Nine months ago, we were looking for a house to rent in South East Asia. Our family had just moved here, hoping to be a part of the community as my husband works training teachers. I vividly remember looking out the kitchen window of one house to a big, grassy backyard (so different from others we’d seen with bare concrete). We could imagine our daughters playing there … but who would they play with? A small face peered through the fence and was soon joined by her two older sisters. Thank you, Lord!
At first grappling with the local language was all consuming, but gradually we found ourselves with more time and energy to look for ways to connect with our neighbours. This has been a priority because it’s impossible to train people well without knowing about their lives.
We also wanted to be part of the witness of God’s people here—there are many misunderstandings about what Christians believe and how they live—so that others may have the opportunity to experience peace through Jesus too.
We are learning that sometimes small, seemingly insignificant things can have a big impact … like our two small veggie patches. A friend gave us some old, open seed packets, but would they grow? Yes! From them grew tomatoes, tarragon, capsicums, bok choy, zucchini and spinach. We marvelled with our new neighbours at the variety and beauty of God’s creation.
Everything grew much faster than we expected because of the heat and humidity, and we soon had an overflow to give away. We got to know new and old friends through conversations about the garden. What should we grow next? Local friends had lots of ideas … “Corn would grow well, pumpkins too. Why don’t you pull out the old stalks?” “We wanted to wait to collect the seeds, and to enjoy the birds visiting.” “Will you make more garden plots? Why not the whole backyard?”
We had known one lady for five years but had no idea of her passion for and knowledge of gardening. She discovered the unfamiliar taste of tarragon. Would she like to take some plants? Sadly, she had nowhere to grow them at her house, but she took a big bunch of leaves. We better understood how our lives are different and the same.
Passers-by started sharing ideas about how to use our produce. Our daughter’s friends asked to help water the plants. All the while we wordlessly shared other, more precious things, such as time together—yes, we like being with them and listening to them—and the opportunity to give others a connection with the earth and an experience of God’s abundant creation.
Deeper conversations are still hard for us in our new language, but when friends do tell us about their troubles, have we sensed the same unspoken questions over and over? Does God see them? Will He care for them? Do we know anything about Him worth listening to? It has been precious to experience together the Lord’s care, very present and adding colour to our lives.
Any gardening takes time, even if it’s just two small veggie patches. As we take the time to care for nature—to nurture, to learn new methods, to preserve the ecosystems around us—this is a concrete expression of our faith. We’ve been encouraged by how God can use it to bless others and to demonstrate His abundantly good ways, for His glory.
We take God at His word that He not only cares for people but for all that He has made (Gen 1:31). The wonderful thing we’re learning is that, as we care for God’s creation, so often the people around us are nurtured too … ourselves included. Thank you, Lord.
Felicity is the mother of two small children, living with her family in South East Asia long term.
Names have been changed.