“They will know we are Christian by our garden,” says Joyce Welbon, one of the coordinators of the Seeds of Kindness ministry, a gardening project in Madison, South Dakota.
Joyce Welbon and Anne Hauglid, members of the United Methodist Church in Madison, South Dakota, love to garden. The two women became friends talking about gardening while working at the Gathering—a meal served on Monday evenings at Madison UMC for anyone in the community.
They observed the increasing requests from sources in Madison to alleviate hunger in the community. Welbon and Hauglid thought that having a garden could help break the cycle of hunger and the increasing need for food. The idea had been simmering for years. Finally, God seemed to nudge them to make it happen this year.
“We have been discussing the idea of helping people with the benefits of gardening but just never put it into action. Both of us love to garden and enjoy the health benefits and the economics of not having to buy as many vegetables. The City of Madison has an area designated for garden plots, so we put together a plan to encourage individuals or families to rent a plot and plant a garden,” said Joyce. “God’s nudge was so strong that we were no longer held back by excuses, but inspired to develop a plan and put this idea into action.”
Anne and Joyce began dreaming and planning. Then, the director of the Head Start program contacted them. Head Start was looking for a project for parents and families. “It was such a God thing,” said Joyce. “We started planning and wondering how we would get people to work with us, and then we got a call from the Head Start director asking if parents could get involved. We said, 'Of course!’"
They set a goal to recruit six families. Anne created a brochure. The Head Start director distributed the brochure, and 14 families wanted to plant a garden.
They rented 14 garden plots from the City of Madison Parks Department. The city tills the plots and provides the compost and water at a cost of $40 per plot. Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership is a community-based non-profit that donated some seeds.
“We filled out an application for a Breakthrough Ministry grant for tools, plants, and the costs of the plots, and we got a grant from the Conference,” Joyce said. “It was what we needed to get started.”
Joyce and Anne held classes about how to plant various vegetables, control the weeds, and water. Then families got to work planting and tending to their gardens. One family was having difficulty keeping up with the watering and the weeds, so someone from Madison UMC stepped up to lend a helping hand.
Two families were unable to follow through on their garden plans, so the congregation planted the plot and offered vegetables to people at the church. Members of Madison UMC are also providing gardening tools for families as needed.
“It takes some encouraging and nudging,” says Joyce. “This is a whole new experience for everyone. Anyone who wants to can help.”
Joyce and Anne continue to connect with the families with garden plots by visiting with the families each week at the plots. They get to know each other and pray for each other. When Joyce visits the families at their garden plot this week, she will give them information about the upcoming Vacation Bible School.
“It is so great to connect and learn from each other. I don’t know if anyone will come to our church, but I will give them the invitation to VBS. It is just an opportunity,” said Joyce.
As the vegetable continues to grow and get ready to harvest, food preservation classes will be offered. In addition, families will be invited to come to the church kitchen to freeze or can their ripe vegetables. Church members are already collecting jars and other supplies to assist.
“We plan to have a potluck and invite everyone to bring a dish that features something from their garden. It will be fun to share recipes and talk about the harvest,” Joyce said.
It is still the middle of the growing season, but plans are underway with Madison UMC for next year’s garden.
Joyce sums up the Seeds of Kindness ministry this way. “When we first thought of the idea, people told us that we would never get anyone to hoe a garden. God nudged us. We decided to jump in and do it. My faith has been strengthened. Children are learning. Families are connecting. We are planting the seeds of kindness.”
Breakthrough Ministry Grants are intended to be seed money to launch new ministries or expand existing ministries to reach and impact new people as a response to the movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of Dakotas United Methodists. Projects supported through Breakthrough Ministry grants include new ministries and expansion of existing ministries to reach new people, ministries that create church and school partnerships, ministries that build relationships with college students or other young adults, programs that help individuals hear and discern their call to ministry, and technology that will enhance mission and ministry impact.