Every time I hear the Parable of the Mustard Seed I am reminded of a wonderful modern day interpretation of this parable…a documentary film produced a few years ago called “One Small Act.”
The “One Small Act” spoken of in this film is the act of a simple Swedish woman, a teacher, by the name of Hilde Backe, who does nothing more than mail off a few bucks a month to sponsor the education of a young, rural Kenyan student.
For years, Hilde has no idea about the impact of her sponsorship.
She does not know that the student she sponsors, a young boy by the name of Chris Mburu, graduates from college. He then goes on to earn a degree from Harvard Law School and eventually becomes a Human Rights Lawyer for the United Nations.
Mburu, wants to return a good deed done towards him, so he decides to start a scholarship program for young, rural Kenyans from his village. As he works to put together a foundation, he decides to call it the Hilde Back Foundation, in honor of the woman who sent a few bucks a month to sponsor his education so many years ago.
As plans for the foundation come together, Mburu sets out to find and to meet Hilde Backe in order to thank her for changing his life. When they finally meet, they strike up a very unlikely friendship and eventually Hilde Back accepts to honor of traveling to Kenya to celebrate the establishment of the foundation in her name.
It is a moving film. With clarity and grace, it bears witness to the ripple effect that a small, simple, single action can make in the world. The movie is a visual telling of Jesus’ parable, about how a small seed can grow into a mighty bush to provide sustenance and shelter for others.
Perhaps that’s what the parable calls us to remember most.
The voice of Hilde Backe opens the film with these words, “There is so much need in the world, you have to do something to help. It seemed so natural to donate some money to a child. And sometimes you wonder, does it help?”
Yes. Yes it does.
Usually we think big and splashy…that’s what we need to have a real impact.
But really, what makes the most significant change in the world are those small, faithful, actions done each and every day. Those responses we make to the nudging of the Holy Spirit, listening to and acting upon the still small voice wooing us to get up and do something, anything.
While they may not seem like it at the time, those are the sorts of things that have powerful, longterm, and lasting effects on the world.
All of us have opportunities to do little things for which we can never guess how far reaching the results will be. The secret is to trust that God is at work within them, for truly, little is much when God is in it.
Even the smallest of seeds, when it has grown becomes a tree in which the birds of the air can build their nest.