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The Not-So-Secret Garden

Our newest Hope Team recently moved to Western Asia to begin their ministry. This great story comes from the team’s first month.

The Hope Team’s new apartment comes with a mini-garden patio. Their landlord’s wife planted multiple vegetables and flowers before they moved in. And since they live in a courtyard, there is likely 200 neighbors who have a good view of the garden. It’s not so secret.

Especially in this season of newness when the team cannot speak the language, they believe the link to their relationship with their landlord and neighbors might be the flourishing of these plants and their care for this rare urban garden spot.

After a month, they have noticed their tomato plants getting tall and leaning precariously to the side. They can’t have their tomato plants dying on the ground and communicating with this couple that they don’t care for this garden. So, they made a note to hunt for garden stakes after their language class.

Where would you look for garden stakes in a concrete jungle? Well, they went to the supermarket’s tiny garden section. But there was nothing. Then, they went to the local florist. Again, nothing.

Then, they remembered a woman they met who owned a photocopy shop for 40 years. Surely, she would know who sells gardens stakes. So, armed with their limited greetings and basic sentence structure and a handful of verbs, they entered the shop. Ms. A was happy to see them, her wrinkly smile beaming from ear to ear.

After multiple attempts to ask for help, some awkward staring moments, awkward smiling and nervous laughter, they walked out with two words written on a piece of paper. The name of a place? a person? They didn’t know but they thought she said one street down on the left. So…off they went.

It would take one more local lady’s help before they found the answer —a man who makes furniture. Out from a sub-floor storefront appeared a middle-aged man covered in sawdust. They showed him the picture. He motioned for how tall and then motioned for how many. And into his shop they went, the sound of the table saw and the smell of wood quickly filled the air. Ten minutes later, they were walking home with their six wooden garden stakes. Sweet victory.

Tending tomatoes…and people.

Are they learning the language? Yes. Culture? Yes. Tomato plant care? …I guess so…whatever it takes to build relationships and communicate the love of our Father, the Vinedresser.

Did you know that tomato plants are way too weak to hold up the fruit they produce? They have to be supported by something else! In order to grow and produce fruit, the plant needs to lean on something stronger than itself. Sounds like people too, right?

Well, as the tomato plants flourish by leaning on the stakes, the Hope Team desires flourishing relationships with their landlord and neighbors as they lean on the One who raises the dead, who gives life and breath to everything. This divine dependence is at the heart of the Hope Team’s ministry in their city.

Would you pray for their continued dependence on God and their relationships with those who do not know the hope of Christ?

“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:5–9