Let's Get Busy!
There’s no sitting around at Inner City Mission! Here’s a couple ways staff, volunteers, and residents are getting into the nitty gritty this spring.…
In the Garden
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.” —Leviticus 23:22
Bonnie Bearce came out of the house to feed the chickens—not all of them, just the few she and her husband kept in a small pen close to the house so they wouldn’t get hurt by the other, more aggressive birds. The larger coop, some 50 chickens or more, was down the road a bit.
After a few minutes tending and talking to the hens, Bonnie straightened and walked a circle around the house, surveying with some dismay the garden that surrounded the couple’s Green Valley home. It was beginning to look more like a thicket than organized rows of food-bearing plants. Dwayne hadn’t chosen a good time to fall sick.
Bonnie met Dwayne Bearce in high school in 1967, and married him in 1969, right after high school. Aside from a short stretch in Pekin, they’d lived on this road ever since, with Bonnie focused on gardening and canning, and raising the couple’s four girls. Dwayne was a career man at Keystone, bringing in the money they needed to get by.
After Dwayne retired, he started working alongside Bonnie in the garden. They had three acres of tomatoes, beans, berries, potatoes…pretty much everything delicious that grew near the ground. The couple supplied eggs and fresh food for friends, family, and neighbors, as well as themselves. Dwayne’s stroke in 2002 slowed him a bit, but Bonnie took up the slack and they’d been okay since.
This spring, they planted as usual. Then Dwayne came down sick with a nasty virus. He spent a couple weeks in the hospital, and he was laid up at home now. It was going to take a while to get back on his feet.
With him to care for, and the chickens, Bonnie had not gotten into the garden at all. Now, it was discouraging just to look at it.
A car pulled up out in front of the farmhouse. This had to be the visitors she was expecting from Inner City Mission, down in Springfield.
The Bearces were members of San Jose Christian Church, going on 50 years now. Their pastor was Allen Payne. So of course they knew all about Inner City Mission. For years, they’d been sending eggs and other food there with Allen on his regular visits. The food helped the residents to eat healthy, and kept costs down at the shelter.
Allen discovered the Bearce’s were struggling to maintain the huge garden. He talked with his son, Scott, ICM’s executive director. Scott arranged some help to get them through the season.
Bonnie greeted Donna Lomelino of Inner City Mission, and a carload of shelter residents who had volunteered to help out for the day. She showed them around while explaining about Dwayne’s illness, and talking about the plants. “Mom had a large garden,” Bonnie said. “I guess I got it from her. She taught me how to can, as well.
“I like the country life. It’s out in the open here, so you can breathe. It’s quiet. The birds wake you up in the morning, unless a grain truck goes by.”
The potatoes, strawberries, carrots, and other plants were hard to distinguish among the weeds. Bonnie explained that the weeding was the most critical thing, so the plants wouldn’t be choked out or lost in the ground.
For Donna’s part, this was more than she had anticipated, but that was okay. She loved the farm from the moment she saw it. She and the residents who volunteered to come with her--some of whom had no experience with any such thing--set to work.
“Mr. Payne told us to help remove weeds,” Donna remembers. “I was excited because I love new stuff and being outdoors. When I got here, what they called weeds were more like trees. Some were taller than me.
“The potatoes were overrun with major weeds, and we started there. It was work, but fun. We had lessons, learning to tell the difference between useful plants and weeds. Sometimes we would end up pulling the plant out with the weeds. We talked about scripture, the parable of the tares in the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30).
“We only got three rows done that first day, but we worked hard. I called Mr. Payne, and he said I could take our volunteers to McDonalds. We ate with our muddy hands.”
Donna and her volunteers returned to the garden several times over the course of the year. One weekend, a missions group from Licking Valley came along, and they really got a lot done. At the end of the season, the Bearces were able to feed friends and family once again, and provide for Inner City Mission.
“I enjoyed it,” Bonnie said. “There was one little girl—one of the group members’ children. She clearly didn’t want to be here at all at first, but she took to it. By the end of the day she was having a lot of fun.”
