Two years ago we planted a small papaya seedling in the ground. It has grown with remarkable speed and now is over 4 meters tall. When we first planted it, we had dreams of eating fresh papaya within a few months as some trees produce fruit relatively quickly. However, though the tree grew quickly, it did not flower for quite a while. And when flowers appeared, they did not produce fruit. Someone told us that we probably have a male tree so we would never enjoy fruit. We were disappointed. We decided to let the tree grow a bit longer as it has a nice tropical look to it.
Two years later, we now have some 20 papayas at various stages growing on the tree. Things did not happen in our timing, and we had all but given up on the tree, but in the end it produced fruit. This parallels our own experiences of working with church planters. You start out with enthusiasm, and get out to tell people about Jesus. However, it can be quite a while before one actually begins to see the fruit of the initial months, or even years, of work. In the end it is the result of what God is doing—Mark 4:26-29.