With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, F. Edgar Nunes, pastor of the Kingston Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, was asking himself, “What more can my church do to help those in need? We are handing out as many food parcels as our resources allow. But these resources are limited. What more can we do?”
As he looked out at the broad expanse of lawn surrounding the church, a thought began to take shape. “We can help our neighbors help themselves. We can help our neighbors and the Kingston community by making our large, unused lawn available as a community garden.”
After discussion and careful research, the congregation decided to build raised gardens. Each raised bed would cost about C$300 (about US$250) for wooden frames and topsoil. Local carpenters confirmed that the units could be constructed and delivered within 10 days. Realizing that the gardens could be ready for planting by mid-June and harvested throughout the summer and into the fall, the church reached out to ADRA to assist with the costs.
It is always a blessing to receive these requests, to see local churches and groups actively seeking to be the hands and feet of Christ. At ADRA, we considered the request and saw God in it as we, too, were looking to engage in more Canadian projects. And just at that time, God provided a willing church to be the first partner in our very own “backyard,” so to speak.
In partnership with members from the community, the Kingston church labored throughout the summer to grow and harvest several hundred pounds of food to share with a local food bank, community kitchen, and families in need. Throughout the fall harvest, bountiful amounts of tomatoes, green cabbages, eggplant, potatoes, garlic, onions, squash, and pumpkin all found their way to tables in need.
One participating member of the Kingston community who had adopted a garden bed remarked that he had lived in the neighborhood for more than 25 years and “had never stepped foot on the church property or came to the church.” This experience, unfortunately, is all too common in our local church communities. But when the community garden survey went out to gauge community interest, the man indicated a desire to be a part of it and adopted a garden bed. When asked about his experience, he responded, “This has put a new face to the church!”
Many churches have properties that could be used to meet the needs of families in their communities. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, our houses of worship can remain connected to the community and stay relevant during this trying time. The Kingston church demonstrates this community-focused approach, and ADRA’s Canadian recommends this program from coast to coast.
May we all strive to put a “new face” to all our churches that will ultimately lead individuals to Him whom they can come to know and see, one day, face to face.