Have you ever toured a garden? Perhaps a botanical garden or a vegetable garden at a historical farm or maybe a large field of tulips or sunflowers. We seem fascinated with gardens because the Master Gardener first placed us in a garden home and made gardening our first occupation. Here He also gave us the secret to good health – a plant-based diet.
These facts led the New Beginnings Health Team at the Brighton Seventh-day Adventist Church to prayerfully develop a unique summer community outreach. Several years prior, a portion of the church landscaping was turned into an herb garden that now contains twenty-five different culinary and medicinal herbs. These have been used in cooking classes as well as in teaching natural remedies classes put on by the New Beginnings Health Team. At the parsonage next door, Pastor Steve Schefka and his wife Staci put in a small cottage garden. Though less than 200 square feet, it has produced twenty different fruits, vegetables, and flowers using methods like square foot and vertical gardening.
What if the community could be invited to come and tour these gardens and then enjoy a garden dinner featuring locally grown produce? What if this could be done in connection with their ongoing plant-based cooking classes that already had a large following? That became the inspiration for the “Dinner from the Garden” outreach event.
On the evening of August 11th, over 30 community guests arrived at the church for the occasion. After a warm welcome, Pastor Schefka began with a short PowerPoint presentation on why we are drawn to gardens. He began by describing the perfect Garden of Eden where there was no disease, predators, or death. “See this tiger,” he said, pointing to the majestic animal on the screen, “he wasn’t trying to kill anything because he was plant-based. Everything was built to run on a plant-based diet!” He then quoted Genesis 1:29, “And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.’” In that first garden, mankind was given the choice to eat the food God had provided or to choose their own way. Sadly, they chose to eat what God had forbidden and death was the result.
However, years later in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus made the choice to surrender to God’s plan and to go to the cross to die for our sins. Three days later He was resurrected from the Garden Tomb. Scripture reveals that gardens represent the fruitfulness and healing that Jesus wants to bring into each of our lives (Isaiah 51:3; 58:11).
“The Bible begins and ends with a garden.” Pastor Steve concluded. “The book of Revelation tells us that the Garden of Eden will be restored and there will again be no more curse. How many of you want to be part of that future garden?” It was beautiful to see the guests positively respond to this garden gospel presentation! Staci Schefka followed up with an invitation to receive free Bible guides on health topics or common Bible questions. Since they first began offering Bible lessons, over two dozen attendees have requested them and many have attended or are still in Bible studies. “If there is one thing that I get more excited about than even talking about health and plant-based eating,” Staci says, “it is studying the Bible and applying it to my life and discovering hope and answers and then helping others find the same. That is why we make this invitation at every class.”
Following this devotional, it was time for the herb and cottage garden tours. Participants learned how herbs like oregano, sage, comfrey, and yarrow have amazing health benefits and are great natural remedies for common ailments like bronchial infections, wounds, sprains, and fevers. At the cottage garden, everyone was encouraged to begin growing their own food even if only in containers.
After the tour, a garden meal was served which included vegetarian barbecue meatball sandwiches with coleslaw, summer corn and edamame salad, sour cream and onion kale chips, and a summer berry fruit crumble. During the recipe demonstration portion taught by Marylou McAlpine and Staci, everyone was surprised to learn that the “apples” in the fruit dessert was actually zucchini! What a delicious and fun way to use this abundant garden vegetable.
The benefits of plant-based eating are undeniable. Jay McKeown, a recent Christian and convert to plant-based eating, shared with the group how he had lost over a hundred pounds, reversed his pre-diabetes, overcame depression, and got off nine mental health medications by going plant-based. “Once you control what goes into your body,” he told the audience, “You can actually take control over everything else in your life.”
This Dinner from the Garden event shows that we can use the activities we already do in daily life – gardening and eating a vegetarian diet – and combine these to reach the community in a fun and practical way. We encourage you to plan your own “Dinner from the Garden” event next summer!
Note: To find recipes or view previous classes, visit www.facebook.com/nbhealthteam or the YouTube channel “New Beginnings Health Team.”
Note: Jay who gave a testimony during the class along with his wife are now in two Bible studies a week. They have been regularly attending church and want to become members of the church. They are so excited to have found a church that talks about individuals being the temple for the Holy Spirit and promotes plant-based eating.