Heidi’s dad let us borrow a book last weekend called the “Pineapple Story”. It is a story about how God taught a missionary to Dutch New Guinea a lesson about surrendering everything to Him. We read it as a family for our family devotions one night but It is a great story for anyone to read. We hope it challenges you the way it did us.
My family and I worked with these people way back in the bush. One day I decided that I was going to bring in some pineapples. The people there had heard of pineapples and had tasted them before, but they didn’t have any source to get them. So I got some from another mission station. I bought about one hundred plants. Then I got one of the local men to work for me. He planted all the pineapple shoots for me. I paid him, of course. I paid him salt or whatever he wanted for the days he worked. It seemed to take awfully long for those little shoots of pineapple to become big bushes and finally yield pineapples. It took about three years. Back in the jungle you long for fresh fruit. You don’t get much fresh fruit or vegetables. So finally that third year we could see fresh pineapples coming on, and we were just waiting for Christmas time because that is when they are ripe. When Christmas finally came, my wife and I would go for walks to see if any were ripe enough to eat. Finally, when they got ripe, we didn’t get a single one of them! The natives stole every one! They stole them before they were ripe. That is their art. Steal it before it is ripe or the owner gets it.
Here I am, a missionary, getting mad at these people. Missionaries aren’t supposed to get mad. You all know that. But I got angry. I said, “Look, you guys! I have been waiting for these pineapples for three years. I didn’t get any of them. Now there are others getting ripe. If any more of these pineapples are stolen, no more clinic for you.”
My wife was running the clinic. She was giving them all their pills for free. They didn’t have anything to pay. We were knocking ourselves out trying to help these people, talking care of their sick, saving the lives of their babies. One by one the pineapples got ripe, and one by one they were stolen. So I felt I had to stand my ground with these people. I couldn’t just let them run all over me. But that was not really the reason. It was a selfish reason. I wanted to eat those pineapples. So no more clinic! Then they let their sick people die. They couldn’t care less. Life was cheap over there. People with bad pneumonia would be coughing and begging us for medicine. We would say, “No! Remember you stole our pineapples.” “I didn’t steal them, they would say. “It was the other guys that did it.” They would go on coughing and begging. We couldn’t take it any longer. I broke down and said, “Okay, tomorrow morning we will open the clinic again.” When we opened the clinic they started stealing the pineapples, and I felt bad again. Man! These rascals! But we finally found out who was doing it – the guy who planted them. I called him on the carpet and said, “Look, buddy! What are you doing stealing my pineapples? You are my gardener.”
He said, “My hands plant them. My mouth eats them.” That is the rule of the jungle. If they plant something, that is theirs. They had never heard of the idea of paying for services. So he said, “They are all mine.” I said, “Oh no! They are mine. I paid you to plant them.” But he just couldn’t understand how that made them my plants. I thought, “Well, what do I do now?” It was the rule of their tribe. I’d better learn to live by their rule. So I said, “Alright, I will give you half of these plants. “Everything from here to over there is yours. If they get ripe, they are yours. And these are mine.” He sounded like he was in agreement. But my pineapples still got stolen. Then I thought, “Maybe I should let them have all those pineapples, and I’ll get some new ones.” But I knew that I would have to wait three more years. That was hard for me to to do.
Finally I said, “Look, I will give you all these pineapples, and then I will start all over again. Now you make a garden and you take all these pineapples out of my garden so I will have room to plant new ones. I don’t want your pineapples in my garden if you feel they are yours.” So they said, “Too-wan, (which means outsider/foreigner) you will have to pay us.” “Now wait just a minute!”, I shouted. They said, “No, No! You are asking us to move your pineapple bushes, and that is work.” I reluctantly agreed, “Alright, I’ll pay you one day’s work. Take them all away.” Then they said, “We don’t have a garden ready. Will you pay us to get it ready too?” I said, “Forget it!” These people were going too far. I had had enough!
I told my wife, “This is impossible! I am just going to pay some guy to root them all out and throw them on the trash heap. Then if they want them they can just take them.” So we did. We rooted them all out and threw them on a heap. What a shame, they were nice pineapple bushes. Then I bought new plants. I said, “Now look, all you guys. I am going to pay you to plant them, but I will eat them, me and my family. You don’t eat any.” They said, “You can’t do that. If we plant them, we eat them.” I said, “Look now, I don’t have time to mess with a garden. I have too many important things to do. There are so many of you, and there is only one of me. You have got to help me. I want you to plant them, and I will eat them.”
I wasn’t getting very far with them so I said, “I will pay you. What do you want?” I will give you this nice knife if you will agree to do it.” They started to think. “He will pay us that knife so he can eat our pineapples.” Finally they agreed. During the next three years I reminded the guy who planted them, “Look! Who is going to eat these pineapples?” He said, “You are.” I said, “Good! Have you stil got the knife?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Well, take good care of it.” I knew that If he lost the knife I would be in trouble again. The payment would be gone. Finally, after three more years the pineapples began to ripen. My wife and I walked through the garden again. I said to her, “Pretty soon we are going to have a crop of our own pineapples.” We started to thank God that He was providing them for us. But do you know what happened next? Every one of them was stolen! I would see the natives go through my garden in the daytime to spot where the pineapples were, and then at night they would be able to go right to them.
I thought, “What am I going to do?” We can’t cut out the clinic. Let’s cut out the trade store instead.” That’s where they get their matches, salt, fish hooks, and things like that. They used to do without them. That won’t kill them. The next day I said to the men, “Okay, there will be no more store since you keep stealing my pineapples.” When we closed the store they began to say, “We had better leave because we don’t have any salt. If he is not going to have a store, there is no advantage for us being here with him. We might as well go back to our jungle houses.”
