Turn the Spoon Outward

I want to share a little anecdote that Matt Lohr, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told during a talk he presented in February in Grand Rapids.  I’m sure that my retelling cannot quite do it justice but it meant a lot to me and it has a valuable message:

When Matt was growing up he would often visit with his grandmother.  She lived on a farm and Matt enjoyed spending time there playing, working and learning.  He held his grandmother in high regards and always appreciated the chance to sit down with her and partake of one of her delicious home cooked meals.  One particular meal she sat there at the table staring at her spoon.  She had it held out in front of her and she would look at it with the bowl faced toward her for a bit and then turn the spoon so that it faced outward and gaze at it awhile that way.  Finally, Matt asked her what she was doing (politely, of course).  She kept looking at that spoon and explained, “I just noticed something when I looked at this spoon.  Did you know that when you hold the spoon so that the bowl faces you, your reflection is upside down?  And then,” she turned the spoon to face the bowl outward, “when you hold the spoon facing away from you, your reflection is right side up.”  Mr. Lohr proceded to explain that we should live our lives with the spoon facing outward, focusing not on ourselves but on others and what we can do for them.

How do we do this?  I learned of a great opportunity for farmers to give back when a gentleman from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) spoke at a meeting I attended.  There is a program called STEER, inc. that enables farmers to provide around $800 to a mission.  Using donor investments, STEER purchases a cow or heifer for its cow-calf program — usually from the participating beef producer’s herd or from a neighbor’s herd.  STEER covers all veterinary fees, death loss and depreciation.  The beef producer provides labor, feed and care.  There’s no risk or out-of-pocket expense for the producer.

When the calf is sold, the check is made out to STEER so the producer incurs no revenue gain or tax liability.  Eighty percent of the gain goes to the missionary or mission project specifically designated by the producer.  The rest goes toward replacement costs, death and depreciation losses and administration.  When a cow is sold, the original investment is retained and reinvested in another project.

Donors invest in  “units,” which are reinvested over and over again.  STEER has funds to buy more cows, but needs more farmers and ranchers to take on the cow-calf projects, or other agricultural projects — such as crops, dairy, buffalo, horses, sheep, hogs or goats.  From steerinc.com:

STEER, Inc. has been in the ministry of MULTIPLIED GIVING for missions ever since its founding in Park River, ND in 1957. Evangelical and  Interdenominational in scope, STEER is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.  The goal of STEER’s ministry is to assist existing missions organizations in a financial way so that they may follow their calling to bring about world evangelization.  This non-profit organization works to bring together people (Donors) who provide the working capital (UNITS), these UNITS are invested with farmers and ranchers in the agricultural project of their choice. The farmers and ranchers contribution is the feed and care for the project.  This program is especially helpful to farmers or ranchers  who may desire to be actively involved in missions but who may lack the capital to expand their herds or acreage in order to support missions like they really want to.  Working together, the Donors and the Farmers and Ranchers help to provide the funds for the Lord’s work so that the missionaries and mission projects that are the benefactors of this program can do what God has called them to and that is telling others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 Around North Georgia, there have been successful STEER programs that have provided $50,000 to FCA chapters to fund their ministries to high school athletes.  I know there are many other ways that we can turn our spoons outward.  Would you tell me about some of the things you do to serve your community?