Sun., Apr. 22, 2018
1 Corinthians 12:21 – That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet.
When God’s hands touch our hands, our hands continue the work of God’s kingdom. Our work for God’s kingdom comes in many different forms. Often outside the traditional box.
I have been blessed to serve God’s kingdom in various ways. Shortly after hubby Rick and I were married, we moved into a house provided by a church I was serving. The house was in the country and our closest neighbors were dairy farmers. We became fast friends with Mel & Doris Lohr and son Greg, who farms with them. Having grown up on a dairy farm, I dusted off my cow milking skills and put them to work a few times when we lived by the Lohr’s.
The Lohr’s have contemplated a different arrangement for their dairy operation for years. Their operation has labor intensive. Finding and keeping employees has been an issue. The buildings were worn out. It was time for Mel and Doris to allow Greg more ownership.
This week, the Lohr’s initiated their decision. They moved their cows into a new home. Rather than being milked the traditional way, they installed four robotic milkers. Instead of people going to the cows to milk them, the cows go to a specific place were robots handling cow-milking duties.
There are about 1.3 million cows in Wisconsin, where I live. In Wisconsin, dairy farms contribute about $43.4 billion to the state’s economy. Of the 9,520 Wisconsin farms, 96% are family owned. These owner-operators work tirelessly to produce a very healthy high-quality product. They take extreme pride in caring for their animals. All the dairy producers I know go out of their way to ensure the animals are well cared for, feed and healthy.
For the Lohr’s, switching barns and milking methodology cows was a huge undertaking. The cow’s office was moved. They have a new lunch room, the bathroom is in a different location, their beds have changed and their water coolers look completely different. The way they earn their keep (provide milk) has been turned upside down. The cows have more choice about when the eat, sleep and be milked.
Because everything is so different and new, early on, the cows need a little encouragement. The extended Lohr family has stepped it up this week as well as their employees. Since Tuesday, lots and lots of volunteers have become hands and feet to help the cows adjust. People have been in the new barn round-the-clock.
Saturday, Rick and I took an afternoon shift. After our arrival, we were given a 10-minute course of what to do and look for. Then, we were turned loose to find which cows were overdue to be milked.
The whole system is highly technical. The automation is becoming more fine-tuned each day. Saturday was day 5 since the cows were moved. Both Rick and I are amazed how quickly the cows have adapted. They are divided into four groups, based on age and milking stage. By the end of our shift, the youngest cows basically have the system figured out. Some older cows just need a little more coaxing.
In their brand-new hotel, the cows are so comfortable and content. In the hours we helped, we only heard one cow “moo.”
As nifty as this whole new operation is, the overarching cloud is the difficult dairy economy right now. The price dairy producers are paid for the milk they produce are at record lows. In the 1980’s, the dairy economy went through several challenging years. Many good dairy operations were ultimately forced to stop, my family included. The Lohr’s have staked their entire financial future on this new set-up. The low income only adds another layer of stress. It’s difficult for most of us to understand the significance and challenge of this. Believe me – it’s there.
When Doris called and asked if Rick and I could take a shift, there was no hesitation. Yes, we wanted to help our friends. Yes, we were curious to see their new operation. Yes, we would do this because this is how we put into action God’s call to extend God’s hands into the world. We were grateful Doris asked us.
Most people cannot be hands and feet directly for the Lohr’s. But you can help. Help them and all dairy producers by buying an extra gallon or two of milk a week. Or cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt or ice cream. If your family cannot consume them, donate them to your local food pantry. Do this again next week. “Fixing” this dairy economic situation is tricky. Each of us can increase consumption and help family operations like the Lohr’s.
One of my seminary professors said that going over 30 miles to help someone is missionary work. Rick and I were more than pleased to be make the Lohr’s our little mission trip and be God’s hands and feet today.
For this, I am grateful.
Almighty God – the opportunities to be your hands and feet in your kingdom are endless. Unfortunately, we aren’t always very comfortable for asking assistance. I pray we can become see that when your hand touches ours, the opportunities for us to serve your kingdom are just beginning. Amen.
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