Still Waters Landing - Harvesting a God-sized Dream
By: Rev. Meg Gaston
One of the best things about serving God is when our ideas are turned into something that otherwise would have seemed impossible. That is the case with the Hickory Stand and Oak Forest charge where Pastor Bryan Wilson serves. Bryan grew up farming in Tennessee and knew that he wanted to incorporate it into his ministry. That vision slowly turned into a reality. Oftentimes people assume that rural churches don’t have as much to offer, even more so if you think about some of our poorer communities. Interestingly, though, many poor people in rural areas still own small tracts of land where they can do profitable agriculture. Pastor Bryan understands this and wanted to build something that could change the mindset of rural communities.
The use of the land was offered by two lay members who wanted to see good stewardship practiced. Then a friend of Pastor Bryan’s from Tennessee offered the farm two pregnant sows, a boar, and fifty chickens. Quickly, this God-sized dream began to grow into something spectacular.
The biggest limiting factor early on was that a project of this size requires a full-time farm manager. After applying and receiving a grant from the Duke Endowment, the farm was able to afford one. After four years of hard work, Still Waters Landing continues rapid growth. SWL is “renewing the community through food, fellowship, farming, and faith while ensuring that the poorest in the community gain access to the highest quality of food.” They are currently partnered with a local food bank, where they serve the community.
The evangelical outreach of this endeavor most surprised the pastor. SWL has now formed pastoral relationships with migrant workers, beer brewers, restaurant owners, feed store owners, school teachers, students, and school administrators. A lot of these people do not attend Bryan’s church, but now they have a pastor.
The farm is not just feeding people; it is also a place to teach lessons, do retreats, host several volunteer days, and hold joint baptisms and worship services there. Eight different classes from local middle and high schools came to the farm this year. The farm also plays host to peer learning days where people come from all over the state to learn anything from pasture-raised pork to more about non-profits moving away from grant funding toward sustainability.
The farm is also starting an internship program where they identify two at-risk high schoolers and bring them onto the team to learn about sustainable agriculture. This shows the students another option for their futures. It is also a way to retain youth in the community. The students are paid more than $10 an hour and get their fair share of fresh produce and a quarter of a pig. They are also sent to agriculture conferences for continuing education.
Still Waters Landing shows us how faith can make what you already have in your community even more beautiful. We can all agree that a project like this is something that a church with plenty of time, volunteers, work, and a heart for the community can imitate. While it does take a grant, they are hoping that in three years the farm will be self-sustaining. At the end of the day, it is a wonderful example of what God can do in and through your church community.
Click here to visit Still Waters Landing Facebook page.
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