By Doug Bing, Washington Conference president
Do you have a favorite smell that you are drawn to? I’m a big fan of vanilla, especially the smell of it. When smelling candles with my daughter in the store I am always drawn to the vanilla ones. Vanilla adds so much to so many things. It’s a great seasoning and is the most popular spice in the world.
This week I curiously read about the history of the vanilla bean. Back in 1841, the world produced less than 2,000 vanilla beans which all came from Mexico. Because of its rarity, it was expensive. The physician to the king of Spain called vanilla a miracle drug that could cure a snake bit and sooth an upset stomach. A fun fact: Thomas Jefferson was the author of the first recipe for vanilla ice cream.
But the way vanilla came to be so common is all because of a 12-year-old slave boy named Edmond. He lived on a plantation that had been granted some vanilla plants from the French government. However, only one plant survived and for 20 years it didn’t produce. People couldn’t understand why vanilla was impossible to grow and produce outside of Mexico. Finally, they figured out that it was a certain kind of bee that was the pollinator of the plants in Mexico.
Edmond, however, didn’t know that it couldn’t be done. The plantation owner was walking in the plantation owner with Edmond when he discovered much to his surprise that the vanilla plant had produced two beans!
But Edmond wasn’t all that surprised as he explained that he had pollinated the plant by hand. He did it by pinching the anther and the stigma of the plant together very gently. The French call it Edmond’s gesture and it is memorialized in a bronze statue of Edmond on the island of Réunion. Just a few short years after this discovery, the island was exporting two tons of vanilla beans. By 1898 they exported 200 tons.
As we think of our mission field in western Washington, we need to pray for the same kind of spirit that Edmond had. We can pray to God and ask him to bring to our mind how to best reach our communities and not give up trying God ordained ideas in how to reach out. It may be something simple that hasn’t been done before that can transform our personal witness or our churches and schools witness.
Philippians 4:13 states it simply, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Let us pray to have the attitude of Christ that will continue to show us the way forward to reach this mission field. And soon, we can continue to see precious fruit being produced by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.