Part 8: ONE OF H1S HARVEST STORIES
ONE OF H1S HARVEST STORIES
One of H1S is a 10-week series telling the Sage Harvest story of how two became ten ... and a jerky store.
Our lives were full.
Our medical roster was full.
Every square inch of our home was full.
D.C. Williams was working full-time at his active duty military job, and I was a medical chauffeur, professional children’s hospital coordinator, child calendar keeper and part-time preschool student with the girl newly home from China who still had well-controlled enthusiasm for me.
And yet, with six children now in our home, four of them facing various medical and emotional challenges from years of institutional life, we knew what else was still full.
Foster homes filled with children who had been waiting far too long for permanent mothers and fathers to call their own.
And we knew that doing nothing — that convincing ourselves we’d “done our part” and turning our backs on the raw reality and brokenness we’d experienced through four visits overseas — was not an option.
Whether we were adopting or not, children were still quite literally dying without the medical care and families they deserved in this life.
Although our home and calendar were full, we knew the God who provided in abundance, and we knew that, in His wealth, we had so much more to give.
The question was how.
D.C. and I had grown up in a small town in California with a local gourmet jerky store. The shop was a destination of sorts, and every time we purchased jerky to send to D.C.’s soldiers down range, our military friends raved.
Gourmet jerky was a delicacy next to MREs.
We’d always had a dream to start a business together, so, with a love for jerky and a passion for orphan care, we approached the owner of this store with our unconventional idea.
We lived in a small military town full of active citizens — hikers and bikers and military outdoor adventurers who depend on lightweight and easy-to-pack protein for their fuel.
What if we created a jerky store in our little piece of the country to reclaim hope for the fatherless?
Jerky would be the means; orphan care would be the mission.
Our jerky-store-owning friend was all in.
For months, this bold friend poured into us. He mentored us, showed us the ropes and answered all our crazy questions about what it would take to start a jerky store in a state on another coast. He bought into our mission, he bought into our lives, and he selflessly gave, even when this duo had no earthly idea what we were doing.
Because our daytime calendars were filled with school drop-offs and extra-curriculars and medical appointments and full-time military jobs, we set up business meetings between the two of us at night.
The kitchen island at 11 p.m. became our jam.
D.C., in all his West Point-ness, got a white board, and together, we began to label and divvy up tasks.
“So we need a logo by this date,” he would assign. Which meant that if I, the one who actually cared about the artistic quality of the insignia that would represent our store on every package of jerky to come didn’t choose it by this date, he, the soldier whose artistic abilities ended at camo print, would do so for us.
We also needed a name.
We decided to name our little company Sage Harvest, because we wanted to use the gifts God had entrusted to us wisely to bring forth a harvest through our surrendered lives. We prayed that if we chose to use our talents, time and resources wisely for the purpose of showing off H1S glory, we would bear fruit and our lives would become H1S great harvest.
Despite the total sleep deprivation of this season and the fact that we were fewer than four months home from our most recent trip to China, by the sheer grace of God, we somehow began slogging through our list.
And we watched at every step how Jesus provided.
We needed employees, enthusiastic orphan advocates who would be willing to travel to various trade shows in our newly-purchased trailer.
I casually asked Avy’s preschool teacher if she might be interested in slinging jerky for orphans.
Although she had no idea what that even meant, she cheerfully jumped in and invited HER friend to also join the crew.
Our online store opened in November 2015, and Jaime and Aimee were soon slinging jerky from Nashville to Virginia, joyfully traveling everywhere we might send them, proclaiming the need for orphan care and slinging dried meat to provide for it.
They were beautiful, they were up for anything and they were exactly the ladies we needed to fan the flames of our fledgling business.
As we loaded up our Suburban with pounds and pounds of jerky and turned our family room into a storage facility and assembly line, D.C. began talking about opening a brick and mortar store.
At this time, our business model included only online sales and trade shows, easy things we could accomplish from the comfort of our home without the costs and time associated with 10-5 hours in a location we would have to rent.
I was adamant that a brick and mortar store would be a horrible idea.
“No, no, no” I would tell him. “Because I know how this works! You commit to something and then deploy, and I’m left on the homefront with six kids and a jerky store. This happens all. The. Time.”
And now, it was a real possibility.
Although D.C. had loved his two years of down life in his non-deployable position, his heart just didn’t skip a beat at work anymore. He liked what he was doing, but it wasn’t that soul-feeding, light-your-heart-on-fire, making-an-immediate-difference-in-the-world kind of position he’d so often held in this military life.
