We arrived at our first SOWER Ministry project site after the most taxing day of travel. Considering our first day, this is saying quite a lot!

We’d departed Savannah with an ETA of 3:00 p.m. We hit nasty traffic in Orlando; it slid to 4:00 p.m. A few miles shy of our destination, a massive traffic jam brought everything to a screeching halt. For nearly three hours we inched along — if we moved at all. 

I worried fuel reserves would fizzle. Not a problem, the Hubs insisted. I wondered about alternate routes. We’re staying the course, he said. Even so, I scanned options. No, he asserted. Everyone else would be doing it, too. I dug out my knitting to save our fragile peace. After nearly fifteen hundred miles, it was wearing thin.

The horizon took on a sunset glow as traffic finally began to move again. Dusk had darkened into evening by the time we made our final turn. That’s when a most pleasing aroma seeped through the air vents. What was it?

In the dark, I’d barely discerned the groves stretching along the roadside. It seemed there were miles of trees; millions of fruit. Orange orbs hung like ornaments among lush green leaves. Alongside the ripened fruit, small white blossoms adorned the branches.

I rolled down the window to breathe in more deeply. On exhale, I released the weight of the day. Surely, this was the aroma of heaven!

We pulled through wrought iron gates and followed signs to an area set aside for volunteers like us, serving by RV. There, one by one, figures emerged in the dark. Strangers who had waited for hours, just to greet us as friends. To offer comfort. Or encouragement. To lend a hand. Or a flashlight. Supplies or something to eat.

It was the best kind of welcome. This, too, was a pleasing aroma — of the 2 Corinthians 2 kind. 

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing… as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

The first pleasing aroma to God on record is credited to Noah. Immediately upon exiting the ark, Noah built an altar and presented a sacrifice to God (Genesis 8). God responded in delight to Noah’s grateful and humble heart. In fact, God was so pleased He made a big promise:

The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground … And never again will I destroy all living creatures … As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’ (Genesis 8:21-22)

Later, when God established temple worship, He invited His people to contribute spices for the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the sanctuary. The Lord told Moses, “From every man whose heart moves him, you shall receive a contribution for me” (Exodus 25:2-8). Pleasing offerings always begin with willing hearts.

The word for contribution in the original language, tᵊrûmâ, is most often translated as a present, offered up in sacrifice or as a tribute. Much later, Jesus saved us by offering His own life as a gift, a present (prosphora, Greek), In Jesus, the sacrifice was complete. Our freedom was purchased at great cost. His was the ultimate fragrant offering (Ephesians 5:2).

When we willingly give of ourselves to others, we present a fragrant offering and pleasing sacrifice to God (Philippians 4:18). Our new friends so graciously demonstrated this principle on our first, dark night of SOWERing. We have been blessed to come alongside Tom and Mollie, Dave and Linda, Rick and Dru, Floyd and Barbara, John and Lori, Lars and Brenda on our first project. They represent a marvelous community of Servants On Wheels, Ever-Ready (SOWERs). As a community of faith in service to others, we speak Jesus.


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