What started out as house dad Caleb Duttweiler’s new hobby to alleviate boredom during South Africa’s lockdown has become an opportunity for individual and corporate worship, service, and creativity in the East Mountain community. Caleb started the garden to see if he could grow some food and try something new out in nature. He also began composting in order to reduce waste and better steward what was being used in the house through recycling. But as the garden grew, so did the vision for the garden. Today, Caleb’s creative approach to creation care has become something “made by the community and for the community.”
As planting and growing increased, Caleb reached out to a friend in the States who studied agriculture and got some advice on how to improve the garden. Knowledge in hand, two work days were held with EM staff and residents involved to prepare the soil and use the compost to create raised beds for new seeds to be planted. Carrots, cucumbers, corn, peas, spinach, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce have all been planted with broccoli, potatoes, and peppers still in the works. Tending the garden has been a particularly unique activity for the EM residents--many of whom have never experienced anything quite like it before.
But the hopes and dreams for the garden go far beyond getting one’s fingers dirty in the physical planting and growing. Caleb desires the garden to be a place where EM staff, guests, and partners can come take food for whatever they need. The gift of having the garden is not only the availability to produce food for those who may want it, but also the chance to give something to people that the EM community was “able to take time to grow, to care for, and to nurture to fruition.”
Moreover, the garden also serves as a great opportunity for the residents to practically see many of the Scriptures that relate to agriculture come alive at the tips of their fingers. Imagery from the Garden of Eden, the agricultural realities of many of Jesus’ parables, and metaphors of God’s people as vineyards and trees are now more relatable than ever. The practical experience they are receiving as they work to nurture and grow in the garden can be expounded upon in the table talks, theological discussions, and workshops that make up a robust part of the resident’s weekly schedule.
And as Biblical imagery and principles are better understood through the keeping up of the garden, so too is the practical application of service and compassion. A long-term goal for when the garden even grows more is to partner with local ministries in the community to see if some of the produce could be contributed towards programs that help to feed the homeless. As social justice issues have become more prominent in today’s world, East Mountain desires to steward what is already on the EM property in order to give to others in the community who don’t have--especially those who cannot give back anything in return. Other ideas around sending kids from local ministry partners home with seeds, or even selling the compost being collected to raise ministry funds have also been brought up.
Overall, God has taken what began as a hobby and transformed it into a holistic vision for a community of people. As the food grows and produces a crop that physically feeds many, our hope is that the space of the garden and the time that visitors spend there will also nourish hearts as people receive the fruit of hard work and a desire to serve. So if you have any plans coming up to make stews and other veggie dishes, come and see us!