The Value of a Planted Seed
December 1, 2006 - It was 1969, and I was struggling with differential calculus at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y. My teacher, a rather eccentric fellow of about 30, wore the same threadbare, brown corduroy sport coat with felt elbow patches every day. Mr. Jordan certainly was no fashion plate, and we seemed to have little in common.
by Karl Novak
My lifestyle involved alcohol, marijuana, LSD and sexual immorality. I probably would never have had a conversation with him had it not been for my serious calculus deficiencies.
One day I stayed after class to get some extra help. Mr. Jordan took time not only to help me with calculus but, more important, to tell me about Jesus Christ.
“I used to look to mathematics for the answer to life,” he said, “but I found the answer in Jesus Christ.” I was glad to hear that the answer to life was not in math. If it had been, I would have been a hopeless case!
What Mr. Jordan said about Christ interested me; I was attracted to the message in a way I could not understand. Still, sin held me in its grip, and I refused to respond in faith.
Three years passed, during which time I completed my degree, became an Air Force officer and was stationed at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. In 1972, through the ministry of a church in Columbus, I repented of my sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior. When I returned to New York, I tried to contact Mr. Jordan to tell him that his witness had not been in vain, that God had used him to plant a seed in my life and that seed had indeed borne fruit. But he had left the university and moved out of state, leaving no forwarding address.
During the years since my semester with Mr. Jordan, I have raised a family, led a Christian school and pastored a number of churches—and have often referred to the calculus teacher who shared Christ with me.
In 2000 I planted a Baptist church in Cicero, a suburb of Syracuse. It has been a challenging task, but a few faithful families have been crucial to its development. One of those families is the extended Hess family. On a Sunday in October 2005, while sharing a portion of my testimony, I again mentioned my calculus teacher, Mr. Jordan. Two of the Hess sisters looked at each other incredulously as I continued to speak.
After the service, Darleen, the eldest sister, asked about Mr. Jordan. I could still remember quite a bit about him: he was saved in a Southern Baptist church, was an avid bird watcher, drove a Volkswagen van and wore that old, brown coat.
Darleen’s eyes widened, and she shouted, “That’s my Uncle Leon!”
At first I couldn’t believe that this woman whom I had been privileged to baptize was the niece of the man who had witnessed to me 36 years earlier, but upon further investigation I found that it was true. A few days later I telephoned Leon Jordan, who now lives in Maryland, and I thanked him for his obedience in sharing Christ with a lost young man at Syracuse University so many years ago.
He was amazed and gratified, but his response was, “I just obeyed the Lord. We don’t share Christ with people for self-exaltation or immediate results, but as obedient servants.”
It still amazes me how a witness that at first seemed ineffective was so instrumental in the salvation and spiritual growth of many people—including his own extended family. Twelve of Mr. Jordan’s relatives are active members of our church, and six have come to Christ through the church’s ministry. Truly we never know how great a harvest may be realized from planting a single seed of God’s precious Word!