Nathan Lawrence, owner of Good News Tree Service, took a chance on the overgrown and dangerous trees at Fortify in Wilsonville.
He came with expertise, passion and a desire to help. Little did he (and we) know the transformation of the trees would only be the start.
After doing the work, we turned our attention to a derelict fruit orchard with fifty some trees that hadn’t been pruned in ages. The orchard more resembled a jungle, and in one place, the blackberries had totally taken over. As a tree lover, I knew that we had to reclaim and bring that orchard back to production. But how?
Then I got a vision in my mind. Why could we not train the young men here to prune and then care for these trees? It not only would be a symbolic metaphor of their transformed lives but they could learn a marketable skill in the process.
As a professional arborist and having been a fruit tree pruner for more than 50 years, I began to train the residents: Each picked their own fruit tree, and I tutored them on the skill of bringing a derelict fruit tree back to production. Afterwards, each inscribed his name on a wooden placard and hung it on his tree.
Josh, one particular resident really seemed to take a natural and eager interest in the trade. In short order, Josh had found an old saw and began aggressively and passionately attacking that orchard almost single handedly. He was full of questions. “How do I do this?” “Did I prune this one correctly?” Should I cut this branch off or leave it?” and so on. I found myself making frequent trips up to Fortify’s orchard to tutor him and answer his questions. Eventually I gave him some better pruning equipment and loaned them a ladder. Before I knew it, Josh with the help of the staff and the other young men, had the orchard totally pruned out. I was amazed at the alacrity at which this seemingly daunting task occurred! Then another idea came into my head; maybe I could eventually hire Josh to work for my tree service company and train him to be an arborist. Maybe this whole encounter with Josh, the orchard, TY and Good News Tree Service was a God-thing—a part of his grand design to be a blessing to many people on many levels. And that is exactly what we did last summer. I hired Josh to work for me.
Now, a year later, Josh works side-by-side with my son, who is my job supervisor and crew leader. They have become buddies. In that time, Josh has learned how to drive a stick shift truck, pull equipment trailers, run all sizes of chainsaws and other small equipment, prune trees, and he is beginning to climb trees with climbing gear. He has become a skilled a tree service groundman operating ropes, a brush chipper and stump grinder. Most recently, he has learned to operate a new $110,000, 75 foot all-terrain boom lift as we repairatively prune countless trees damaged by the recent epic ice storm. Go Josh! In the future, Josh even plans to become an ISA Certified Arborist. But most importantly, Josh has a strong, biblically-based faith, and he is laying a solid foundation in his life to become a husband and father, and to break the cycles that lead him to TY in the first place. This is the greatest and most enduring testimony of God’s merciful grace in a young person’s life. By the way, Josh’s tree in the apple orchard, two years ago virtually fruitless and entangled in prickly blackberry vines, is now a beautifully shaped and manicured and laden with apples.