A Garden of Our Own
Staff Stories

A Garden of Our Own

Shannon Howard

May 31, 2022

In the beginning, after God created the world, He built a garden for man to live in. At Excel, we’re going back to our roots (pun intended) by cultivating a garden of our own!

Our ⅓-acre garden stemmed from the desire of several hearts to not only grow, but teach others to grow.

As a small group from our leadership team met, a vision for the garden was formed: A place where knowledge could be passed down generation to generation. A place where students could learn to grow for themselves and get in touch with nature. A harvest to help sustain our growing family and community. A practicum track to train students with an interest in agriculture, food preparation, and presentation.

One ⅓-acre space, serving as grounds (quite literally) for multiple ministries. 

If you’ve ever gardened before, you know that gardens are rich with metaphor. The Bible is full of references to gardening:

Isaiah 58:11

And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah 61:11

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise To spring up before all the nations.

Luke 13:19

It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.

Mark 4:26-29

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

From the time it takes for seeds to germinate and push through the top of the soil to roots digging down deep to reach for water, gardening teaches us so much about our life with Christ. As we dig into this project (sorry, I can’t help the puns), we’re witnessing God in action. How He does His part to water, sprout, and grow. We can work hard, but we can’t do this without Him.

And we’ve made quite a bit of progress so far: 

In March, we tilled, built mounds and beds, started seedlings, and shaped the garden. (That one sentence does not nearly reflect the countless hours our leaders and students poured into the project.)

In April, we planted seeds and built a fence to protect tiny sprouts from getting eaten by local wildlife.

In May, we weeded and watered—and weeded and watered—watching our plants grow. For one glorious week, God took over the watering to give our team some rest.

These past few months have taught us so much about sharing the load. Years ago, when I was reading through the Bible in a year, I was slogging through the second half of Exodus and asking God, “Why do I need to hear about the exact measurements of this tabernacle over and over again?” God is faithful, so He responded: “Look up how long it took to build the tabernacle.” 

Nine months. That’s how long it took. With no electricity, no machinery, and in such detail, it took nine months to build the tabernacle. God was revealing to me what was possible when the people of God come together to bring His vision to life.

This garden is not possible without the effort of our whole family. No one person could sustain this alone, but together, we’re making great progress.

Over the coming months, we’ll be doing plenty of harvesting. Even this week, we’re ready to pick our first batch of arugula. But we’re not just in this for the harvest. We’re enjoying the process and what God is teaching us, together, throughout it.

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