By Linda Dows-Byers
Despite world events limiting activities, 2020 has actually become a really active summer for our congregation’s Youth Ministry at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Not only have we held a workcamp together online with two other churches, but our youth and their families have been nurturing our neighborhood too.
The youth Giveaway Garden was planted the first week of June next to the church playground. The team of 11 working that day transformed the new bed from grass to garden in under four hours. At that point we had no idea if our labor would be fruitful, or if anyone from the neighborhood would stop by to pick up some free produce. The answer to those questions has been yes and yes!
So far, every cucumber, every zucchini, and every pepper that has bloomed and matured has been gifted to our community. Produce started to flourish about three-and-a-half weeks ago and most of our harvest remains in the collection box for a day or two at most. In most cases, almost as soon as it’s picked people are coming to get it. Coming soon are tomatoes and egg plants.
The end of last week we added two features to our project. We now have a note pad for those enjoying the fruit of our labor to write messages back to encourage our youth. And we have a chalkboard where youth write encouraging Bible verses for members of the community.
One of the first messages to us read, “Thank you so much! If you only knew how much you’ve helped me and my parents. Again, thank you. Bless you always.”
Another message read, “What a great neighbor you are. Thank you.”
Church members and neighbors are joining in the giveaway. One day we found that a mystery gardener had shared some potatoes, tomatillos, and okra in our produce box under the porch at the playground. Donna and Doug Lunger have added their own extra garden produce too. Youth families who are gardening at home also are bringing more to share.
Youth have always enjoyed being a part of workcamps where they see change and know they have accomplished a goal to make a difference. Our garden project has successfully shown how God can be at work in us and through us as we give our time and effort. Our youth ministry, of eight youth from six families, is impacting our community this summer and that’s pretty cool!
-- Linda Dows-Byers is director of Youth Ministries at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.