Now that spring has come around again, Dwayne is back on his feet. But you can’t have too much help on a spread like theirs. The Bearces invited Inner City Mission to come back.
Donna is especially enthusiastic. Of the various work programs she is helping Inner City Mission develop to ease residents into the workforce, this is the first that’s up and running, and she really sees it as beneficial.
“Yanci is a a perfect example,” Donna says, referring a young woman whose been with ICM for several months. “She is very challenged in a lot of ways. We’ve had a hard time identifying ways we could help her. DORS (the Department of Rehabilitation Services) is working with her now, but at ICM she struggles. I know she’s felt constantly under the gun with me, as I have to enforce the rules.
“When I brought her out to the farm, it was the most rewarding time for both of us. She really surprised me. I got to see her in a different place, as a hard worker doing a good job. She’s a perfectionist; very slow, but good.
“She got so much from being out there. She was so fascinated with the place. Several times, she stopped and just stood with her hands raised to the sky. That’s praising God!
“I never would have seen that in a different environment. It was good for her, and she’s anxious to come back. To her, it’s something she can do and get praise for.”
Bonnie is happy to host several of the residents on Thursdays. “I appreciate the fact there are people who need what I can give them without putting out of pocket. They appreciate the food we send down, and we appreciate the help. It feels good helping people out.”
Scott Payne sees this story as a good example of how God wants people to work together. “When Bonnie and Dwayne started giving us eggs it was a blessing. We wanted to pay, but they wouldn’t take anything. When Dwayne got ill and wasn’t able keep up with the garden, we offered to send people out to help. That partnership not only helps the Bearces but it allows us to give our residents, who receive freely of the Bearces' and other donors’ generosity, a chance to give back.
“Its interesting to me how God in His wisdom provided for the poor in the Israelite nation by asking farmers not to harvest the corners of the field, and not to work the land every seventh year, so the poor could come and take what they needed. That’s not just giving, but it also lets a person find value in him or herself by working, and taking pride in their own work.
“That’s why we’re trying to develop these work programs. At ICM we constantly try to help people, especially at Stage Two of Stability for Life, to find out what their strengths and abilities are.
“If we do for people what they can do for themselves, we harm them; if we do for people what they can’t, we help them. The wisdom to know the difference between the two is our constant prayer.”
In the House
There’s more than one way to get filthy at Inner City Mission. Michelle Oast is overseeing renovations on the “green house” that held our clothing program. We’re turning it into office space so we can convert the current office building into more resident rooms.
“A group from Milan Christian Church came down the weekend of May 15, and we started tearing down the plaster,” Michelle says. “We got two rooms done, which was quite a bit.
“The best part of that weekend was after work, when we had a sharing time with the residents. We got a note back from their pastor saying how much they enjoyed the residents’ stories and testimony. He said that alone was enough to come back for again.
“Then last weekend a group from the Lowell Church of Christ in Indiana came over. They gutted the rest of the house, except for the kitchen, and pulled out the old wiring.
“The next step is to get an architect in here—that’s scheduled soon. We need to have a layout prepared so we can get the permits. Then we’ll brace the walls and start on the siding.”
Will the “green house” be green when the work is finished? Stay tuned to find out!
- Residents Sharon and Christina both left jobs that weren’t meeting their needs, and each of these ladies quickly landed new jobs with better conditions.
- Our children all completed the school year and advanced. Courtney is now a high school graduate, and Autumn and Madison will start high school in the fall. Lanisha, whom we helped get her start in college, finished her first year successfully.
- Tim got a job in customer service. We think that’s a good fit.
- Taisha and her children are moving into a home of their own this month. Please join us in prayer that the family will prosper and succeed in what they do. Pray also for the new resident or family to fill that space at ICM, that their time with us be fruitful.
Here are some donations we know will come in handy:
- Box Fans—the house has to get pretty warm before the boss lets us run the air-conditioner.
- 39 gallon trash bags
- Toilet Paper
- Refrigerator—One of the two refrigerators in the shelter has been deemed no longer worth the cost of repair. Any household refrigerator/freezer that could be donated would be wonderful.
ICM gratefully accepts donated items any time at our North 7th Street shelter.