By Melissa Wuske
The garden outreach at Canyon Springs Christian Church, Middleton, Idaho, is a powerful ministry that embodies the values of stewardship and partnership, which senior pastor Nick Duffel cites as central to the congregation.
The garden began in the spring of 2018 and provides food to people in need through food banks and other nonprofits in the area. Suzanne Ubry got the idea—and some startup supplies—from Trinity Community Gardens, another community-oriented Christian garden in Idaho. Canyon Springs Christian Church had acquired some land the year before—a perfect spot!
“The purpose of the garden outreach,” Ubry said, “is to connect and serve our community by teaching, growing, and delivering the harvest from an organic and abundant garden to our community in need.”
And God has indeed blessed the ministry abundantly.
“Our garden size and production has grown over the last three years, along with our community outreach,” she said. “Today, we grow and deliver produce from 48 garden boxes, 16 in-ground beds [each 60-feet long], strawberry and berry patches, and two perennial banks for beneficial insects.”
The benefits are far reaching, said Ubry, who estimates the garden serves more than 500 households.
“Last year we grew, gleaned, and delivered almost 10,000 pounds of fresh produce.”
THE BLESSING OF PARTNERSHIP
It’s a ministry for the community that invests deeply in partnerships with the community.
“Developing and building community partnerships has been the most rewarding and evolving part of the garden outreach,” Ubry said. “When we started, our focus was all about building and establishing the garden to grow and deliver fresh produce. As we grew, we began to realize it was also about building relationships and community inside and outside the garden.”
The garden team works with local food banks and nonprofits not only to distribute food, but also to make decisions about the garden—what to grow, when to harvest, and more. They also have volunteers from community groups, including a local university.
“Today, we see the garden outreach as a place to connect, to grow, and to build community,” Ubry said. “We believe by learning and gardening together, we will develop lasting relationships.”
CREATIVITY AND GOD’S PROVISION
While blessing the community is the focus, the church also benefits.
“The garden is spiritually and financially supported by the church,” she said. Church volunteers—about 30 this year alone—learn and serve together, with their children, and with community members, living out Christ’s love.
As with many ministries, COVID-19 brought challenges. Without in-person church services, volunteer recruitment was difficult, but Duffel said, “God seems to always bring the needed money and volunteers at the right times.” In fact, “Our church giving increased during COVID, so we were able to sustain the ministry of the garden.”
Since the garden is outdoors, it was a safe place to fellowship, and when a two-day garden workshop needed to be canceled, the ministry was able to shift focus to their first plant sale.
Looking ahead, the church plans to expand the youth teaching garden, in part, Duffel said, because “we are looking for the next generation of leaders that God is raising up to take over this ministry.”
“We plant the seeds and water them,” Duffel said, “but God makes them grow.”
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, and their son, Caleb, live and minister in Cincinnati. Find her work online at melissaannewuske.com.