“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” –Hebrews 6:10
Near the end of our recent trip to Northern California, my husband, son, and I visited Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. Because I grew up in California, I figured I had a pretty good grasp on its history. But I really learned a lot! John Sutter was fascinating person, though his story is tragic.
Sutter immigrated through the existing United States to California from Switzerland. California was part of Mexico at the time, so Sutter became a citizen of that country. The Mexican government welcomed him because they appreciated his vision for the area and wanted to encourage him. Sutter dreamed of creating a strong, agricultural community. He invited immigrants to live at his fort, free of charge. He only asked that they work to learn a trade and support the community. He trained farmers and blacksmiths and merchants. He even invited the Native American population to be a part of it all.* In fact, according to the narrative at the fort, he is the one who taught them to weave the blankets so popular now at southwestern, roadside souvenir stands.
Sutter was generous and well-respected, known as a true gentleman. And all was going well until some kid just happened to find a bit of gold at Sutter’s Mill. Generosity, community, and cooperation were replaced by greed just that fast.
One of the seven deadly sins? Oh, yes.
Sutter spent the rest of his life fighting for the rights to his land and died alone in an East Coast hotel, a penniless pauper. His story broke my heart!
As we traveled through Northern California, though, from San Francisco to Sacramento to Grass Valley to Paradise to Chico to Yuba City . . . we were surrounded, not by gold mines, but by crops. Walnuts, Almonds, Peaches, Apples, Strawberries, Grapes, Lettuce, and Rice . . . lots and lots and lots of rice! It seems to me that Sutter’s dream eventually came true. The Sacramento Valley is a strong agricultural community. Evidently, some of the people he taught stuck to the trade instead of seeking gold. Others returned to the trade once they recovered from gold fever. And others came after to follow in Sutter’s footsteps. Sutter never saw his dream come true—and yet, it did!
It’s a lesson to remember. When God gives us a vision of some good that we can do, our place is simply to do it, leaving all results to Him. When we serve Him faithfully to show Him our love by caring for His people, He is faithful to us in return. We may never see the fruit of our labor, but our God will not forget. We can trust Him with this.
Father, please show us daily how we can best serve You. Help us remember that we love You best by loving people, by doing our part to build Your Kingdom on Earth. Thank You for seeing and remembering the work we do for You. It’s a honor to do what we can. Amen.
*Note: I used Wikipedia to double-check some facts and discovered that it doesn’t portray Sutter’s character in such a positive light, indicating that he actually coerced the Native Americans of the area into working for him. Other sources imply this was an act of self-defense: they attacked; he enslaved them in order to teach them his ways. Sutter’s own words indicate this is probably true: “The Indians began to be troublesome all around me, killing and wounding cattle, stealing horses, and threatening to attack us. I was obliged to make campaigns against them and punish them.” According to the story as the fort told it, however, he did teach them agricultural skills, just as he taught the other inhabitants of the fort. He even had his cooks learn to prepare meals they were accustomed to and to serve them in the manner they would have served themselves. It seems to me that, in the end, he hoped the different cultures would learn to get along, but only God knows the motives of anyone’s heart.
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