Of all the ministries at Indian Run Christian Church, I think the Community Harvest Garden is best known out in the community. We raise potatoes, cabbage, peppers, corn, squash, watermelon, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers etc. – and even sunflowers – almost a local landmark now. From soil prep to closing out the garden, the ministry runs from May to November and produces, on average, 30,000 pounds of food per year. We add to that produce we are able to glean from commercial growers and the average tally goes up to over 40,000 pounds per year over the decade or so we have been at it. Like many ministries, it started much smaller – a few hundred pounds of potatoes raised by the youth group over the summer and grew from there. A small portion of the food is distributed to local individuals. Some more of it goes out as a welcome addition to the processed items in our grocery giveaways. Most of it goes to Stark County organizations that specialize in feeding the hungry. We figure there’s no need to reinvent the wheel and these organizations like Stark County Hunger Task Force, The Salvation Army, Hope Outreach Ministries, etc. already work at the point of greatest need.
The garden produces many blessings within the congregation. Recently, we dug 4,500 pounds of potatoes in one evening. One of our deacons pulled an antique potato digger behind his tractor and the crew fell in behind with buckets. The buckets were carried to a couple of men who bagged the potatoes and a few more transported the bagged spuds to the barn for weighing and eventual delivery. We had so many volunteers (including a number of youngsters) the potato digger couldn’t keep ahead. Perhaps you had to be there and see all those kids, attended by parents and grandparents swarming a row of freshly turned up taters – but it was a big blessing!
There are also moments of disappointment – a crop that doesn’t turn out, long dry spells, and nobody likes the annual fight with the potato beetles and corn borers. But blessing arises from these as well. You should go to our Facebook page and see the video of the water cannon our deacons made from the fire departments old grass fire pump. It’s a lot more fun than bucketing water! While you’re there you can see a video of the potato digger in action as well. And everyone discovers the old truth, there’s just something satisfying about getting your hands in the dirt and growing food. I think it has to do with the terms of our original creation – after all – our first job was to tend the garden.
But none of that is the reason the ministry is well known outside the congregation. The reason for that is our doing it outside the building – right along route 44. The Sunflowers call attention of course, but people honk when they go by – not at the sunflowers – at the volunteers of the moment out there chopping weeds, picking peppers, or, recently, working the water cannon.
One of the great weaknesses of the way we often ‘do’ church is that most of the blessings are kind of trapped in the building. It’s kind of like locking the salt in the shaker or keeping the lamp under the bushel basket. Yes – I think worship services are wonderful – and crucial for the life of the congregation. But the work of the church needs to get out in the sunlight more.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church