“Our federal funding has been cut by almost 50 percent.”

The volunteer coordinator for the local food bank went on. “That means the meat, fresh fruit, and vegetables we receive have been drastically reduced. At the same time, we’re seeing greater numbers of families seeking help from local food pantries than ever before.”

An idea formed. My church had a huge piece of land lying dormant.

Why couldn’t we grow vegetables and donate them?

I mentioned my thought to the coordinator. He seemed very excited about the proposition.

I’m not a gardener.  Over the years I’ve put the occasional tomato plant in the ground with mixed results. I have a black thumb when it comes to house plants. But despite my lack of expertise, the idea took hold in my heart - I knew it was from God.

At the time, I was Director of CommunityConnections, the outreach ministry at my church. I brought up the idea at our monthly meeting. The team liked the concept, but no one jumped in to take the reins. It went on the back burner.

The following spring, I presented the proposal to church staff.  They gave me a laundry list of things to investigate.  Another year passed.

I went back with additional facts, but the staff still wasn’t convinced.

Fast-forward to late fall.  A man drove into the parking lot and approached two of our pastors with an unexpected question.

“I’ve noticed your large plot of ground…have you ever considered planting a donation garden?  I’d be happy to help. I started a successful garden at my church just up the road last year.”

One of those pastors served as liaison between CommunityConnections and the staff.  He sent an email about the encounter and closed with, “So what do you think?”

Ummm…God just dropped someone into our laps who has funds and knowledge to bring this dream into reality.

“I’d say God’s speaking - let’s move forward!”

So we checked property lines and zoning laws, informed the neighbors as a courtesy, created a budget and spoke with congregants to insure we’d have volunteers.

By mid-May, with approvals in place, the grounds were prepped, the fence erected, and seeds and plants were in the ground.  

The garden had raised beds for tomatoes and peppers, rows for beans, grow heaps for cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, and cucuzza (ku-koo-za). Ornamentals planted around the periphery beautified the area and kept out certain pests.  A composting section was created to relieve the need for mulch in future years.

I’m not a gardener, but the satisfaction of seeing those first sprouts breaking through the ground and growing into healthy, robust, rows of green beans was exhilarating!

Everything we brought to the food bank was weighed on their scale. We calculated its value based on current supermarket prices, giving us a basis on which to calculate setup costs vs. the value of the donation.

That first year, we harvested about 300 pounds of vegetables.

Last September, God allowed my passion to become my profession when he placed me in full-time benevolence ministry at a new church.   

A garden was approved in time for spring planting, and the harvest will go to the food pantry right under our roof.

A young man ordained while interning at my new church home has been hired to preach elsewhere. As we discussed the next part of his journey, he told me he was so excited by our donation garden he wanted to bring the idea to his new church.

And so it grows.

James 2:14-17 says: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (NIV)   

 And in 1 John 3:18 we read, “Dear children, let us not love with word or speech but with actions and in truth.” (NIV)

I’m not a gardener.

You may not be a gardener either.

But we don’t have to be. Jesus says in John 15:1 “My Father is the gardener.

We only have to be willing soil to receive His seeds of love. <<Click to Tweet

For more information on donation gardens, contact Toni at lakesidelessons61@gmail.com.


Toni loves God, her kids, caring for others, baking, chocolate!, and walking along the shores of her beloved lake – the setting for her blog. Toni has written devotions for christiandevotions.us and The Quiet Hour. She is praising God for the opportunity to make her passion - showing God’s love through practical acts of service - her new, full-time profession. As the Benevolence Ministry Manager for her church, she is able to hand car keys to a single mom, open the doors to the food pantry serving many area families, and assist those with urgent financial needs. Her life and ministry are living proof of the truth found in Ephesians 3:20 as God continues to do abundantly more than she could ever imagine.

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