Michigan Church Cultivates Fresh Food, Fresh Hope
By Mykaela Alvey
Community Church of God in Clio, Michigan, has been taking church beyond the building in practical ways through their community garden that was established in 2020 amid the pandemic. Pastor Rhyan Glezman says the idea “was established in 2020 after seeing the needs of our community during a pandemic.” The poverty rate in Clio is 29.22 percent, which made the effects of inflation and the pandemic much more severe. The congregation was heavily involved in food distribution during that time, and they saw firsthand the lack of “fresh produce and healthy food options for families.” They wanted to start the garden as a way of providing better alternatives for families going through hard times.
The community garden is located at the church, and they rely on volunteers to keep it going by planting, watering, and pulling weeds. When produce is ready to be picked, it is made public to the community. “There are numerous ways to get the produce,” says Pastor Glezman. “Individuals can stop by the garden and pick up any fruits or vegetables they may desire. There is a table with available produce on it. We ask that they only take what their family will eat, so there is enough for everyone. The fruits and vegetables are also available inside the church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.” Some of the produce is also dropped off at the local food pantry to be made available for other local families.
Not only was the community garden started, but the church also established a nonprofit called Community Unites, Inc. This nonprofit has been able to support the community well beyond just the garden. “Along with tending to the garden, and providing food through the Community Food Network, they also pack backpacks with food for the local schools. They also supply all the school supplies for students and teachers in the school district. The nonprofit also provides Christmas for local families and seniors. The families get to personally pick out new gifts for their children. We create an entire toy-store-shopping experience, which includes gifts, stocking-stuffers, family experiences, board games, books, and wrapping.” (To find out more about their nonprofit, visit https://www.cliocommunity.org/unites).
Though the garden and nonprofit were established to bless the community, the congregation has also been blessed through this. Many are able to serve community members who don’t even attend the church. The children have engaged, as well, as they enjoy being out in the garden and picking the produce. The desire to bless also extends beyond the garden at the church. “Others who have gardens at home bring in extra produce to share which also includes eggs. There is always fresh food around that members get to take home and enjoy, and there is no need amongst us in regard to produce.”
Community Church of God is living out their faith in action, and the congregation is growing stronger and closer. The establishment of the garden has created a spark of desire to meet people’s needs, both physically and spiritually. They recognize that reaching out in their community and loving people through word, deed, and prayer is not just the responsibility of the pastor. “There are so many testimonies of healing, baptism, deliverance, reconciliation, unity, and love. There is a presence of family and oneness when you walk through the doors of the church. God is adding to our numbers, as we grow more like Christ.”
Through the establishment of a simple community garden, Community Church of God has created a ripple effect and is helping and loving their community with Christ’s love, while growing and maturing as a body of believers. Their simple actions are pointing people to Jesus.
Anderson University alumna Mykaela Alvey is a funding US missionary based in Greenwood, Indiana. A freelance writer for three years, she loves crafting stories of hope and healing.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.