by Ron Longwell

I’m Ron, and I’m a serial tree-planter.

In July of 2016, my family and I moved to a four-acre property in Bedford County, Tennessee. The following February I planted 60 trees. This year I’m hoping to plant 100 more. My wife says I’ve got a condition.

I guess what I love about planting trees is I know I’m planting something that will last. If you want something quick, you plant tomatoes. If you want something large and strong that can give shade to your children and their children, you plant trees. Trees are an investment in a future you may not see.

That’s also true of disciple-making. Making and investing in disciples of Jesus just takes time, especially if we really want to see them grow into mature, healthy, reproducing disciples. And because it takes time, disciple-making is best done in the context of loving, nurturing relationships. I’ve always loved this quote by Parker Palmer (The Courage to Teach):

“If we want to support each other’s inner lives, we must remember a simple truth: The human soul does not want to be fixed, it wants simply to be seen and heard. If we want to see and hear a person’s soul, there is another truth we must remember: The soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient, and yet shy. When we go crashing through the woods shouting for it to come out so we can help it, the soul will stay in hiding. But if we are willing to sit quietly and wait for a while, the soul may show itself.” — (Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach)

For the last fifteen years of my life, understanding spiritual formation and soul care has become my life’s great quest and has been the focus of much of my graduate work at both Harding School of Theology and Abilene Christian University.

And then, shortly after we moved to middle Tennessee, I met Mike Stroud. When he shared with me his heart for disciple-making, I knew I’d met a friend. When I learned about The Timothy Network, and how closely the organization’s mission matched with my own, I knew the Lord had brought us together. It’s been my great privilege over the last year to become involved with the Timothy Network and what I believe to be the most important work we can do in the Kingdom.

It’s kind of like planting trees.