There I was sitting by myself eating my pineapples. No people and no ministry. I said to my wife, “We can eat pineapples back in the States, I mean, if that is all we are here to do.” A runner returned and I said, “Get them all back. We will open the store next Monday.” I thought and thought. How am I going to eat those pineapples? There must be a way. Then I got an idea.
A German Shepherd! I got the biggest German Shepherd I could get on the island. I brought him in there and let him loose. The were very afraid of him. They had never seen a dog that big. They had little, mangy dogs. They never fed them and they were all diseased. And there was my well-fed German Shepherd dog. I would always have to feed him when the people weren’t around because they would resent the dog’s food. It was better than anything they got. But that dog sure did the trick! Most of the people didn’t dare come around anymore. So we had the same result as closing the store. People didn’t come. I didn’t have anybody to tell about Jesus and I couldn’t get anybody to teach me the language.
I thought, “What do we do?” The dog wasn’t working after all. In the meantime, the dog was starting to breed with the village dogs and would raise up a wicked half-shepherd, wild and hungry. The doctor in town said, “If your kids or anybody gets bitten by that dog, I am not going to treat them.” He was using the same tactics on me that I was using on the natives. I said to my wife, “We’ve got to get rid of that dog.” Well, I got rid of the dog. I hated to do it. Now that the dog was gone, the people eventually came back and my pineapples were disappearing as before. I thought, “There must be a way. What haven’t I tried?”
Then I came home on furlough and went to a church service. The lesson I learned that day was that we must give everything we own to God. The Bible says it is better to give, than to receive. If you keep everything for yourself, you will lose them. Give the things you love and want to God, and God will take care of you. This is a basic lesson that I had forgotten. I thought, “I don’t have anything to lose, maybe this will work. I will give that pineapple garden to God because I am not eating them anyway.” Now I know that is not a very good sacrifice. You are supposed to sacrifice something that is valuable. But I would give it to God and see if He could control it.
One night, after I returned, I stood out in the garden all alone. I prayed, “Lord see these pineapple bushes? I have fought to have the fruit from them. I have claimed them as my own. I have stood up for my rights. It is all wrong, and I realize that now. I have to give them all to You. From now on, if You want me to eat any of Your pineapples, fine. If not, then that is fine too. Amen.” So I gave them to God, and the natives stole the pineapples just like before. A little frustrated that my new plan didn’t work, I thought to myself, “See, God, You can’t control them either!” But I didn’t say anything. I just kept praying and trusting the Lord to take care of it His way.
Then one day they finally came to me and said, “Too-wan, you have become a Christian, haven’t you?” I was ready to react and say, “Look here, I have been a Christian for twenty years!” But instead I said, “Why would you say that?” They answered, “Because you don’t get angry anymore when we steal your pineapples.” This was a real revelation. Now I was living what I had been preaching to them. I had been telling them to love one another, be kind to one another, but I had always been standing up for my rights and they knew it.
Finally, one of the young men started thinking and said, “Now why don’t you get angry anymore?” I said, I have given that garden away. It isn’t mine anymore. So you are not stealing from me. I don’t have to get angry now.” Another said, “Who did you give the garden to?” They looked around at each other. “Did he give it to you?” Whose garden is it now?” “Whose pineapples are we stealing?”
Then I explained to them, “I have given the garden to God.” They answered, “To God?! Doesn’t He have pineapples where He lives?” “I don’t know whether He has any or not but I have given the garden to Him.” The men left and went back to their village and said to the others there, “Do you know whose pineapples we are stealing?” Too-wan has given them to God.” After discussing the matter further, they returned and said to me, “Too-wan, you should not have done that. Why don’t you get them back from God?” “We have not been able to find any pigs when we go out hunting. The fish are not biting our hooks. Even our babies are getting sick.” They they said, “We shouldn’t steal them anymore if they are God’s, should we?”
The pineapples soon began to ripen and the natives came to me and said, “Too-wan, your pineapples are ripe.” I said, “They are not mine. They belong to God, remember?” They said, “But they are going to get rotten. You had better pick them.” And so, I went out to the garden and got the best pineapples I could find and then I gave some of them to the natives. When my family sat down to eat them, I prayed, “Lord, we are eating Your pineapples. Thank You for giving some to us and some to the natives.” All those years, the people God sent me to reach were watching me and listening to my words. They saw that the two didn’t match. But when God changed my heart and mind, He began to change theirs too. Soon many of the natives decided to become Christians.
The natives began bringing all sorts of things for me to fix. I said, “Lord, my time is Yours too. If you want me to fix pots, shovels, and harmonicas out here on the mission field, then I will.” I wasn’t getting as much Bible translation done as I wanted to, but more and more people were coming to Christ! They kept saying to each other, “Too-wan has become a Christian. He tells us to love one another and now he is loving us.” One day, I was fixing a broken chair in our house and one of the natives came over and said, “Here, let me help you hold it.” After we fixed it I said, “Aren’t you going to ask me for any salt?” He said, “No, Too-wan. Don’t you remember? You helped me fix my shovel. Now I help you fix your chair.” I thought, “Wow! That is the first time they did anything for me without getting paid for it.”
So what is in your pineapple garden? Have you surrendered it to the Lord yet? Do you trust Him to take care of the things that are most important to you? Will you patiently wait for Him to answer your prayers? If you can answer “Yes” then God will give you your own “Pineapple Story” someday.
You only believe as much of the Bible as you are willing to live.