Philly church’s urban gardening points to Global Hunger Relief

Editor’s note: Southern Baptists will observe World Hunger Sunday Oct. 13 to highlight the ministry being undertaken nationally and internationally through Global Hunger Relief (formerly the World Hunger Fund).

A rural concept has taken root at a urban church in Philadelphia as an outreach to its neighbors.

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Trey Reid leads parable time during the Garden Camp Vacation Bible School at The Foundry Church in Philadelphia. The church uses resources from Global Hunger Relief (formerly known as the World Hunger Fund) to help care for their neglected neighbors through a food pantry, bread distribution and other initiatives. (Photo courtesy of Michael Kelley)

An urban garden at Philadelphia’s The Foundry Church naturally provided an abundance of teachable moments, along with a 500-pound annual yield of fresh produce.

The next step, pastor Chuck Kieffer thought, would be “Garden Camp,” an urban gardening-based Vacation Bible School.

“We teach gardening techniques and nutrition, which are easy to bridge to biblical concepts of our Creator,” said Kieffer, a North American Mission Board church planter. “Doesn’t every church have some piece of ground they are not using? Every church can do this.” The Foundry Church plans to publish an e-book as a guide for others interested in reproducing the outreach.

To help operate a food pantry, the church uses resources from Southern Baptists’ Global Hunger Relief (formerly the World Hunger Fund). GHR funding also is used in delivering food to shut-ins and distributing bread on the streets. Everything is done to help open doors for the Gospel.

Global Hunger Relief is challenging a new generation of believers to personally take Jesus’ love, in both word and deed, to starving souls.

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said NAMB’s close work with Southern Baptist state partners “has given us many opportunities to be sure underserved communities in North America are receiving food for the hungry and a chance to experience the hope found in Christ.”

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Sawyer Dixon examines a worm during activities at Garden Camp, an urban garden-based Vacation Bible School at Philadelphia’s The Foundry Church. For pastor Chuck Kieffer, Garden Camp’s teachable moments are an easy bridge to the biblical concepts of the harvest and God’s creation. (Photo courtesy of Michael Kelley)

GHR is one of the avenues NAMB’s LoveLoud initiative uses to help churches discover how to help neglected neighbors, neglected communities and neglected children. The desire behind LoveLoud ultimately is to see people like Amjad* led to faith in Christ.

Last year on Oct. 5, Canada’s Thanksgiving Day, Rendezvous Church in Toronto hosted a meal for immigrants, including Amjad, a new arrival from Iran. The night before, Amjad’s mother called him from Iran to say she had dreamed a group of Americans were coming to share Jesus with him the next day.

The next day, a North Carolina mission team arrived to help prepare and serve the Thanksgiving meal at Rendezvous for 60 community residents. Amjad could not believe his mother’s dream had come true. He sat for hours listening to the Gospel shared by his new American friends.

Hunger funds do more than provide meals. They open doors to the Gospel. Both are tremendous needs in many North American communities.

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Kelsey Blake, a member of Providence Baptist Church in Harrisburg, N.C., prepares for a children’s game during Garden Camp, an urban garden-based Vacation Bible School at Philadelphia’s The Foundry Church. Members of Providence helped The Foundry host the weeklong outreach. (Photo courtesy of Michael Kelley)

“We live in an area in Philadelphia that is a true paradox,” Kieffer said. “We are just a few blocks from some of the wealthiest residents of the city, but within our immediate area one out of three children go to bed hungry each night. We have to do something to help feed them and reach them for Christ.”

The Foundry Church, a Send North America: Philadelphia multiplying partner, plans to release an e-book on how churches can incorporate LoveLoud outreaches like urban gardens and Garden Camp VBS into their ministries.

— Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. This article appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of On Mission magazine. Ideas for promoting World Hunger Sunday in your church are available at Two free bulletin inserts can be downloaded for promotion of the global hunger relief cause here.

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