A Hard Row to Hoe

This summer has been unusual in that it’s rained almost every day in June and July. One afternoon in June, it poured 4 inches in less than an hour, which led to flash flooding and part of our road being swept away.  A new bridge is still under construction. As a result of the excessive rain, I’ve not been unable to weed the garden and I’ve lost the battle.  It reminded me of a time in my childhood when the weeds almost overtook our tobacco crop because of wet weather. Losing the cash crop to weeds was not an option. We called this task, “chopping out tobacco.”AdobeStock_99823358_WM

I remember those long, never-ending rows, filled with thick grass, almost choking the plants. Mama and Daddy both had full-time jobs, plus garden and farm work, so chopping out tobacco usually fell to me and my three siblings.  But on this occasion, the weeds were so fierce it took all of us. Daddy sang as he worked. If one of us got to the end of our row fist, we’d help the next person until everyone finished together and started a new row together.

Daddy would say, “Just keep your head down, don’t give up, and before you know it, you’ll be at the end of your hard row to hoe.” And he was right. There are seasons in life when we all have a “hard row to hoe.” I’ve learned that this is the best time pray. One favorite passage in the Bible comes from Paul, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.

Lately, I feel as though I’ve had a hard row to hoe. I’ve suffered a minor health issue, signed a contract to write ten devotions with a deadline, had over three-hundred children registered in our summer reading program, and I’m planning a mission trip in a few weeks. With the latest coup in Istanbul, terror attacks in France and Germany, I’ve lost more than one night’s sleep. For a brief instant, I considered cancelling my trip to Africa, but as I prayed about whether to stay or go, a song from my childhood Bible School days played in my head, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” I whined to God. But I don’t want to be a soldier.

Then I remembered Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.” Luke 22:42-43. What if Jesus had said, “No” to what God asked of him? None of us would have hope. Surely I can live in difficult  conditions for a week. After all, He suffered and died on the cross to redeem me.

Please keep our missionary families, the national believers and my Africa team in your prayers. We will be travelling to a remote area, camping where temperatures might reach 120 degrees during the day with a low of 90 at night. We’ll be teaching a Bible School for children. These same children might someday be asked to join the terrorists. I believe the best weapon against terrorism is the love of Jesus. We’ll also be training national believers how to evangelize. I feel strongly that the window is closing and someday in the near future, we will not be able to travel to this remote area. But if we teach the national believers how to become fishers of men, then God’s kingdom will continue to grow without the American missionaries’ support. Africa_a Please pray that they will not grow weary. Pray for the missionary families in Niger and the national believers. They are the ones who truly have a hard row to hoe. The national believers are often persecuted, and rejected by their family and friends. Many of the Songhai who we will be seeking have never heard the name of Jesus. Thank God for the missionaries who have left family, friends and the comfort of an easy life to share the ‘Good News.’  Pray that they do not grow weary. We are simply going to support their efforts. I know in due season, God will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Thank you for your prayers and support. #africanmissions

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About shelia@sheliastovall.com

Shelia Stovall is a Southern, small-town librarian, and has an understanding of what women like to read. She is a member of ACFW and is currently the Treasurer of the Middle Tennessee ACFW Chapter. Shelia is a member of the Ky. Public Library Association and the American Library Association. Her short story, The Barber’s Sanctuary, won the fiction division of Kentucky Monthly’s sixth annual Writer’s Showcase in the November 2013 issue. Shelia is a weekly columnist for the Citizen-Times, based in Scottsville, Ky. Shelia’s Southern, small-town roots have given her an understanding of community and women's friendships. Her writing deals with difficult contemporary issues, but there’s always a thread of hope amid the calamity. Shelia is passionate about African missions and has traveled to Africa annually for the past four years. Community service is also important to Shelia, and she has volunteered as a crew chief for five years at Camp Habitat, (a Christian youth service camp that partners with Habitat for Humanity).

7 thoughts on “A Hard Row to Hoe

  1. Pamela Leach

    Shelia–You are such a talented writer and your love/passion for Jesus comes shining through every word. I am also proud of you and your commitment to our Jesus. And you are right about perhaps the time coming when the door closes to missionaries from outside the country, but you and your team, Mark, Parker, the Foxes, and others are planting missionaries within the country. I know our God will bless you and keep you all. I will be praying hard to that effect.

  2. Rose McCauley

    Loved this post on so many levels Shelia! I grew up in Louisville, but as a farm wife for 48+ years, your chopping out tobacco was very familiar. I said I did everything except cut and house it and then I cooked meals for the hands! Also love your heart fro missions as I also have a heart for missions which I have passed on to my two daughters who had both gone on short trips and my granddaughter who went to Haiti last summer. (She planned to go back this year, but her dad wouldn’t let her because of Zika) My next book after I finish the one I am on will have a heroine named for her who goes on a mission trip and finds her calling to become a lawyer to help more kids in foreign lands get adopted. I love knowing you better thru your blog posts!

    1. shelia@sheliastovall.com Post author

      I am so grateful I grew up working on the farm. I learned so many lessons working by the side of my parents. While we worked, Mama and Daddy would tell us stories. I am blessed. In my second book in the Weldon series, my protagonist visits Niger. I can’t wait for this book to be published. Blessings.

  3. Kay Drake

    We didn’t have tobacco, but we always had a garden. I remember trying to stay ahead of the weeds. And, I remember my hardworking, little mama canning all those vegetables on hot days like today–without air conditioning. But, oh, the joyful sounds of those jar lids pinging when they sealed! Then in the winter, we would enjoy the fruits of our labor.
    Your dad was right, we just have to tuck our heads and apply our hands and hearts to our “row”. The rewards will be worth our labor.


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