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Beline Obeid

Growing with God

Children oversee two gardens every summer Sunday

Children of Grosse Pointe Memorial Church fill a wagon with produce they raised on the church’s grounds. photo by Lisa Turner.

August 02, 2012
Worm Sunday elicits so much noise that the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church service pauses.

The early May morning outdoor service is halted as parishioners listened to children laugh and shout with delight as they "planted" worms in the gardens.

"The second or third Sunday (of May) is worm Sunday," said Lisa Turner, director of the church's children's ministries. "I go to the tackle shop and get a couple containers and bring worms. We talk about God's creation and how worms take care of the garden."

The lesson, and worms, are part of the Sunday school's summer topic, "Growing with God."

The garden is actually two 12-by-18-feet raised beds located on the "back 40," the church's back lot bordering the lake. Families and elementary-age children distribute seeds and plantings Turner has purchased from Eastern Market. During Sundays in June, July and August, 22 to 25 children water, weed and harvest the crops. Turner donates all the produce to organizations feeding Detroit's hungry. Crossroads of Michigan East, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and The Second Mile Center of Detroit, are the recipients of the children's efforts.

Children created the labels for their garden, including one labeled for carrots. photo by Ann L. Fouty.
This year the children are tending 13 tomato plants, rutabagas, green peppers, carrots, eggplants, watermelons, squash, cucumbers and pole beans.

"There are 13 tomato plants. This is the first year of trying cherry tomatoes and there are five," Turner said.

The other eight plants are Early Girl variety.

"New this year is okra. We did have spinach but it was harvested. The rabbits got the beets and radishes," she said.

Following their service as part of the regular adult service, children scamper to tend the gardens.

Lisa Turner, director of children’s ministries, originated the idea of building gardens to introduce children to mission work. photo by Ann L. Fouty.
"We have songs and pray together, plus a Bible story. Then we go into the bed. We water and harvest. I have 20 watering cans. Some just like picking the weeds," Turner explained. "Even at the youngest ages they are doing mission work, being the hands and feet of Jesus."

Turning the ground

Turner looked at the property behind the church in 2008 seeing a sand box, swing set and lots of lawn. She decided it would be a perfect place to add a garden to introduce children to mission work. She approached congregation members requesting the construction of a raised bed. The success of 2009's garden was followed in 2010 by the construction of a second raised bed. In 2011, the children harvested and donated 12 onions, 43 beets, 83 carrots, 85 turnips, four cabbages, 75 green peppers, 170 tomatoes, eight ears of corn, 46 radishes, six pounds of green beans, 41 cucumbers, 38 eggplants, five squash and 10 watermelons.

"This is the second year for corn. Last year it grew so well," she lamented.

The drought has devastated the corn. But the watermelon plants have blossoms and, she said, the children enjoy watching that particular fruit grow week to week.

Eggplants are thriving in the pesticide-free garden. photo by Ann L. Fouty.
The 2012 harvest has begun. First the spinach was picked.

"A week ago we gave some of our harvest to The Second Mile Center in Detroit. We gave them some tomatoes, collard greens and cucumbers," Turner said.

"Ruth Azar (Second Mile's director) sliced the cucumbers and that was one of the day's snack for the children last week. She told me that at first the children were not sure what they were and after trying them, they were amazed at how 'fresh' this vegetable tasted.

"It made me sad to think there are children who haven't had the experience of knowing what fresh fruits and vegetables could taste like," she said.

More is coming, thanks to the eager young gardeners at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church.

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