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Grant and Shannon’s Mission Year Newsletter for May

Making Dreams a Reality: Gardening

By Grant Jenks

At the start of the year, I had three dreams and set forth three goals. One of those dreams was to see our neighbors choose to eat healthier foods like fruits and vegetables. We brainstormed the issue in our house and discussed many facets like education, access, and supply. Our teammate, Josh, has been researching the topic in depth for an essay on “food deserts.”

Food deserts describe neighborhoods where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain. Despite differences in terminology and definitions, I think the term arises from questioning about increased obesity rates, malnourished children, and starving families. The summer-school program which has replaced the Emmaus House after-school program, is focused primarily on providing meals to children in the neighborhood. This program is vital to those families with children that rely on school vouchers for meals.

Pair challenges with accessing healthy foods with the staples of a Southern Diet, e.g. fried foods, sweet tea (which I have gladly fallen victim to), etc. and the problem will bulge out at you as you walk down the street. In our brainstorming, we resolved to utilize a local community garden as an implementation of the goal. Through local gardening, we take advantage of the time and effort our year and youth afford.

Up until May, a plot of land, about 600 square feet, had gone untended from previous years of gardening. Being an eye sore and sad representation of neighborhood neglect, we took on the challenge of ripping out the weeds and starting over. Armed with little more than gloves and basic gardening tools, we hacked, pulled up, cut back, yanked out, dug up, and tilled all the beds in that garden. Each now boasts of fresh soil and healthy plants!

Along with the benefits of a garden, our time gardening has afforded a lot of opportunities to meet and talk with neighbors. A few have even come out and helped us plant, or weed, or water. We’ve even had a couple dozen plants donated from a neighbor. With a strong effort on our part, others are motivated to join in and build up their neighborhood.

Unfortunately, not all our neighbors share the goal of the community garden. Six of our plants have been either plucked out of the ground or dug up. The first time it happened, it was heart breaking. But we reminded ourselves of the many down-to-dirt metaphors Jesus used in his teachings. With each plant stolen, I feel the trick is really on our neighbors: the goal is for them to eat healthy, at least they’re stealing tomato plants. It’s a bit like stealing a bible; if you need to steal it, you need it more than I do.

Praises & Requests

  • Pray that our community garden flourishes and that more neighbors join us in growing and harvesting.
  • We each have felt a bit sick this week. Pray that we remain healthy.
  • Shannon still hasn’t found a teaching job for next year. Pray that God will provide.

How to Make a Donation

You may either use the enclosed envelope or you can donate securely online. Whenever you make a donation, be sure to include our Team Member Name and Support ID Number. Those are:

  • Team Member Name: Grant and Shannon Jenks
  • Support ID Number: 11-9031

Visit in your web browser to make a donation online. Make checks payable to “Mission Year” and include our Support ID Number in the memo line. Donations are tax deductible.

Community Garden at the Start

Here’s what the garden looked like before we started clearing it out. The picture on the front page is what it looks like now.

Shannon Planting in the Garden

Shannon Is planting some herb seeds!

Buttercup Squash in the Garden

The buttercup squash grew up fast!

Row of Corn in the Garden

Josh’s row of sweet corn that he grew from seed.

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