A Rocha: The Five Loaves Project

Guest ColumnistCommunity News

by Rich Dixon
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It’s amazing what God accomplishes through us when we roll up our sleeves. That’s true for any service or ministry, but for the Five Loaves Project, in which A Rocha volunteers help to tend and to cultivate the land owned by and adjacent to Santa Barbara Community Church, the hard work of many is bearing fruit (…and vegetables). If you stroll into the valley adjacent to the church you might be surprised, even if you were at the groundbreaking in May. Since then, volunteers (hundreds from our church and others, and many individuals) have been hard at work tilling, planting, and tending land that is now an honest-to-goodness farm. You’ll find rows of crops, a profusion of fresh vegetables: carrots, cilantro, corn, cucumbers, onions, peppers, radishes, tomatillos and tomatoes. They are to become ingredients for family meals on the tables of those who could not afford fresh, healthy produce on their own. The Lord of the Harvest is blessing our modest farm, so that we in turn can express the love of Christ to those who are hungry and weary from poverty.

Our volunteers engage in work that is fairly straightforward, such as planting, harvesting, and weeding. “Farmer Ron” (SBCC’s very own Ron Davis) is the man in charge—he directs us on farming best practices for each day’s tasks. Helpers arrive each week from every age and stage: from preschoolers, to college kids, to mature adults, to multi-age families. Thanks to a creative in-kind gift from members of our church body, a tractor now hums down the rows, increasing our efficiency tremendously. Five Loaves is a bustling site for work and education: a new greenhouse and welcome center greet visitors and volunteers. Mark Caswell, one of the farm’s advisors, jumped in to make the idea of a children’s garden a reality. In fact, there are a lot of people within this body who play key roles in this ministry. Just one other person I’ll mention for now is Marty Robertson, who has come on board to oversee all the science and education elements we weave into this project site, such as the Creation Care Kids Camp and valuable field research.

What do you see for your efforts as a volunteer at the Five Loaves farm? Literally, you see rows of crops. But what the crops represent is more profound – we will be offering this pesticide-free produce to support 150 families who depend on Santa Barbara Community Development Center’s (SBCDC) food distributions. One of the mothers who will be receiving this healthy food is Maria*. Maria is a single mother who lives with her children in dense multi-family housing in Isla Vista. She works hard to support her family by selling tamales from door to door. Maria is also a sister in Christ, active in the home church that meets in her apartment complex. Our partnership with SBCDC will allow us to put this food into her hands, so she can serve healthy meals to her children. Incredibly, we will be SBCDC’s only reliable source of fresh produce.It’s a humbling thought …

If you haven’t already joined us for an afternoon to work or view the site, I hope you will come soon. If living for Christ sounds vague, and if meeting the world’s needs seems overwhelming, take heart.  As a Five Loaves volunteer, you will meet a pressing local need with practical action, while also enjoying the glory of God and discovering (or rediscovering) satisfaction in such earthy work.

Jesus told his disciples, The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers… Remarkably, God invites us to participate in the work of extending His mercy to all who will receive it. As an extension of that call, I invite you to join in on this ministry, and yes, we will literally be harvesting at times! An online volunteer sign-up form is available at:http://tiny.cc/fiveloaves. You can print and fill out a volunteer waiver form here:www.arochasb.org/VolunteerWaiver.pdf. Whether you come out alone, with your family, homegroup or a non-believing friend, we have meaningful work ready for you!

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