At St. Peter's, we are blessed with eight acres of land and on part of the land, we have planted our Community Share Gardens. We grow corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers and just about anything. We have strawberry plants and blueberry bushes. Hundreds of yards along the creek bank are filled with blackberry bushes. Our bees are busy making comb and honey in their corner of the property. Just last week we took nearly 100 pounds of fresh produce to the bi-monthly food pantry at St. Joseph Catholic Church.
Today a car pulled up and sat in our parking lot. That part isn't unusual, being on the far edge of town, people will pull in our lot to turn around, make a phone call, and a few other things. Today, I noticed a couple of people wandering around the gardens and asked our Harvest House coordinators if they new of anyone coming to work the gardens. So, we ventured out and met an older man and his wife. They had gone to the food pantry at St. Joe's last week and had one of the brochures detailing the crops and expected harvest times. They were looking to see what was available. Sandy, Valerie, and I talked with this as we took them over to the 800 feet of bean fields we have and starting picking beans. The older man has some hearing difficulty and his speech isn't the best due to a stroke he suffered a few years ago. He had been a welder and machinist most of his life and used to have a huge garden at home that provided all the necessities during the year. His older years have exacerbated his scoliosis and his wife has trouble standing for very long.
We picked beans for about 10 minutes and found some cucumbers and tomatoes that the kids from our Lebanon Boys and Girls Club program had picked earlier in the day and gave them enough vegetables for a couple good meals with them. The wife talked about her favorite bean recipe with ham and onions and spices. It sounded delicious and the husband said she is the best cook. We told them there were plenty of beans left and to come back Thursday if they needed more or we would have some at the food pantry in a couple weeks.
As I was walking back with them to their car, the man said something strange to me. He said " Our church is very small only about 25." I replied, that ours was a bit larger. He then said, " I should have told you this earlier, Pastor, we're Pentecostal" I told him it didn't matter. We have been entrusted with these eight acres, to care for it, to share its bounty with others, with our neighbors. I told them they were always welcome here at St. Peter's.
As I have reflected, I wonder and should have asked if other places have turned them away because of their religion, their appearance, or for some other reason. I know our partners at St. Joe's would never do such a thing. But I wonder what kind of world we live in that a person feels they need to sheepishly admit their faith tradition, as if I would take our beans back if they were of the "wrong" one? We are all children of God, we are all hungry for physical nourishment and for nourishment found in the community of a garden.