My Mountain is a Pavilion

Growing Hope Garden pavilion project

            My mountain is a pavilion; an incomplete pavilion for the community garden that my husband I are running. How did we get an incomplete pavilion? Last year the volunteer group that had been running mission trips through our church asked if they could do anything for the garden.

            Our first request was for a split rail fence for the garden. Since that isn’t something readily available at Lowes, that plan was nixed. The next request was for a pavilion for the garden. In our original plan for Growing Hope Garden, we were hoping to build a pavilion around year five. We wanted a place that could be reserved by community members or church members for family reunions, birthday parties, or other celebrations. We also needed a place out of the sun when we were having work days or when individuals were working in the garden.

            Growing Hope Garden is located across the street from Journey Church, where my husband and I are the Family Care Ministers. The goal of the Family Care Ministry is to teach people practical life skills that can help bring them financial independence and more confidence in life. We teach classes on budgeting, making homemade laundry soap, making aprons out of old jeans, cooking family meals for under $10 each, and running Growing Hope Garden.

            We named the garden Growing Hope Garden, because we felt like the community needed some hope. The lot where the garden is located was in sad shape. It was over-grown and neglected. It was the typical abandoned lot, even though it was owned by the church. Over the years, the church hoped to do many things on that lot, but plans always fell through. Honestly, the land was in rough shape, it had the remnants of an old railroad line, poor soil, and drainage issues. The church would have had to put in a lot of money to make the land usable for any kind of building project.

            Right after we started the new Family Care Ministry for Journey Church, we were at a church council meeting where the council was discussing possibly selling the lot. Then in the course of the conversation, one of the pastors asked if we wanted the land for our ministry.

 For years, my husband and I had this hair brained dream of starting a you-pick garden in town. We would have berries, fruit, and other crops. When people would come to the garden to pick their fruits and vegetables, we would have classes to teach people how to preserve the produce. There would be classes for making pies and cobblers, jams and jellies, and canning fresh sauces. For years we planned this future garden adventure with our good friend Caleb when he would come over for dinner. Now, here we were with just shy of an acre of land in the city for a garden.

Year one went well as we had some amazing new friends jump into this adventure with us. Some people would call these friends dedicated community garden volunteers, but they have become more like another set of parents for us. They have been the extra set of grandparents to our boys and a solid couple who give seasoned advice to us about life.

Year one accomplishments included creating twelve 4’x8’ raised beds, planting sixteen fruit trees for the orchard, putting in a raised bed for strawberries and sunflowers, getting a sign and front flower bed created, and hauling out hundreds of pounds of rocks from the 25’x30’ potato patch. We had church volunteers who brought in loads of good compost, volunteers who helped plant the orchard, volunteers who help put in the water line, and volunteers who were good enough sports to just come and pick up rocks.

Tilling the potato patch
Raised beds
Planting potatoes with the kids
Picking up rocks. So many rocks.

First year harvests were plentiful. Everyone who grew a raised bed had success. The potato patch produced over 200lbs of potatoes that we gave to the garden volunteers and then walked down the street handing out potatoes to people who lived on the street where the garden was located. There were so many peppers, tomatoes, okra, and beans produced that I don’t think we could get an accurate estimate of the pounds of produce that was grown.

Then we have the pavilion that was started. Groups of volunteers worked for weeks to hand dig out the ground for the 25’x40’ concrete pad for the pavilion. We had a concrete specialist volunteer to help us pour the pad and the garden had just enough money to pay for the concrete. The non-profit group had volunteers come and dig out the footings for the posts and pour the concrete to set the posts.

It was right about that point, where the project went south. The construction manager for the non-profit group quit and they had to bring in someone part time to help finish other projects. It ended up that nothing else was completed for the pavilion. Materials were brought on to site, but no more work was done.

This summer I thought we had enough budgeted money with just a little kicked in from us to finish the work on the pavilion. All it needed was a roof put on it. We knew what needed to be done, but we didn’t have the tools or skill set to finish the project. With materials on site and metal roofing donated, I thought it would be easy to find a contractor who would finish this project for us.

So much for thinking it would be easy. The first contractor I met with quoted us a price of $15,000- $20,000 to “do it right”. He then said what we needed to do was ask around for contractors who would come in and volunteer to do parts of the project. Because of a tornado in the area, contractors could use a tax write-off and we might be able to get the project completed. The most extreme quote I received was from one contractor who said we needed to rip out everything we had done and then put in a metal pavilion, for the price of $65,000! Seriously, around here you can build a house for that price.

Then there was one contractor who I could see in his eyes that he really felt for us. He understood that we had been left with a very expensive unfinished project. He gave me names and numbers of people and organizations who could help us. He was so very encouraging to me, because he knew it would take lots of time and energy to get this project finished.

In the New Living Translation of James 1, it says that when trials come, to consider it an opportunity for joy, because our faith has an opportunity to grow. Then in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NIV) the Bible states, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you.”

As much as this pavilion seems like my mountain “I” have to climb right now, I am learning that this is an opportunity for joy. Growing Hope Garden and the pavilion project really has been a resolve for good. Here I sit, exhausted from tracking down contractors, writing letters, and applying for assistance wanting to write a blog post about this project as a way to say something about “me”. Yet in the process of writing, I can clearly see the hand of God all over this garden; from amazing harvests to the dear friends God has brought into or lives.  I am reminded that if I keep my resolve for good and put in my work in faith, that God will bring about something in HIS power that brings only HIM glory. What I thought was my mountain to overcome, will be the chance for me to step away at doing this in my own power to see HIM show up and bring the glory where it deserves to be given – God alone.

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