When we moved into the house we are now renting, it was a bit like entering the promised land because it came with several fruit trees to enjoy. We didn’t plant them or wait for them to grow, but we get to enjoy their fruit. Lots of fruit in fact, particularly this year and particularly the plum tree.
We did our best to eat the plums and we gave some away, but the plums were still falling to the ground and rotting faster than we could use them. As we considered what to do, Abby felt like God said to sell the fruit. I wasn’t very excited about this because it meant I would have to do most of the work, including the actual selling. And just to let you know, I hate selling. Plus, I’m a bad salesman. But through a few circumstances, I came to realize that God probably was actually saying to sell the fruit, so at 5:00 am I dragged myself out of bed and drove down to our local bazaar with about 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of plums.
The plan was to arrive early and sell our plums to the fruit vendors who worked at the bazaar. It turned out the gates don’t open until 6:00 am, so I had plenty of time to sit uncomfortably in my car and dread what I was about to do. Meanwhile, several other people waited with me, including a handful of older ladies who looked like they spent every day of their lives at the bazaar. I watched as they haggled with the other folks with cars full of fruits and vegetables. I knew I was out of my league and I had no idea what I was doing. The ladies helped themselves to my plums and gave their expert comments. They told me the vendors who work along the street (not in the actual bazaar) would buy my plums.
The gates opened, but things still took a while to get going. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing except me. People pulled cardboard boxes of fruit out of their cars. Boxes. That would have been a good idea. I had our fruit in plastic bins–not something I could leave with a buyer. I looked around in the bazaar for a bit and then decided to go back to the car to wait until more people arrived. But even though I waited, the street vendors the bazaar lady mentioned didn’t appear. I eventually decided to bite the bullet, swallow my pride and just go talk to someone. I went back in and saw a vendor buying apples. I showed her my fruit. She tried one plum and made it clear she wasn’t interested. I walked around a few more stalls that were opening and got rejected a few more times.
Back to the car. Abby called to see how I was faring. She found out I was less than happy, having got up at the crack of dawn only to meet with defeat. I sat in the car and secretly hoped that someone would just miraculously walk up and say “Plums from heaven! I’ll buy them all!” That way I wouldn’t have to embarrass myself by showing of my poor sales skills, and I could still go home relatively unscathed. Someone did approach the car, but he only bought two because he forgot his breakfast at home.
I should mention that not only do I dislike selling, I also dislike fumbling over my words. My Russian language is decent, but selling fruit is not something I normally do, so new (and potentially embarrassing) language situations were bound to arise. In new situations, I tend to stumble over my words and my accent shows through alerting people to the fact that I’m a foreigner. That means they might A) avoid me or B) try to take advantage of me. None of this was motivating me to get up and give it another go.
But as I sat, I felt what I thought was the Holy Spirit nudging me to try again. It was one of those moments when I knew I just had to try to sell those plums again even though I really wanted to give up, go home and say, “Well, I tried.” God wasn’t going to let me go home yet, and he wasn’t going to let those plums sell without me actually putting in some work and a more whole-hearted effort. So back I went into the bazaar…again.
I showed my plums to a few more uninterested vendors. Then I happened on a guy who didn’t say no immediately-an encouraging sign. He called to a couple ladies standing nearby who acted interested for a moment but then turned back to their work. The guy decided he didn’t want them and sent me to another vendor who also didn’t want them. My moment of hope deflated. I walked past the two ladies one more time just to give them a chance to reconsider. As I talked to one lady again, I figured out that she didn’t want to resell the plums, she wanted to buy some to make jam at home. The problem was she didn’t have time and wanted me to come back another day. Not exactly a huge sales success.
I was ready to call it quits, but the lady called to a friend of hers across the row. The friend tried a plum and decided to buy 5 kilograms (11 pounds). Then another lady walked up, watched the transaction, and said she wanted 4 kilos. By the time the conversation was over, I had sold 14 kilograms. I also learned another lesson in sales in Central Asia: carry plenty of change. I couldn’t break one lady’s bill, so I ended up selling it to her for less than we agreed. The other ladies who witnessed this wanted the same discount, of course, squeezing my already meager profits. But I (with God’s mercy and help!) had actually sold some plums! Low profits aside, it was a significant success after complaining to Abby on the phone only 15 minutes before about how terrible everything was.
I had about half my plums left. As tempting as it was to pack up, go home and celebrate my “half” success, I felt that I still hadn’t been complete yet in discharging what God had given me to do, and I needed to circle through the rest of the vendors who were now arriving and opening up shop. So I continued on, receiving a few more “No’s” before reaching a couple uncovering their table of fruit from the day before. I had been running into indifference all morning, so I was happy to say the least when my plums caught this couple’s attention. They bought the rest and asked if I had more I could bring the next day. We ended up picking the rest of our plums that evening and selling them to the couple the following day.
If I stop to consider what God was trying to do in me through this, one of them was pushing me to get over myself (pride, fear) and go try. We’ve been praying for freedom from the fear of man, and part of it is just being willing to be foolish for God without worrying about what people think. It makes a funny story, but the things the Lord was trying to get at were not personality flaws but sin. If fear can stop me from selling fruit, what else can fear stop me from doing? If pride can keep me from opening my mouth, are there other situations where I will be silent instead of speak the truth? Fear and the accompanying pride that stop us from obedience are sin and I should be thankful that God loves me enough to put me in situations where I can be pushed to change.