits are very generous, even when working conditions may be difficult at times. And, of course, the retirement plan is heavenly.
…respect those who work hard among you. 1 Thess.5:12