“Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,’ declares the LORD.
Last weekend myself and my fellow YAVs were invited to Faith Presbyterian Church in Sierra Vista, AZ to share some thoughts from our years to this point and what drove us to become YAVs in the first place. And as I sat thinking about how I would try to fill five minutes of time with reflections the call of Jeremiah came to my attention. These four verses constituted the lectionary reading for my last Sunday at First Presbyterian-Owensboro. How fitting that the last passage I heard before leaving the comforts of home into a year which was rapidly approaching and also becoming more and more unsettling to me would be the passage concerning the calling of a young Jeremiah who felt similarly unqualified and unable to shoulder the burden of being God’s messenger. This passage became doubly significant on my first day of work when I discovered that, instead of being solely working in the community gardens of Primavera, I would be working in the gardens and with the after school program. Now to understand my reticence in working with kids you must understand that I possess no particular gift when it comes to working with children. Not only that but I had explicitly told Primavera in my interview that working with kids was not something I wanted to do. Of course at this moment I’m reminded of a Yiddish proverb, “Man plans, God laughs.” I felt a certain connection with Jeremiah’s protestations to God’s call. I also began to feel the comfort of God’s response in verses seven and eight. He says to calm down, you are young, but it won’t be you doing the work. It will be my work being done through you, so your “lack of qualifications” doesn’t matter because you have me. Through this year I have felt this resonating in my experience. There have been times when I have felt perfectly justified in saying that I didn’t want to work with kids, but, more often than not, I have also felt profoundly prepared for the issues that have arisen with the kids. I have been prepared by God for things I never knew I would have to face. The same thing in the gardens. God has opened doors and done work in my heart to open me to new experiences and equip me for new situations. It is a profound reminder of 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we walk by faith and not by sight. God has prepared the way, we simply need to have the faith to follow even though we can only see a few steps ahead.
That was part of what I shared with Sierra Vista and also part of what I am continuing to learn as this year advances and as I contemplate the rest of my life.
As far as practical things, the highlight of recent weeks has been the garden. I directly oversee the garden in the La Capilla neighborhood of South Tucson. The garden is still relatively new and we had an awesome crop come up over the winter. Arugula, lettuce, spinach, beets, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, kale, dill, cilantro, and probably other things that I am forgetting. This past week was spring break for the kids so I was able to focus on planning out the garden for the spring as well as figure out how to harvest seeds from the winter crop. It was a busy time and I learned a lot.
After collecting surveys from the community which benefits from the garden, I had the produce that the community wanted from the garden. This is extremely important because I’ve learned that if the plants grown in the garden are what the community wants, the garden will be more likely to be used. If people don’t know what has been planted or are unfamiliar with the plants, they are less likely to utilize the products of the garden. In addition I had to consider the sun/heat of an Arizona spring and summer. The Capilla garden does not have a lot of shade so I had to think about tall plants with large leaves that could be planted to create some shade and some reprieve from the relentless sun. Answer: sunflowers and corn! Additional considerations centered around what plants compliment the growth of other plants, and which ones harm or inhibit the growth of other plants. I also wanted to take advantage of the natural pest repellents that some plants are. For example, marigold is good at repelling pests that commonly bother tomato plants. Solution: marigolds and tomatoes should be planted close together. The more I learn about plants and gardening and the interactions therein the more fascinating it is! And I would encourage everyone to look into home gardening. It is true what they say, fruits and veggies just taste better when they come from your own back yard.
Thank you, Father God, for lessons learned, for your created world, and for opportunities to grow.
And so we go.