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Center Grove's 'Giving Garden' has become a tool for sharing the Gospel

 

Gerald Harris/Index

Center Grove member Ken Smith, left, assists Aileen Bell in picking vegetables from the church’s Giving Garden. Smith volunteers in distributing items grown in the garden.

ROCK SPRING — Pastors across Georgia are looking for creative ways to share the gospel and impact their “Jerusalem” (community) for Christ. Pastor Chris Hulsey and Center Grove Baptist Church have found a unique way to get the people in their vicinity to stop by their church so they can share the Gospel.

The members of the church have worked hard to provide a vegetable garden for the community. Four acres of the church’s property have been designated as “The Giving Garden” and is producing corn, zucchini, okra, peanuts, three kinds of pepper, two kinds of squash, two kinds of potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, onions, and watermelons.

Hulsey stated, “Back in 2002 I was reading through the original minutes of the church and discovered that 80 years ago, during the Great Depression, the church didn’t have enough money to pay the note on the church’s debt.

“The church members decided to have a common garden and sell the produce from the garden to apply to the indebtedness. Amazingly, enough money was derived from the produce to satisfy the bank at that time.

“About eight years ago Carol Gilreath, one of our dedicated members, reviewed our history and suggested that we plant a ‘no-till’ field of corn on our church property, basically for the purpose of commemorating our history.”

A “no-till” corn planting process is when the corn is planted without tilling the ground. This can be accomplished by manually pushing the corn down through the plant mat and into the soil about two inches deep.

Hulsey explained, “Very few people, maybe eight or ten folks, knew that we had planted the corn; and we did it primarily to celebrate what our forefathers had done. We just planted common field corn and we didn’t even plant it until July.

Gerald Harris/Index

Looking into Center Grove’s history, Pastor Chris Hulsey discovered how back in The Depression church members paid off a bank note through produce grown in a garden. That brought about the idea for The Giving Garden.

“But in a few weeks it started to come up. The folks in the church and in the community began to ask, ‘Is that a field of corn?’

“Not only was it obvious that it was corn, but it was the best looking corn field in the county. Since it was planted late in July, worms did not plague it and the corn was nourished by plenty of rain that summer. Every stalk seemed to produce four or five ears of corn.

“Since the corn planted on the Center Grove property was late the rest of the corn in the area was already gone. Everyone wanted some of our corn. ShopRite Supermarket wanted 150 dozen ears.

A Chattanooga television station, WTVC channel 9, came and did a story on our field of corn. Everyone wanted some of our corn. People came from as far away as Etowah, Tenn., to get our corn.

“We didn’t charge anyone, but simply asked for donations. In fact we came up with a theme for the field of corn: ‘Remembering our past to grow our future.’ By the time the last ear of corn was gone we had about $9,500 donated to the church. We put it on our note like our forefathers did four score years ago. God did for us what He did for them.”

Last year when the nation was experiencing the pain of the economic recession Center Grove Church decided to revive the idea of providing vegetables for the community and the result was the establishment of “The Giving Garden.”

The church served over 100 families in 2009 with their “Giving Garden.” Several home health care agencies took advantage of the produce provided by the Rock Spring church. Gospel tracts were given out with every bag of produce and in many cases a personal witness was shared. Two families were drawn into the membership of the church and three persons were saved as a result of the ministry of the garden.

Hulsey stated, “We have probably had fifty people in the church involved in the planting, cultivating, and harvesting process. We have even had some of the people in the community who are not members of our church who have gotten involved.

“Last year when we were planting our watermelons an unchurched man who lives across the street from the garden got involved in the planting of the watermelons. He grew up on a watermelon farm and taught us how to grow our melons. He hasn’t come to church yet, but God didn’t allow him to get involved by accident.

Gerald Harris/Index

Pastor Chris Hulsey of Center Grove Baptist looks over some produce from the church’s Giving Garden.

“This year the garden is bigger. The word is out and we are hoping this project will serve as a great outreach tool for the church and the Lord Jesus Christ. Five years ago we knocked on every door within one mile of the church. That was 670 homes.

“We plan to do the same thing this summer. When we go this time we will take to every one of those homes something from the garden. Our goal is when we step off the porch of those homes someone will have heard the Gospel. The Giving Garden is opening the door for sharing the good news of Jesus. It is one thing to give out food, but Jesus is the bread of life.”

The church also has another garden, sponsored by our children’s workers, where they grow Indian corn, different colored gourds, and pumpkins. They use these homegrown products to decorate for the church’s harvest festival each year.

Hulsey commented, “We try to create a county fair atmosphere by putting up a large tent, having a Gospel or bluegrass musical group to sing, and providing a myriad of activities. We invite the community to come to this outreach effort.

Hulsey, who has been the pastor of Center Grove for 12 years, is excited about his church’s efforts make a difference in Rock Spring for the cause of the Kingdom.

 

Gerald Harris/Index

Aileen Bell, background, speaks with a fellow patron at the Giving Garden.

Gerald Harris/Index

Chris Hulsey picks some squash for distribution later. The Giving Garden began eight years ago with a no-till field of corn.