It was a warm day accented by an intermittent cool breeze. It was a day when the ranchers were going to do the branding. The young preacher had been there a short while and had never known what the branding process was like. He wasn’t sure he was fitting in. He never really got started looking the part. He was dressed in a yellow corduroy shirt, gray work pants and green mud boots. Each cowboy who came not only looked the part but also seemed to know just what they were doing. The young preacher had been working part time on the ranch. He tried so hard, but it seemed the more he tried the more of an oddity he became. So many things he did caused others to consider what and why he was doing things the way he was doing them. People laughed when he built a swing open gate with a wheel on it. They were used to having a swing gate anchored by a tall post with a wire attached to hold the gate off the ground. They laughed when he built a haystack that looked like a disheveled pile of straw. They laughed when he broke the front end on the tractor only to find out, had it not been broken, worse things were about to happen to the axle and the cost of repairs would have been so much more. The young preacher seemed to have a way of breaking things for the good. The standing joke became “Would he mind coming to our place to see what might need breaking?” It was all done in fun and no hard feelings developed. But today was the day for branding. The cowboys were concerned. What could the preacher break?
Everyone was getting everything ready. The only thing left to do was to lead the calves. About 50 of them needed to be led to the branding pen. It was about 30 yards from where the calves were standing. Each cowboy knew that those 30 yards could be 30 miles if those calves got loose. The whole day would be lost chasing calves over the countryside. The cowboys decided to form a line. They each carried a rope for a lasso in case it was needed. The cowboys believed they could form a wall of people and the calves would go in the right direction. The preacher said, “Do not worry, I will bring the calves over. You guys just get started.” No one believed one person could bring a group of skittish calves by himself. The preacher said it would work while the cowboys laughed. The preacher said, “You see, one of these calves is mine. His name is Jasper. His mother rejected him at birth. Everyday I bring the bucket of milk to him. He bellers and all the other calves come running. Sometimes I bring a bucket of oats, he bellers and all the calves come running. Sometimes, just for the fun of it I parade the calves around the corral. They follow Jasper without question. It seems that Jasper had become their leader. He has an inside contact for oats.” The calves followed him. Again the cowboys laughed. They did not know what to do. The preacher had broken so many things which turned out right that they were in a quandary. The preacher seemed to think the other calves would just follow him and the calf Jasper. He was convinced everything would work out just fine. The cowboys decided they would stand back and just watch but would stay in position in case something went wrong. The preacher went and got a bucket of oats. He went to the corral and Jasper came running. It was not long that the other calves started to stampede toward the bucket. The preacher lifted the bucket high so the calves could not reach it. He then started walking toward the branding pen. At the same time he would reach into the bucket and give a handful of oats to one of the calves. The cowboys stood in amazement. The preacher yelled “We’re almost there, someone open the gate.” The cowboys, startled by what they were watching, broke from their trance and began to run toward their assigned areas. Not one calf was lost. Once they got to their destination the preacher walked through the herd patting the calves on the head and giving each a handful of oats. The gate was shut and the branding began.
The next Sunday as the preacher told the story of the calves from the pulpit; he said the moral of story was simple. Building relationships can nurture trust. Trust can get things done. It is when we trust one another that God can use us to be there for the work of the kingdom.