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photo: Martha Brady

A couple of Saturdays ago, our church had a work day. It wasn’t your standard workday like most churches have where we do a bunch of work at the church to do those organizing/cleaning jobs that just don’t normally get done…although some of that did happen.

The purpose of this workday was for us to get a taste of some of the groups that are working in our community.  The groups we helped are supported by our church at some level.

Making ministry convenient when people are learning it

It was meant to be convenient for us, maybe even fun! It was meant to be enjoyable as we all worked together.  So they provided breakfast, told us ahead of time where we were needed and gave us the chance to be prepared ahead of time with our clothing and supplies.  But they also accepted people who showed up at the last minute.

At each site there was a deacon in charge along with someone from the ministry and we all went to work.  Ron and I worked at different sites according to our interests.

Deep Roots of Alabama

photo: Martha Brady

photo: Martha Brady

I’ll tell you about mine. The name of the group is Deep Roots of Alabama. I have bumped into them in different settings and found them to be especially friendly and pleasant to deal with.

  • What do they do? They help people learn to raise their own vegetables and have classes on preserving them as well.
  • Where did they start? In the inner city where the food deserts are. If you don’t know what a food desert is, look at their web page and you will find out like I did a few months ago.

Here were our jobs for the day.

  • To clear away a lot of brush and cut down lots of branches and drag them to the nearby woods.
  • To build some raised beds to add to the number they had and fill them with dirt. (Included digging up sod under them!)
  • To build compost bins and start filling them.
  • To clean out the greenhouse that hadn’t been used for a few years. . .this was both junk and dirt!

There was a LOT to do but the work went really fast with the number of people who were there.  We got everything done plus another project that they didn’t think would get done: repair of a hole in the greenhouse roof!  It was done in between 2 and 3 hours!

Using their curriculum in public schools

photo: Martha Brady

photo: Martha Brady

Now they are getting into public schools one at a time and teaching the children how to grow gardens.

  • They teach them how to have a mulch bin (we built some simple ones from pallets.)
  • They also teach how to make a raised bed (we built some simple ones with wood and screws) and filled them with dirt and vermiculite.
  • They also teach with a simple incubator…a really simple one from hay and old windows, for the early weeks when there is a chance of chilly nites.

The work in the classrooms has already started.  I’m not sure what they will be doing in the greenhouse, but it is clean and ready for use now.

Once a week, volunteers are coming to the school and starting plants from seed, with the children.  Before long, they will be planting them outside and will be weeding and watering them.  They are following a curriculum that has been developed but this is the first school this has been done on this scale.

photo: Martha Brady

photo: Martha Brady

Deep Roots also helps people start and develop community gardens as well as their own personal gardens.

Those of us who are middle or upper class don’t realize the food choices nearby for many in the inner city.  They don’t have the nice grocery stores we have immediately handy.  As we discovered, the time we ate food from their grocery store, many of the cans were way out of date when it came to the expiration dates.  When it came to healthy choices?  There weren’t healthy choices!  There were very few fresh fruits and vegetables if any!

When I first heard of the idea of teaching inner city people to raise their own vegetables, I almost laughed.  I couldn’t figure out why they would want to do that.  It didn’t seem like an immediate solution to poverty.  But look at what it teaches?  Working together, building your own resources, asking for help from people who are knowledgeable, getting to know people from outside your community who are happy to work alongside you.  Do you know what their common motto is?  All of us are poor in some area.  And the great thing is, they believe it!

Take a look at their website and see the many ways they help and educate…and bring the gospel to this community in practical ways!

I hope you enjoy learning more about them…and maybe figuring out ways you can do something similar in your community!

It’s amazing the creative things christians are doing in their communities to bring mercy and justice.