Sunday, February 20, 2011

Teach a man to fish

Carol's last blog highlighted the piles of snow covering Elgin. Thanks to some 60 degree days this week all of our snow was whisked away. It is still February though, and I realize the cold will be back. This warm weather is just a gimmick, toying with our need for sunshine and days spent outside. The warmth has made me start to think spring thoughts and plan spring plans! I am much anticipating several oncoming activities like the beginning of our church softball season, March Madness, and hopefully a BVS house garden! 

Both my Nana and my mom each had a fairly extensive garden growing up. They planted and grew tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, cucumbers, melons, peppers, zinnias, green beans, peas, pumpkins... really I could go on, but you get the idea. I was very lucky to grow up eating green beans canned by my mom, and homemade jam made by my Nana. My family was privileged to have land for a garden, good soil, the ability to buy seeds and the time to tend the garden. 

When I was a senior in high school, our sunday school class decided to grow a community garden on the church property. My dad plowed the land and our class and my family spent each Sunday morning working in the garden. When the time came to harvest our vegetables and flowers, we set up a booth on the front lawn of the church. We offered all that we had grown to the congregation and to the neighboring community. Although we had a donation jar, we did not ask for payment for any of our produce. And although, it concerned some, we didn't worry about collecting the money at the end of every day. The way we figured, if someone came by and saw the money and really needed it, then it was theirs to take. By not getting bogged down with trying to make money we made the project much more meaningful and set an example for our own congregation. At the end of the summer, we used any donations we received to purchase food for our food pantry. That same summer, our pastor also planted a garden connecting to the youth garden. We used the same seeds, the same plants, and provided them with the same care. When the plants came up and started producing though, there was a clear difference in the abundance of vegetables and the health of the plants between the two gardens. While our side flourished, our pastor's half of the garden took much more coaxing to produce. We were never able to figure out why our garden did so much better than our pastor's. All I can say is that we went in with the right attitude and the right heart and God helped us provide some food for those who did not know how to or could not produce their own.

There is an another organization also has these key elements, the right attitude and the right heart: ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) 

"ECHO's Mission is to equip people with resources and skills to reduce hunger and improve the lives of the poor.

ECHO's Vision is to honor God through sustainable hunger solutions." 

I was fortunate to visit ECHO and the 75 degree sunny days of North Fort Myers, Florida this past week!  I traveled with Chelsea Goss, of the Portland BVS house! We were able to take a tour of ECHO's global farm. The demonstration farm is made up of multiple different agricultural plots representing different climates and areas of the world, including a tropical section, an arid section, and an urban garden section. Interns, college graduates from around the world, learn about agricultural practices in developing countries, work the farm, and give tours of the demonstration farm. During their term at ECHO they also travel to developing nations and help teach and implement sustainable agricultural practices. 

The ECHO project is truly following the old proverb:

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
This summer, I will travel back to ECHO with a group of senior high youth from the Church of the Brethren. We will help with weeding, planting and other various projects while we are there, and I have no doubt that we will all learn an incredible amount. I am really looking forward to working with the youth and learning more about ECHO's project. But for now, bring on the spring! I'm ready to garden.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Blizzard of 2011 and ways to ENJOY snow!

So when I was trying to figure out what to do for this blog, I needed a little inspiration. Nothing was coming to mind and I could not figure out what I wanted to do for this weeks blog. While sitting in my office, all I had to do was look outside, and what did I see? Any guesses?.................. SNOW!!! So it was at that moment that I decided to write about snow, and more importantly giving our readers some suggestions on how to make the snow more fun. Also since Don was away for all of the snow, this is our way of sharing the snow with him.

On Tuesday, February 1st, Clara and I drove to work in the morning like usually. Little did we know that the snow was coming and it was going to be coming fast! Throughout the day we looked outside, and felt like we were in a snow globe. At lunch time we heard that the office was closing early so that everyone could get home safely. So after finishing up the work that we had to do we ventured out into the snow for the ride home. Here are some pictures that I took on the ride home. It really was bad!

 This is the parking lot at the office.

This is Dundee Ave. Cars were going like 15 mph. 
This is Lawrence.

How to Spend your Snow Day! BVS Style
1.) Watching Supernatural - Supernatural Clip 

2.) Finding Killer Icicles (and sending pictures of it to Don) 

 3.) Making a path in the snow!

4.) Try to get a true measure of how much snow you got.

 5.) Write secret messages to each other in the snow.

6.) Catch snowflakes on your tongue. Remember January snow is the best.


7.) Shake now out of the trees and onto people walking below

8.) Make Snow Angels

9.) Make snow friends (formerly known as snowmen)
10.) Make an 8 foot snowman - I made one when I was in college.

11.) Make a fort
12.) Snow Ice Cream (1 gallon snow, 1 cup white sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 2 cups milk)
13.) Eat snow (but not the yellow snow)
14.) Make snow cones
15. and 16.) Ice or snow sculpting or Snow painting

17.) Ice cube scavenger hunt (Using food coloring, freeze ice cubes of one color or of several different     colors. Hide cubes in the snow in a designated area and let the children try to find them.)
18.) Footprint tag (Play tag, stepping only in others’ footprints.)

Snow for people that AREN’T in BVS
• Sledding
• Snow Shoeing
• Snowboarding or skiing
• Curling
• Bobsledding
• Ice hockey
• Go dog sledding
• Snowmobile
• Learn to ice skate

Monday, February 7, 2011

On the road again

For the first time this year (Roman calendar and volunteer), I have embarked on a new journey. Though unit 291 holds all sorts of special places in my heart - as the largest group i've had, the most brethren, the best scenery, the most serene, and the quirkiest - it is finally time to move on. Hello unit 292!


For the past 16 years, BVS has travelled to Camp Ithiel, a Church of the Brethren camp in Gotha, florida, to hold winter orientation. Callie and I left Illinois on thursday, stopping in Alambama, alamaba, almaba, or alabama, you pick, before arriving in central florida friday night. Camp is nestled in between a cute abandoned subdivision telling of the housing situation in florida, and the turnpike. across the camp's small lake is an enormous white cross, which is lit up at night as a constant reminder that you should be praying about your problems here. Oh, and there are mormons AND jehovah's witnesses in town. The camp is smaller than Camp myrtlewood, and in about as different a location as you can be from myrtle point unless you go to the moon.
Fischer Lake
(c) 2011 Church of the Brethren 

Personal note

I can't speak for the others, but the nature of my job makes it hard to live in any community. Three times a year (plus retreats and annual conference, and the occasional road trip visit-spree) I leave everyone I know and meet 15-30 new people. Then we hang out for three weeks and REALLY get to know one another. It feels like I'm cheating on my housemates. Or at least I have commitment issues. The only reason I feel guilty at all is because I really do enjoy it. Each orientation is a boot camp of caring - we spend time talking about all sorts of issues. And it's a concentration of concerned individuals, something that doesn't happen naturally except in times of crisis. The collective heart of a group is developed within a week, once all the different cells learn to work together. Everyone knows that two heads are better than one. But I think that one heart is better than two heads, and two hearts are better than one, so we have a really great thing going here. That made sense when I wrote it.
Unit 292 after church
(c) 2011 Church of the Brethren

In my next post, I hope to say more about what makes unit 292 special. For now, I'm busy getting to know these 13 new purple-shirt Jesuses, and making sure we all have edible food (did Jesus know how to cook?) Thank God for simple recipes and produce stands!

From the future, Don