This is a story of God’s omniscience and creativity. Especially in answering desperate prayers.
There were many prayers, most prayed by people with hungry stomachs and hopeful hearts. The COVID-19 pandemic had closed down all tourism, and without tourists the people who live in and around Moab, Utah, United States, were hungry. Signs at both ends of town proclaimed that tourists were not welcome. “Stay Out,” one read. “We want to stay healthy!”
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Without tourists, however, the hotels were empty, the cafés were silent, the gas stations were pumping very little gas, and the supermarkets were promising to fill a few shelves “soon.”
“People were really hungry,” remembers Pastor Nathan James, “and we had an idea about how to help. We called it ‘Moab Manna.’”
The idea was to plant potatoes! A friend of the church had offered his 12-acre field as a perfect place to grow potatoes. Unfortunately, the field was thoroughly populated with rocks posing as potatoes! Thousands of them. Large, brown, heavy, and unwieldy.
The members of the Moab Seventh-day Adventist Church went to work clearing the field and planting seed potatoes. Here’s how Pastor Nathan described it: “The Lord organized access to machinery, provided discounted rates on the seed potatoes, and provided enough volunteer labor to get the field planted. We tackled weeds, prepared soil, removed stones, planted rows, purchased and installed hundreds of feet of irrigation line, and arranged volunteers to move the pipe every day.”
When the 25 members of the Moab congregation realized that Moab Manna was far larger than they could handle, God stepped in with eager volunteers from other community churches. Seventh-day Adventists, Latter-day Saints, and others worked side-by-side throughout the summer, moving irrigation pipe, tossing rocks to the side, and praying for a great harvest.
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Three days before harvest the team still had not been able to locate packaging for the potato crop. Though they believed that God had the answer, this was a big faith-building moment. Pastor Nathan shared the need during the conference’s digital pastor’s prayer time, and many more prayers were prayed, together, for crates that the volunteers could fill with potatoes.
“Within one hour of the pastor’s prayer session,” Pastor Nathan tells the story, “God miraculously provided wooden crates with a capacity to hold 1,000 pounds of potatoes each! At a price of only $2 per crate, they were almost being given away! And there were enough crates for the full harvest!”
“Moab Manna has potatoes ready for harvest!”
The message was sent out to the town, and more than 200 volunteers showed up to help harvest God’s potatoes.
Moab Manna offered a portion of the harvest to the Utah State Food Bank. They sent a semi-truck and took home more than 8,000 pounds of potatoes. The Navajo Nation was facing a food shortage at the same time, but COVID-19 rules prevented travel onto the reservation. The need and the challenge once again brought church members to their knees. How could they get the potatoes to their Navajo neighbors? God’s answer included 100 laborers who packed 5,000 pounds of potatoes and a driver from the Navajo Nation who was given special travel permission to drive to Moab, collect the potato crates, and deliver them to the hungry Navajos.
“In one thrilling miracle after another,” Pastor Nathan says, “God opened doors one day at a time. Never too soon. And never too late.”
The small Moab Manna potato field grew more than 30,000 pounds of potatoes, a Divine gift of food for very hungry people!
But Moab Manna didn’t end when the potato field irrigation pipes were hauled away. The church members kept praying for other ways to help.
One Sabbath, as Pastor Nathan was driving to speak at another church in his district, he received a cell phone call from his father.
“Where are you preaching today?” his dad asked.
“I’ll be at the Castle Valley church today,” Pastor Nathan answered.
“I’m in the area and will come hear you preach!”
Dad hung up, and Pastor Nathan immediately tried to call him back to warn him about the ice on River Road, which he would need to take to get to Castle Valley. The cell service was poor, so he just left his dad a voice message.
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Dad did not arrive during Sabbath School. But about halfway through the sermon, he came in and sat down. A few minutes later a deacon came in and asked Dad to come outside. Pastor Nathan preached on, silently praying for his dad.
After church, Pastor Nathan found his dad standing in front of the church talking with a highway patrolman.
“I caught the ice,” Dad said. “I slid across the road, and then my truck flipped several times and landed on its wheels on a sandbar in the river. I was able to climb out and hitch a ride to church!”
“We prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for safety, then I drove Dad back to his wrecked truck where it sat in the river,” Pastor Nathan recalls. “Dad collected some things from the truck, and then we drove back to our home in Moab.”
“I don’t want to worry about this anymore on Sabbath,” Dad said. “Let’s just spend the time together.”
The next day father and son drove into town to the lot where the tow truck had brought Dad’s wrecked truck. As Dad talked with the lot owners, Pastor Nathan wandered around the lot. On one side he noticed a large stack of apple boxes.
“What’s with all the apples?” he asked the lot owner. “There must be at least 30,000 pounds of apples there.”
“Nope—40,000 pounds,” the owner said. A semi-truck was bringing them to a store in Moab when he lost control and wrecked his truck. Lost the whole load!”
“What happens to the apples now?” Pastor Nathan asked.
“The insurance company says I have to destroy them and send pictures proving I did the job right.”
Pastor Nathan’s thoughts went to the hundreds of hungry people he knew.
“You know,” he told the tow truck company’s owner. “I could make all of those apples disappear before sunset today.”
The owner looked at pastor Nathan, remembered Moab Manna, and excused himself to make a quick phone call. Five minutes later he was back, smiling widely.
“The apples are all yours,” he said. “The insurance people liked your offer.”
Pastor Nathan made several calls, and in a couple hours all the apples were gone. Some to the Navajo Nation, others to the local Latter-day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventist churches, and all the others who had volunteered in the potato field.
Forty thousand pounds of organic apples! When God answers, He comes through with the best.
When he tells the story, Pastor Nathan’s smile is more than 40,000 pounds wide. “This may be the most positive impact ever made by the Seventh-day Adventist church in our community. Imagine, hundreds of people, including Seventh-day Adventists, Latter-day Saints, and many of our non-churched neighbors working together as friends while harvesting God’s potatoes and apples!”