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Church member starts garden ministry during COVID-19 lockdown

24 May 2020 | Royston Philbert | NCC Staff

The Pathfinder Area Coordinator on the island of Sint Maarten and member of the Philipsburg Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church, Jacky Barry, chose to use the COVID-19 stay at home mandate to start a vegetable garden ministry that has blossomed to more than 776 members. She said, “I was only thinking of a way to use gardening as a tool to assist individuals now they are at home and to spread the message of healthful living as practiced by the Church.”

“It was God who gave me this ministry,” said Jacky who manages the Facebook page created to support the online initiative. She continued, “I did a livestream of [myself] transplanting lettuce and some people were so impressed and loved the video that I decided to open a group just for people who had the same mindset.”

Today, more than ever before, people understand that physical fitness and good nutrition are key to a healthy and vibrant lifestyle. The promotion of locally raised organic foods is an advantage to families who desire to embrace best health [practices]. When you grow your own, you not only know what you're eating, you put in the exercise – the vigorous gardening – and get the added benefit of outdoor conversation and fellowship with others who join you.

For the group, every person should have a backyard garden. The need was always in the minds of the people but never became a reality. The Health Educator and member of the Cole Bay SDA Church, Roslyn Brookson, expressed the same theme, “I am motivated to be a part of the group because it invites members to keep growing and learning.” Cindy Campbell Clark expressed it well, “It allowed her to revive her love for gardening and illustrated what can be done with little space.”

Miss Barry added, “The ministry has brought a revival on the entire island and has now caught the attention of government leaders who are now talking about locating land for agriculture and assisting local farmers. Many have expressed the thought that this is the first time that agriculture was put on the list of essential businesses after a “disaster”. I am glad for the eye-opener but that’s not our focus. Our focus is about healthful living and [growing] plants using what we have.”

The revolution has inspired people from all walks of life to use the time they have to do backyard gardening. It has embraced youth and middle-aged individuals as well as managers and public officials to use their time for personal gardening. With 80% of the members being women, there is a high degree of sharing and innovation. Members have used whatever space is available to do their farming, and share produce with neighbors and one another. Some have planted in their backyard while others are using available space in their flower garden.

“Good morning gardeners,” is how a typical morning on the group chat begins and soon afterward scores of members would begin to speak of how they are involved in making good of the opportunity to do what they always wanted to.

“I have stopped procrastinating,” said Debra Hodge.

“There is so much encouragement here,” Anita Petit noted. “I am walking in my mom’s footsteps doing gardening.”

“This group has helped me to try crops I have failed at,” said Gisele. “The activities include planting and harvesting organic vegetables, propagating new plants for transplanting, as well as weeding, watering, mulching and composting.”
“This group has helped me to try crops I have failed at,” said Gisele. “The activities include planting and harvesting organic vegetables, propagating new plants for transplanting, as well as weeding, watering, mulching and composting.”

“It’s admirable to see the variety,” said Jacky. “Varieties of organic vegetables include tomatoes, squash, onions, beets, radishes, eggplant, Swiss Chard, green beans, okra, peppers, spinach, lettuce, watermelons, cantaloupe, collards, cucumbers, carrots, turnips, and sweet potatoes, plus herbs.  My greatest joy is the fact that as we grow a garden, we grow friendship, a prayer life, and even a Christlike mindset. Just as the garden, it takes daily tending. It is a purposeful activity to grow. Similarly, when seeking to reach others for Christ, we need to make a few plans ahead of time. If we are willing to be creative for the sake of the gospel, God will supply the resources. Green thumb or not, anyone can find ways to minister through community gardens.”