More than Vegetables
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This month’s newsletter was written by Bruce Hopson, Third Chance Ministries Missionary to the Northside and a leader with Grace and Main. Bruce has been a staff missionary for almost two and a half years, now. You may have read about Bruce in this newsletter before when we talked about his road to recovery and his introduction to Grace and Main a little over four years ago. If you want to send him an email, you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send it on to him.
A few months back, Habitat for Humanity donated some land in my neighborhood to Grace and Main Fellowship. All of us were very excited about this very generous gift and the possibilities that it presented. We had a lot of meeting about how best to use this land, hopefully to do something with it that would benefit the community surrounding it and involve them in it. So when the idea of a different kind of community garden sprang up, everyone was on board. We formed an Urban Farm Planning Team and started figuring out how best to proceed.
While working on the future Urban Farm one day—cutting down trees and clearing land—Matt got to talking to me about permaculture. I had no idea what permaculture was. Matt explained to me what he knew about it and I thought it was really interesting. The idea was brought up at one of the meetings and we decided to send a handful of our leaders to a permaculture class at “We Are All Farmers” in Iredell County, North Carolina, to learn how to make the most out of the space given to us. We wanted to learn more about how to grow good, healthy food naturally and in harmony with nature. So Jessica, Rachael, Matt, and I signed up for the class and Third Chance Ministries paid for us to attend as missionary leaders from Grace and Main. Without your support, it would have been much harder for all or any of us to go.
Not knowing what to expect, we set out for the first weekend excited about learning things that would help us in our mission to grow something good on the Northside. I am not usually comfortable meeting a lot of new people—especially in larger groups—and spending a whole weekend around them. But, what we found when we got there was a whole group of nice folks that were genuinely concerned about God’s creation and one another. The first weekend passed quickly and we learned a lot—even if it was a little overwhelming! During the following weeks, the class lost some people for one reason or another, but as the weekends passed and the group got smaller, something else unexpected happened. Over the course of several weekends worth of classes we shared a lot of lunches and dinners. But most importantly—and my favorite part—we shared a bonfire every Saturday night. With each meal and fire, we started getting a little closer, becoming more of a community instead of a bunch of strangers. We had made the trip to Iredell County to learn how to plant, grow, and cultivate and we found that, sure enough, something was growing in and among us.
This past weekend after dinner, I went up to prepare the fire after dark. People gathered around the fire, including a couple of people that had not previously been able to stay for our fires. After people started drifting away from the fire to bed, I decided to stay until the fire was out and safe to leave. But as it ended up, I did not have to stay alone. Wendy, one of those who had not been able to stay at the fire before, stayed and talked with me until early in the morning. I shared a whole big chunk of my life with her, starting with my addictions, my failures, and being homeless for a while, but also about how another group of strangers had become community for me, when they came into my life four years ago and so graciously took me into their lives. I shared about how they showed me so much love and kindness that it had a profound effect on my life and changed my mind about how life and love should be. In short, I told her about how God had planted something in me through Grace and Main and how that changed everything.
Wendy also shared a lot of her life’s story with me—her struggles, her fears, and her hopes and dreams for her life and for the life she wanted for her sons. That night was for sharing, and I found myself telling her things that I hardly ever tell anyone I don’t know well. Over shared stories, we continued to become community. After all, everyone at the class came for different reasons and looking for different things. I believe that everyone there found something special. Some found a friend or a confidant, and others found peace of mind or a feeling of accomplishment. Some of us found that God is a gardener and growing community in unexpected places. There is definitely more growing in Iredell County, North Carolina, than just vegetables, but there is also more than vegetables growing in Danville, Virginia, and in our hearts, as well.