Tragedy came to the Rasmussin family a few weeks ago during a typical summer thunderstorm, the likes of which we annually survive as residents of Gazingstock, MO. In this case, an old rotted mulberry tree in the yard came crashing through the roof of the Rasmussin home during a particularly violent wind gust. Mr. Rasmussin was injured during the collapse when a large branch slammed upon his bed, narrowly missing Mrs. Rasmussin as she slept. Mr. Rasmussin was rescued by firemen from the nearby station and transported to St. Francis hospital in Maryville with a leg fracture and extensive contusions.
The reason the League of Tyndale knows about this incident is that the Rasmussins’ elderly neighbor, Nathalie Doorlag, called to solicit our help. Knowing that the fallen tree would need to be removed (and this not being the responsibility of the city or county), she inquired as to whether or not the men of the League might be able to tend to this problem pro bono. We said we were surely disposed to do so, and would dispatch a volunteer chainsaw unit to resolve the issue as a testament to Ephesians 2:10.
Later that day, the task was skillfully completed by our dedicated crew and we gave all glory to God.
The official assessment of the fallen tree by a local expert was that the mulberry tree was a hazard that should have been removed long before the storm. Not only did it possess a split trunk that already compromised its strength, but the insect-holed core long ago had been subject to the stresses of drought and dense, unyielding clay. The tree was no longer connected to a vital source of essential nutrients. Mushrooms growing at the base indicated significant rot. The roots had given up. There were no leaves. There was no fruit. It was dead, and so it fell.
I later learned there was an interesting backstory to this incident. Jack Calhoun, a nearby neighbor and part of our tree removal team, told me that the Rasmussins, who moved into the house a year ago, had an ongoing dispute with their seemingly-helpful neighbor, Nathalie. In fact, they had recently entered into a lawsuit, whereby they were suing Nathalie concerning the property line that divided them. The Rasmussins claimed that Nathalie’s ancient picket fence was cutting off access to a two foot strip of land to the west that legally belonged to them.
The surrounding neighbors had been taken aback by this development, especially since eighty-six-year-old Nathalie had always been so kind to the young Rasmussins. Though frail and stooped over, she took advantage of every opportunity to bring the couple a homemade pie or a warm loaf of baked bread for their enjoyment, perhaps even inviting them to church or slipping into the conversation a mention of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Rasmussins remained polite to her, but were increasingly stand-offish with each subsequent visit.
Still, Nathalie was surprised by the lawsuit since the Rasmussins had never directly brought the matter to her attention. It turns out the old gal had little desire to litigate over the extent of her property line and was glad to hear that she might have less of a yard to mow. Sometimes when she thought about it too long, however, she became fearful that she might have become a pest to the Rasmussins and they were simply fixating on the fence line in order to further separate themselves from her. She prayed about it and wondered to God if she had somehow become salt in some hidden wound, instead of true salt and light.
Then the tree fell on the Rasmussin home, and the issue crystallized in her mind. Despite her doubts and fears, Nathalie still desired to help them when she saw their great need.
Last Saturday, about a week after Mr. Rasmussin came home from the hospital, he hobbled over to little Nathalie who was harvesting a few ripe tomatoes out of her backyard garden. He came to apologize and tell her he was dropping the lawsuit. It was silly, he told her. More specifically, he wanted to thank her for getting the League to remove the tree and for helping him find a good carpenter to fix the roof.
She smiled, indicated no harm done, and deposited a few freshly-picked tomatoes into his hands as a gift.
The Rasmussins had lost a mulberry tree, but were left with something greater than the cedars of Lebanon. Sometimes it is the littlest twig, sustained by the living vine, that gracefully bends from the weight of the most amazing fruit.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. — John 15:4-5