Ground-swell for Community Garden

A new community garden is just about to emerge.  Just south of Aaron Drive, located in north Lynden, WA., members of Sonlight Community CRC have been meeting with nearby residents asking if they would be interested to organize a community garden.

So far over 35 residences have showed interest.

On Saturday, April 25th, the overall general membership met to decide on a number of organizational matters that charted the course for this community effort. Planting of seeds and transplants will likely begin the following week.

More information may be gleaned on the goings-on with this new effort via a link to their blog: http://northcitycommunitygarden.blogspot.com/

A recent article on the garden was published by the Lynden Tribune, link to it here: http://www.lyndentribune.com/node/4273

The Power of The Resurrection…The Power of ‘With’

At our Easter service at Open Door Fellowship our pastor, Johnny Acevedo, expounded on the transforming power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The new life and new creation unleashed through our risen Lord includes the marvelous transformation of His people being conformed to His image. It also includes the transformation of all creation for His glory for He is Lord of all things. At His coming there will be a new earth as well as a new heaven. In this new community there will be perfect justice for all; “the poor will eat and be satisfied.” Until then, “the creation waits in eager expectation” for its redemption. However, the Kingdom has come in Christ and until then God is graciously restoring all things, giving us signs and tastes of things to come.

The recent “Power of With” Conference sponsored by agencies of the Christian Reformed Church in North America focused on one of the signs and tastes of God’s Kingdom: Communities working together to bring His shalom, His intended purpose for their well being. Several NECT partners were in attendance including Ted Bessey, Holistic Ministries Coordinator from Pathway Community Church in Newport, Maine. Ted comments on what he learned:

The Christian Reformed Church and many of its member organizations sponsored this conference to promote working “WITH” the community you are in. What exactly does this mean? Most people especially churches and other civic organizations still look at the poor as “them” and the well off as “us”. This view promotes the idea that we have to help the poor and we know exactly how we are going to do it. By having this attitude not only do we do a disservice to those we are trying to help as it promotes both the attitude of dependency and a sense of entitlement. It does nothing to solve the core reasons behind the poverty.

The Power of “WITH” promotes going out into the community and learning each other’s skills and gifts. We walk amongst those we are “helping” and become their friends and true neighbors. This empowers all of us to become better people and to make the changes needed to improve our own lot in life.

Al Santino, NECT Director

Solidarity Director’s Update April 09

Every year after Easter I am disappointed that I didn’t really take the time to reflect and truly thank God for the event that we celebrate every spring. This year was different but not in the way I had hoped. I knew Easter was coming and my wife and I discussed ways that we could really celebrate it and start to make some traditions for our family. As I thought about what the week would look like I envisioned a lot of down time and a lot of time spent reflecting on Christ’s act.

Instead, we dealt with support issues, sexual abuse issues in our neighborhood, gang violence, and the anxiety of watching our precious friends and neighbors make life shattering choices. Even as I write this I am still heavy with grief over some of these situations. Not the Holy Week I had in mind. Then I realized that my week more accurately resembled pieces of Christ’s experience over the week leading to that glorious morning.

The last couple of weeks we have seen God do amazing things in our lives and the lives of our friends and neighbors. It has been amazing to see how God weaves relationships together that better glorify Him and work for His Kingdom. I see this time as the triumphal entry piece of Christ’s week. As Christ got closer to accomplishing His task things became ugly, the darkness started celebrating and the darkest parts of human kinds soul came out and the same Christ that they welcomed into Jerusalem was the same Christ that they had beaten, humiliate and crucify. That week was really a week of turmoil and a battle was raging that was unseen.

We are in that place. We are seeing a surge of darkness starting to push back. We are seeing the enemy becoming bolder. This has been a tough few weeks, and just as the first followers of Jesus were devastated because they watched Christ die, we too are devastated by the brokenness and hurt in our world. At times it is too much to bear. But that was Friday. Unlike the first disciples we know that Sunday came and Christ conquered.