He missed it, and I missed it for him.
So when he was approached by his former unit to consider returning, we together decided it was time.
After two years of family dinners together and down time (or as much down time as multiple trips to China and children’s hospitals would allow), we were emotionally preparing for an uptick in the pace of life.
And that’s when the shop became available.
Although I’d told D.C. there was absolutely no way I would want to transform our little online business into a physical retail store, God had been working on my heart, and the possibility of funding more orphan surgeries and sponsoring more adoptive families with a store that also had a physical location was so beautiful to me.
Even if the outward appearance of the place we would soon call our own was NOT.
Before D.C. returned to his old job, we toured this little shop right off the main street of the center of our little Southern town. It was tucked away next to a jeweler and a former German restaurant, and out the door, you could hear the Amtrak train chugging through the center of town a few times each day.
Formerly a hair salon, this hole in the wall was purple and brown and dark and painted. Sinks and salon chairs stood in every corner of the room, and dirty mirrors reflected purple ceilings that somehow didn’t scream “jerky.”
And we thought it was perfect.
We signed the lease six months after opening our online store, and we dove head first into the tiny window we had to transform a hair salon into a jerky store before D.C. changed jobs and deployed yet again.
With two open weeks on our calendar, we enlisted the entire family for help.
The kids used hammers and chains to distress the wood we would use for our signature barn door, and Deacon, with all of his wood crafting skills, began assembling shelves and rustic details as needed.
I would sketch out my design brain children on paper, and D.C. would go to the school of YouTube and become whatever he needed to be.
An interior designer, a barn door constructor, a tile installer, even a cement counter man.
At one point, D.C. was constructing my dream for a cement countertop to hold our jerky display, and he realized that YouTube had indeed failed him.
He called me from the shop desperately.
“I need 20 more bags of cement STAT!” he requested. “And can you please hurry? Because I can’t stop mixing this until you get here or it will dry!”
Six kids and I loaded up the Suburban and delivered an entire vehicle of cement mix to the man who somehow turned concrete into beauty.
In July 2016, just two weeks after jumping into our rapid family remodel, Sage Harvest Gourmet Jerky opened its doors.
Aimee, the same beautiful and bubbly ginger who had slung jerky across the nation, agreed to come work for us full-time as our store manager, and she and her husband, Neil (who we never officially employed but pretty much occupied his entire life with creating, assembling, carrying and delivering all things Sage Harvest), brought to the table more talent, grit and passion than the four walls of our little shop could support.
Truth be told, in our minds, neither of these precious people were ever actually employees. They were the most supportive and loving brother and sister who spurred a dream and believed in fighting for the fatherless as one of H1S, despite being tethered to the most incompetent and elusive business owners known to man.
Which was a gift from God, because one week after the store opened, D.C. returned to his old job and deployed.
Before he left, though, he inscribed the words “For His Glory” on that cement counter that nearly killed us all.
Because no matter what resulted from this jerky store, no matter the number of customers who walked through that door, we wanted our store to be dedicated to an audience of One.
We had no idea what we were doing.
We had no idea if we would be successful.
But we knew that if we failed, we wanted to fail glorifying Him.
We wanted to fail serving and giving instead of failing in squandered potential and resources.
We wanted to fail all in for Him.
In the world’s economy, Sage Harvest might not be considered a raging success.
But in God’s economy, it has thrived.
In the three years since we first opened our Southern Pines doors, God has used Sage Harvest to invest $140,000 in orphan care, provide 16 life-saving surgeries for orphans and impoverished children in Africa and China, partially fund 10 adoptive families and bring a message of HOPE to those who have none.
Over our front door is a sign that reads “One of His.”
Because at the end of the day, it is our reminder.
We’re not ultimately here for jerky.
We’re not even here for sales.
We’re here because we have the privilege in this life of being called One of H1S, and as one of H1S, it’s not our burden but our BLESSING to continually fight for ALL of H1S.
We just do it one 4-ounce package and one piece of meaningful merchandise at a time.
Did you miss the beginning of the Sage Harvest Story? Not to worry, it's not too late to catch up! Follow the links below for the first seven parts of the 10-part series.
Part 1: One of H1S Relentless Love Stories
Part 2: One of H1S Rescue Stories
Part 3: One of H1S Provision Stories
Part 4:One of H1S Verb-Love Stories
Part 5:One of H1S Resurrection Stories
Part 6: One of H1S Dependence Stories
Part 7: One of H1S Abundance Stories