by Jasmine Johnson
Wandering into my first pruning seminar at the Global Farm, I had no idea what to expect. As I scribbled down as many notes as I could, I kept connecting points back to a packet that Bruce Wilson, Director of Strategic Initiatives, handed me on my first day called “The Biblical Basis for the Mission of ECHO.”
Even though I still flounder in this agricultural language, I have linked bits and pieces of it to what I know to be true about God. His beauty and wonder are displayed here at ECHO and throughout creation; I have the opportunity to catch and document small glimpses of His indescribable majesty.
Two weeks following my original seminar experience, Bruce held a seminar covering the biblical basis of ECHO. Since this was the topic that had sparked my interest from the beginning, the discussion engaged and inspired me.
As we circled around the room reading various scripture passages, I lifted my eyes from the page to see the intense gaze of every other person in the classroom soaking up God’s truth. This incredible connection with the Creator and all He has made caused me sit back in awe.
Our limited human vocabulary does not come close to capturing the glory of God’s handiwork; however, I discovered some links between pruning and ECHO's biblical basis, which contains nine main themes:
1. God’s love for the world.
“For God so loved the world…” - John 3:16
When deciding whether or not to prune a tree, we must value the tree’s wellbeing first.
ECHO’s primary goal is to love all people and creation as God does. One of the most famous verses in Scripture begins with God loving the entire world. This global focus, stretching beyond our personal circles, is a characteristic of Christ we try to emulate.
2. Stewardship of God’s creation.
“The earth is God’s property but it is our responsibility to tend and care for it as stewards of God’s creation.” - Genesis 2:8,15
Pruning should be done for a purpose that ultimately benefits the tree. We must learn how to angle each cut in order to avoid unnecessary harm.
God created human beings, intending us to be caretakers and preservers of nature. We are able to actively participate in this role at ECHO by recognizing how to properly tend to creation.
3. Creation proclaims the beauty and glory of God.
“He is the vine; we are the branches. If we remain connected to him, we will bear much fruit. For apart from Christ we can do nothing.” - John 15:5
Before mindlessly removing a branch, we must ask what its function is. We should be conscious of the fruit-bearing branches in order to preserve the tree’s production.
God did not have to create fruit to hang off of branches, but He purposely made it this way. This reminds us to draw close in our relationship with Him. At ECHO, there are an endless number of natural metaphors which point us towards God’s character.
4. God provides for His creation.
“Then God said, ‘Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.’ And that is what happened.” - Genesis 1:29-30
When pruning a tree, we are instructed to preserve the collar. A tree’s collar usually protrudes visibly from the trunk, as it is the place where the branch and trunk fibers come together. This woven intersection, if left intact, assists in protecting the tree from bacteria and fungi.
God gave trees these collars for a reason. He knows what is best for each minuscule detail of creation and He provides just what we need.
5. Compassionate care for the poor and hungry.
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” - 1 John 3:17-18
When we see dead limbs or removable hazards, we take action in pruning to the tree’s immediate need.
We are called to do the same for our neighbors. When we see people in need, God commands us countless times throughout scripture to help them. ECHO has been blessed with abundant access to agricultural techniques and resources, so we then share these blessings with others.
6. The holistic breadth of the Gospel.
“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” - Romans 8:19-21
No matter which method is used to prune a tree, the wounds it receives will last forever. The markings create scars within the bark, but all new growth will be unaffected and separated from any additional harm.
Sin broke our intimate relationship with God, but Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross restored that connection. Along with humanity, all of creation shares in this brokenness and redemption. Here at ECHO as well as worldwide, both the consequence of sin and the gift of eternal life affect everything God created.
7. Holistic witnesses.
“In everything set them an exampled by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” - Titus 2:7-8
If performed properly, the pruning done on any tree will exhibit the incredible power of renewal. When observing the tree’s recovery, the natural response will be to admire its adaptability and strength.
Our words and actions have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to display the amazing mystery of the Gospel. When others ask about this unique fire burning in us, it should prompt us to respond with faith as our answer.
8. Equipping the saints.
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” - 2 Timothy 2:2
In order to anticipate future storms or potential damages, hurricane preparation starts when planting. Trees that reside on poorly drained sites will be more prone to toppling. Mindfully pruning a tree from the beginning will help it stand, even amidst the most wicked storms.
Here at ECHO, interns are prepared and taught while surrounded by an encouraging community. These months spent in Florida provide them the skills and tools needed to overcome trials they may face once entering the mission field.
9. Humble partnership in the Gospel.
“Live your lives as the Good News of Christ says you should. If I come to you or not, I want to hear that you are standing true as one. I want to hear that you are working together as one, preaching the Good News.” - Philippians 1:27
Espalier is the term used to describe the planting of trees in close proximity to a vertical support. If this process begins when the tree is young, it will grow alongside and often intertwine with the support system.
ECHO works side by side with farmers, churches, and other organizations to reduce hunger while by improving agricultural production and sustainable solutions. We teach, learn, and grow with numerous partnerships so that all benefit from the interaction and input.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to absorb these truths and process them in a tangible way at ECHO. My prayer is that these biblical concepts and practices can be used to prune and clean up our own lives. Let us plant these truths in our hearts and allow each one to flourish.