Dearest brothers and sisters, what is needed now is commitment. Commitment to a way of living that acknowledges and confirms the hope we have in Christ. We deeply know what it is like to live in this economy, we don’t get paid a lot, we don’t have insurance and we live in community to survive. There are times when we want to quit because our relationships are too traumatic, but we can’t, we are committed to the hope that Jesus gave us on Sunday. We ask that you continue to join with us in this commitment to the Jesus way, whether you give, volunteer, or pray we ask that you push through these tough times to continue to support what God is doing in a lost and broken world.

Tommy Nixon, Executive Director, Solidarity

For more on Solidarity visit their website:

www.solidarityrising.org

Another Crazy Making Irony

We say it’s a “Win-Win”- those situations where each party involved benefits. As cheesy as the term sounds sometimes, it is nice when things work out well for everyone. I heard of a potential “win-win” a couple of weeks ago when one of my neighbors asked me to look over some paperwork.

My neighbor has been working as a Nurses Assistant at a convalescent home for 21 years. He makes $10.63 an hour and works full time. He has been in the process of getting his permanent residence status. He has paid a few thousand dollars in legal fees and gone through all the steps. He is in the homestretch.

What he needs to seal the deal is a paper signed by a “potential’ employer stating that they will hire him once he has his papers. It seems fairly simple considering that he has been working under the radar at this company for two decades. I imagined that his boss would gladly sign the paper and congratulate my neighbor on becoming legal and thank him for his years of service doing the dirtiest jobs in the hospital.

Here it comes- the crazy making part: The supervisor won’t sign the paper! But it’s a “win-win”- you get a legal employee, he gets to walk proud, free of fear. Yeah, no.

In my naïveté I am always sure there is a way to make things happen. I offered to go with my neighbor to plead with his supervisor. I offered to threaten him with phone calls to the immigration authorities. I coached my neighbor to have his lawyer call on his behalf. We racked our brains.

Now the deadline has come and gone with no signature. My neighbor will have to begin the process again- spending years and resources on one more try.

What is the fear that keeps us from helping? What is the pride that let’s us play with others’ futures? What did the employer have to gain by not signing the paper?

Crissy Brooks

For more information on MIKA Community Development Corporation click here.

Community Garden Draws People Together from Area Neighborhoods for Common Goal

Tim Newcomb
Tribune assistant editor
The Lynden Tribune
Country Life

April 8, 2009

LYNDEN — It is a garden for the community, by the community. And it is that way by design.

Sonlight Community Church has donated three-quarters of an acre along Aaron Drive for use by the local community as a plotted community garden.

Behind the initiative of church-goer and community activist Jeff Littlejohn, nearly 300 homes in the neighboring high-density community were invited to participate in the new garden.

The church is simply donating the space and letting the community take charge of planning it.

Littlejohn said it has been a true community effort.

Melissa Nienhuis, resident, said that she was “surprised to see a group who didn’t know each other agree on a plan (for the garden) and work together.”  “I have never felt that sense of community,” she added.

Lisa Kusick said the initial meeting of interested residents was shockingly “inspiring.”
She said she got involved because she wanted to grow peas like her “granny” did. “It went from growing peas to growing a community,” she said.

Neighbors from Heartland, Parkview West Apartments, Lynden Manor, Lynden Manor Condominiums, Heritage Park and Fishtrap Landing were all invited to participate. All of those areas are high-density, providing residents little to no room for a garden of their own. The garden still has room for residences of those areas to join in.

Littlejohn said it simply worked out that the location of the garden is surrounded by high-density housing.

A dozen people on a steering committee are planning the rules and bylaws for the North City Community Garden, which is expected to have about 26 households participating. The first order of business was to determine the garden is going to be organic. Other decisions are on the way.

Nienhuis said that it is turning into a great family event, as kids are excited to participate in the learning process.

The garden itself will feature three different sizes of plots ranging from 4 feet square to 10 by 20 feet.

Plans include a communal plot for corn, shrubs, flowers and trees on the outside of the garden, a split-rail fence along Aaron Drive, the creation of a gathering area outside of the garden and the fixing-up of a nearby shed (which at one time was used as a residence for a farmhand) for use by the gardeners.

Discussions over creating raised beds, making it easier for older members to participate, are in the works.

