As soon as 9-year-old Abby Nesbit got out of the car, she ran to the back of the church to see if any of the watermelon seeds that she planted had sprouted. She saw a few green sprouts emerging from the ground and was excited. She proceeded to go to Sunday school feeling elated.
Abby's adventure began last winter with the creation of the learning garden at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Suffolk, Virginia. The United Methodist Men donated money for supplies, soil and seeds. Volunteers bought shovels and power tools and began digging while others filled the 20-by-30-foot fenced garden.
By spring, Abby and more than 90 children planted seeds that produced bountiful summer vegetables and fruits such as carrots, cucumbers, okra, pole beans, tomatoes and watermelon. "The children were in awe that their food came from tiny seeds," said Jenelle Meja, children's director at Ebenezer. "I told them that God does great things with just a little bit of faith."
The children learned about healthy eating in Sunday school and about the importance of caring for their bodies. Children from Ebenezer and the community participated in the summer art camp and painted boards that named the fruits of the Spirit. "Our produce showed up on our church buffet tables and receptions," said Meja. "The seniors taught the children how to tell when the carrots were ready to be pulled." The children also saw new signs of life in the garden – butterflies, worms, beetles, caterpillars and even a baby bunny. They took pride watering plants and pulling weeds.
The church had an abundance of produce that they shared with family, friends and the local food bank. The children saw the fruits of their labor offered to people in need. They were involved in planting, harvesting, cooking and feeding others, said Meja.
"The children felt a sense of community and [were] happy that they could make a difference," she said.
AT A GLANCE