123 Watermelons

Instead of breaking down the plants, every time a hailstone hit, the plant put out a new branch!

Dick Duerksen
123 Watermelons
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It’s boiling up here in the summer, well above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), and I’ve got a number of crews out working in the sun. They’re sweaty and dirty and tired, and I’m the boss—coming to visit and see how the work is going. Well, I get out of the truck, put down the end gate, and call everybody over to help me carve watermelons. I bought 123 of them during the summer heat and gave every one of them away to hot, tired, sweaty workers. I think that’s what Jesus would have done.”

“Oh, and I forgot to mention the doughnuts. I figure that when Jesus fed the 5,000, He gave them fish and bread, right? So I give the crews watermelon and donuts, and they love it!”

Lorin is a farmer, rancher, construction manager, and boss for several crews who are working on oil and gas lines in North Dakota, United States, and across the border in Canadian Saskatchewan. He’s a big man, intimidating because of his size. Then he smiles, and you forget how big he is. All you see is the smile wrinkles standing like mountains around his eyes. This is a man who knows how to laugh.

* * *

“One nastily hot day we were lifting some metal beams up to serve as part of the roof on a new building,” one of the workers remembers. “The beams were so heavy it took three of us to lift them into place, and we were quickly exhausted. In the hot afternoon Lorin came over, lifted one of the beams all by himself, and held it in place while we set the bolts. All by himself! And he was laughing and telling jokes the whole time.”

You know how some workers are fearful of their bosses? Not on Lorin’s crews. Lorin’s workers love him. When he’s carving watermelons, he’s also talking to the workers, asking about their families, commending each one for something he had seen them do, encouraging, teaching, and supporting each one personally.

“I’ve got a garden at home,” Lorin says with a grimace. “Nah, I’m not a great gardener, but I think Jesus would have had a garden in Nazareth, so I have one in North Dakota. It’s where I walk with God. It’s the training ground that He’s created for me to walk beside Him and receive His messages. A lot of learning happens out there in the tomatoes.”

Lorin’s tomatoes are not normal tomato plants. They stand seven to eight feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters) tall. Last summer, a hailstorm came through, and balls of ice crunched into the plants. Usually this would have marked the end of the tomatoes for the summer. But remember that this is the garden where Lorin and God walk together. Instead of breaking down the plants, every time a hailstone hit, the plant put out a new branch! They bushed out so much that Lorin had to take a machete and whack a tunnel through so that he could harvest all the ripe red tomatoes.

“God and I got 500 pounds [nearly 227 kilograms] of tomatoes this year. Then we gave every one away. Some went to the workers; others went to people who just drove into the yard and said they were hungry and wondered if I had any tomatoes. I ask God to send those folks, you know, and He always makes sure every tomato has a family.”

* * *

Five hundred pounds of tomatoes. Seventy-five quarts of canned corn. A hundred twenty-three watermelons. Seven gallons of Christmas cookies. Eight carrot cakes with genuine butter frosting. And giant bars of dark chocolate. Lots of chocolate!

“I buy only the very best chocolate, not the cheap stuff, but the good dark chocolate,” Lorin says. “Jesus wouldn’t have settled for second-best, so I buy the finest I can, and give it away with a smile!”

In Lorin’s truck there’s always a tasty treat waiting to be given away. Like on the day he was driving down a farm road and saw a tired man sweating to get his fence wires pulled tight. Lorin saw the problem and knew a little help would be appreciated. But first he stopped his truck at the edge of the road, grabbed the chocolate bar and a bottle of cold water, and offered them to the farmer. No one’s ever turned down one of Lorin’s chocolate bars. The two men laughed together for a few minutes; then Lorin helped him repair the fence.

“He’s known as the Chocolate Man,” a friend chuckles. “Always giving something away, especially those giant bars of fine dark chocolate. Scattering smiles the way Jesus did in Galilee.”

“I just do what Jesus did when people came to Him. He met their soul needs. Even though He didn’t usually give them what they thought they needed, He gave them what they really did need. He showed them that He was there for them, that He really cared, and then He gave them more than they understood at the time. He genuinely loved them, and I think that’s my mission too. To model my life after Him. To be a giver. Someone who really cares.”

Lorin has a hard time staying in North Dakota. Every year he leads a couple construction teams building schools in Africa and India. On the way over, his luggage is heavy with tools. Extra hammers, saws, power drills, and the like. On the way back, his luggage is very light. All the tools were left behind with new friends who needed them.

There’s always one other bag of goodies in his luggage: a bright-yellow pouch filled with knife sharpeners. Each evening Lorin is out in the village sharpening someone’s kitchen knife. And machete. And plow. But he’s not just doing the sharpening. He’s teaching others to use his sharpeners, and then giving them away.

“I’m just trying to make sense of this world I’m in, you know, and I want to live the way Jesus lived and make it across the finish line with Him.”

Dick Duerksen