“We want the old-timers to help,” Littlejohn said.  “We have so much to learn,” Nienhuis   added.

The garden will be planted when the weather allows. Littlejohn said he was able to get Whatcom County and the City of Lynden to work together — a feat in and of itself — to bring in river silt, which a local farmer spread. Edaleen Dairy offered free manure, which was tilled by Eldon Heutink. The most recent layer of compost is germinating, getting ready for planting with another mix of high-quality compost.

Nienhuis said she is looking forward to the opportunity to learn and share in the knowledge of gardening and the community it brings.

Kusick said she has already met neighbors she hadn’t known before. “That is the other part that is so much fun,” she said. “Strangers are coming together with this purpose in mind. That is a big part for me.”

There is hope that in the fall, the plot of ground can be used as a winter garden showcase and that the Lynden Boys & Girls Club, which meets at the church, can play a role in the gardening. Nienhuis thinks that enough food can be raised to donate to Lynden’s Project Hope.

Littlejohn praised the efforts of Third Christian Reformed Church in planting a community gardening seed across Lynden.

Last year, Third kicked off its own community garden (as chronicled in the Tribune) under the direction of Dave Timmer. Littlejohn said that that plan sparked the thoughts of starting one at Sonlight.

Alyce Werkema is also spearheading a similar effort at United Methodist Church of Lynden.

Master Gardeners
The WSU Whatcom County Master Gardeners will visit the North City Community Garden of Lynden at 10 a.m. on April 18 to help neighbors get ready to grow their own groceries. They will be teaching how to prepare soil, which vegetables are best for our region, how to build raised beds and other useful structures and how to site and design your garden. All are invited to this free event.

Demonstration Garden
As part of Littlejohn’s Imagine Northwest community partnership organization located at Lynden’s New Hope Center, 205 South B.C. Ave., he has created a demonstration garden in the front of the building.

The small garden, which is simply layers of compost and straw on top of cardboard (to keep the weeds out), is designed to allow people to learn how to garden. The style Littlejohn uses enables layering, which replaces tilling.

It has also served as a teaching tool for the youth housed at New Way Ministries, as they helped with the initial planting recently.

  E-mail Tim Newcomb at .
[Found at: http://www.lyndentribune.com/node/4273 ]
You can visit the North City Community Garden (NCCG) blog by clicking here .

Crazy Making Ironies

Sometimes things can get so nutty! A couple of years ago our city council passed an ordinance that placed a Federal ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agent in our city jail. So now anyone who is picked up by the police is screened by an ICE agent. You don’t have to be convicted or guilty of anything, just brought in for whatever reason and you are screened for documentation.

A couple months back a friend of mine refused to sleep with her abusive ex-husband when he brought the rent over. He got angry. She got scared and threw a plate at him. When the police got there he was bleeding and she wasn’t so they took her away as the aggressor. It didn’t seem to matter that he had a history of domestic violence. So my friend spent the night in jail. There were no charges brought against her and the case was dropped.

Except then she was on an immigration hold after having been processed through our city jail. So now she is in the process of being deported, in which case her three American citizen children will be left in the custody of their abusive father or child protective services.

That all seems pretty straight forward and some would even say it is fair. Technically, the law played out (whether or not it is a just law is another question). Here’s where it gets nutty…

While our team is trying to get an immigration lawyer on the case I get a phone call from one of our city council members who was a strong proponent of placing the ICE agent in the jail. She is calling to say that she would like to recognize our organization at the next city council meeting with a Proclamation of our valuable community work.

The thing is that the woman in the process of being deported is the main force behind our “valuable community work.” She rallied the neighbors to open the community center. She is the one who pulls people together to support a neighbor in need. She is the main idea woman behind our community seminars and programs.

So I went to the city council meeting to receive an award for my friend’s work in the community that she is simultaneously being removed from by the same council’s policy.

I don’t know whether to laugh or scream my head off. Isn’t it confusing to celebrate one’s work on one hand and then condemn them on the other? It’s too nutty. It’s too real.

Crissy Brooks

For more information on MIKA Community Development Corporation click here.

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