During a job transition for us, we were privileged for a short time to attend a small church with the loveliest people. Among them were Scott Sabin and family. Humble and unassuming, it took us a bit (but not that long) to realize that Scott is a world-changer. His work with Plant With Purpose changes lives around the world and empowers people–and future generations–to change their circumstances, provide for their children, and live with God-given hope and dignity.
Create Challenge #15: Scott Sabin
From the very beginning God has invited human beings to participate in what he is doing in the world – creating, redeeming, and loving. In short, we were created for a purpose. Yet for many people that sense of purpose is precisely what is missing in their lives.
I had never given that much thought until one evening in the mountains of Haiti, when the Haitian Episcopal priest we worked with joined a group of us at the guesthouse where we stayed.
Though he had been given a remote rural parish, he had flourished, founding dozens of schools and providing opportunities for thousands of people.
As we sat in the dark, he told us how happy he was that God had given him a task. “God gives each of us something to do for him,” he said. “It’s as if He gathered us together and said to each of us, ‘I have a very important job for you.’”
With childlike exuberance he exclaimed, “It makes me happy that God has something for me to do. I feel excited!” But after a pause he said, “Can you imagine how it would feel if He said to you ‘I have nothing for you to do’? So many of the people in these mountains think they have nothing to give.”
For the first time, I realized how awful it must be to believe you have nothing to contribute, to feel you are and always will be completely dependent on the goodwill of outsiders. It is the very definition of disempowerment.
Since then I have realized that this level of disempowerment is more widespread than I imagined. In Burundi we work with returning refugees, some of whom have spent decades in refugee camps where they have been prohibited from doing anything productive. Men and women who have never worked before have little interest in learning how to farm or participating in microfinance groups until they begin to realize that God loves them and calls them to join him in His creative and redemptive work. Our outreach curriculum was developed locally and encourages people to discover their vocation, calling and purpose.
There has been a hunger for this that has astounded me, with churches all over the country asking for workshops. Few things match the joy on the faces of those who have discovered that they have agency, and can exercise their talents creatively. Innovative businesses have flourished and subsistence farms have become works of art.
The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) comes to mind. For some reason, when Jesus told this particular parable, He chose the man who only received one talent to be the villain, who buries his gifts. This man, perhaps like many in the mountains of Haiti, felt that his contribution didn’t matter, so buried his talent, declaring that his master was harsh.
For years this has bothered me. Even though I still do not understand why those who received more had an easier time recognizing their role, I have seen how often it is those with fewer talents who tend to bury them. The good news in the parable, though, is that everyone received a talent and therefore everyone has a role in the kingdom. No one is told, “I have nothing for you to do.” Everyone has something to create.
I have also learned that even with all I have been given, I am tempted by the same error. Because my talents often seem inadequate, I am tempted to bury them. Because another leader is a better writer, a better speaker, a better manager or a better storyteller, I am tempted to quit. I am tempted to avoid embarrassment, risk, and failure. Once again, I have to remind myself what we are telling people: God loves you. God has a purpose for you. God wants you to invest your talents. God invites you to create with Him.
Since 1995, Scott Sabin has served as the Executive Director of Plant With Purpose (www.plantwithpurpose.org) an international Christian organization that empowers the poor in rural areas around the world where poverty is caused by deforestation. During that time the organization has grown from a single program in one country to include a staff of over 200 foresters, agronomists and facilitators in seven countries who have empowered farmers in more than 460 communities to plant over 18 million trees.