August 1, 2016
In April, Wheat Ridge Ministries awarded four Emerging Leader Grants of $5,000 for projects focused on leading a new health or human care focused program connected to the Lutheran community. Emery Kunze of Christ, Lincoln, (pictured right with Curt Jones, Coordinator of Generosity and Missions at Christ, Lincoln) was one of the four awardees. Through her Seeds of Hope project, a group of volunteers planted a community garden at Holmes Elementary School, just a few blocks away from the grounds of Christ, Lincoln.
When asked why she chose this project, Emery said, “In a generation of overwhelming infatuation with technology, I wanted to create an environment where youth could not only learn from where and from Whom their food comes and how it grows, but also learn the value of hard work and teamwork in feeding themselves, their families, and their community.” The school was a logical choice due to its location, but also because the school’s community coordinator, Mariella Resendiz Alvarado, had both a vision for a project like this to supply the school with nutritious produce to eat and a desire to build community relationships through a garden.
Serving Your Community Through Gardening
Educational programs help the families involved make nutritious choices and use their produce to cook inexpensive, healthy meals. Every stage of the gardening project is carried out by local families, and volunteers from the congregation provide spiritual ministry during the mornings or evenings when the families are taking care of the garden. Volunteers also pray for the gardens, for the community, for church and school members directly involved in the project, and the families and children participating.
A community garden project, when carefully designed, can be sustained at very little cost once the start-up costs are covered. Families can be taught to manage the garden, to collect rain water, to retain seeds, and to develop community partnerships for fertilizer and materials for harvesting what is grown.
Caring Cupboards, Casseroles, and Gardens
Another church in the Nebraska District to utilize community gardening as a way to minister to their community is Mt. Calvary, Holdrege. The congregation started meeting needs in their community with their Caring Cupboard as they provided necessary things that public assistance does not cover. They also keep a stocked freezer of meals for those in need through their Caring Casserole program. After seeing the success of those ministries, they converted a vacant lot into a Caring Garden, where congregation members grow fresh produce to give to the community. Mt. Calvary’s pastor, Rev. Kenton Birtell, explained why these ministries are an important tool for outreach. “We care for people that are in need. Ultimately, we want them to know the One who loved them enough to go to the cross and die for them, and that there’s hope. We’re seeking to be the hands and feet of Jesus, caring for their needs, but also sharing with them the hope that’s found in Christ.”
How Can You Get Involved?
Youth who are interested in learning more about Wheat Ridge Ministries and Emerging Leadership Grants can visit the Wheat Ridge Ministries website and view the criteria and application process for Emerging Leader Grants. Congregations interested in starting health and human care projects can apply for a Wheat Ridge Ministries Joshua Grant.