The Book Garden

A dream come true

Gabriel Begle
The Book Garden
Susana and Luis Schulz at the Book Garden library

Five years before retirement Susy Schulz’s list of postretirement activities had grown to more than 25. All the ideas had something in common: they were all things she loved. “Love” was not enough, however; she wanted to do something missional, too.

The answer soon became clear: her love for books, languages, and the need for children to learn the English language in her Argentinian hometown. Only a few children in Libertador San Martin, the River Plate Adventist University village, and the birthplace of the “I Will Go” global church initiative, had free access to learning English, the essential lingua franca of missionaries worldwide.

At the time, Susy’s husband, Luis, was associate director of the Education Department at the General Conference, and Susy worked as managing editor for the College and University Dialogue, a magazine for Seventh-day Adventist university students and young professionals, produced by the Education Department.

Fast-forward to April 24, 2022, and Susy’s dream became a reality. The Schulzes had moved back to Argentina upon retirement, rented an ideal space in the village and remodeled it, and had recruited a team of retired teachers and education workers to coordinate the library’s free activities and care for the avid young readers. The Book Garden library was ready to open its doors to children, teens, and young families. There’s much more at the library than 6,000+ books. Through an agreement with the university, this is a place where future ESL teachers (and other English-speaking pupils) offer mentoring and story-reading events, play games in English, sing songs, and engage in many other activities. The Schulzes planned for years prior to opening the library, carefully selecting books and strategizing. Their lifetime background as educators for the Adventist Church informed their decisions and helped build a positive immersive experience for library patrons. In fact, when the Schulzes moved back to Argentina from the United States, they shipped a container of books they had saved specifically for the library. Numerous stories and science books are Bible-based, and others represent the vast array of knowledge children ought to be exposed to. Still, there’s one commonality among the library’s available publications—nothing in them contradicts the Adventist faith.

The Book Garden has become a success not only for people in town but for more than a few families that come from neighboring cities. Many of these families are not Adventist, but keep coming for more materials that seem to have a peaceful effect on their children.

“Mission doesn’t stop with retirement. We’ll help prospective missionaries acquire an indispensable tool: English,” says Luis. Retirement has meant the beginning of new possibilities for this couple and given added meaning to the lives of retired volunteers who help with the library’s daily activities. What’s next for the Book Garden? A series of public, English-only events have been planned for the upcoming months and will occur in neighboring cities. The library’s walls have literally transcended the local community, and these events of public book readings, songs, skits, and much more (organized together with mission-minded students from the university) describe the next frontier of making friends in communities that are yet to be evangelized.

Gabriel Begle

Gabriel Begle is the director of digital platforms for Adventist Review